1. Is the turnstile closed?
The right tackle position has been a black hole of death for years. I’ve been hard on the gentlemen that have manned the position, but let’s be honest- they started it! The Browns spent a second round pick on Mitchell Schwartz to make this problem go away. I am in full agreement that a second round pick was worth it to get the RT of the future. Even with as many holes as the team had to fill. The only question now is if Schwartz is the right pick.He certainly has Joe Thomas’ endorsement early on.
We should get a good idea of what we have early on. Schwartz will be matched up against Jabaal Sheard. The knock of Schwartz was his footwork, especially against a speed rush. Sheard can certainly help him practice that. He will have to have proper footwork and not just agility though because Sheard can go around tackles, but he also loves to jab step outside and then dart inside. Should be a fun match-up, and a good way for both players to get better before the season starts.
2. The defensive front seven.
Phil Taylor out, Scott Fujita suspended early on. There is a serious depth problem on the defensive side of the ball on both the line and at line-backer. The Browns will have to hope that Cincinnati product John Hughes is ready for the field. He will likely find himself thrust into the starting role alongside Rubin. Someone else will have to step forward and give that pair a break occasionally.
Jabaal Sheard will man the left end spot, and the Browns will turn to free agent acquisitions Frostee Rucker and Juqua Parker to take over on the right side. Again, depth is a concern. Especially if the Browns were to lose Sheard to injury.
We know that Jackson and Gocong will start at linebacker. The other vacant outside spot will be up for grabs with Kaluka Maiava the leading candidate. Could rookie James-Michael Johnson compete for the outside spot? The Browns seem to be inclined to give him a chance, but I wonder if it is a good idea to try and teach a rookie two positions right out of the gate. Emmanuel Acho would be the dark horse to start in place of Fujita for the first three games.
Speaking of Fujita, while his suspension is only for the first three games, he hasn’t exactly been durable during his time with the Browns. His contract expires at the end of the year, and I would be willing to bet the Browns would like to see if his replacement is on the current roster.
3. The defensive backfield.
Yep. All the attention has been on the offense this off-season, but I’m actually concerned about the defense. We expect the offense to be somewhat inconsistent. They will be playing a lot of rookies, and let’s face it they stunk last season.
So we have Joe Haden manning one CB spot, and Sheldon Brown on the other side. Everyone thought that Sheldon would be a safety by now, but the Browns are adamant that he is staying put at CB. Does he still have the speed to get the job done at the highest level? Are any of the young backs ready to challenge for his spot? The Browns like Patterson, Skrine and Dockery. They may be in good hands for the future, that is if the youngsters continue to develop. This season should be telling in that regard.
4. When are we going to stop pretending there is a QB battle?
The job is Weeden’s. Everyone knows it. You have to wonder how this is going to shake out. Will the Browns pull McCoy aside early on and talk with him about it? What are the chances that both McCoy and Wallace are on the team when the season starts, like 10%? Will Weeden actually be ready when camp breaks, or are we in for a rough opening to the season?
5. Which pass catchers make the team?
Suddenly the Browns find themselves with a lot of receivers on the roster. We’re not sure how good they are, but there are a bunch of them. Little, Massaquoi, Cribbs, Benjamin, Cooper, Gordon, Norwood, Mitchell, Saffold, Windsor, Spencer and Reed. At least four of those won’t be on the roster, and there’s a chance a few won’t make the practice squad.
At the tight end spot, you have Watson, Cameron, Moore, Smith and Gronkowski. Could the Browns keep four tight ends with as many wide receivers as they will likely keep? If you had to pick ten players to make the team between the WRs and TEs, which would you pick?