Browns 2021 training camp starts in 10 days and I can’t wait. This year’s training camp will be a little different than years past, almost all of the starting positions are pretty much set. We all know who the starters on offense will be and the defensive starters will be determined by defensive coordinator Joe Woods’ new alinements. Prior to last year’s camp, the starting right guard, the linebackers and by request of every Browns fan, the starting kicker were yet to be determined. The RG position was settled prior to the first game when Wyatt Teller turned into Wyatt Teller. The linebacker group was in flux all season, but as the season progressed young players stepped up and showed future promise, (Takitaki and Phillips). Kicker Austin Siebert kicked himself out of a job and the Browns signed Cody Parkey. Despite his mid-season troubles, he proved he could kick under pressure by going 11-11 in the post-season. His kicks kept the Browns in the playoff game versus Kansas City. What are this year’s key position battles?
Backup Offensive Line: Last year the Browns started the season with nine offensive linemen on the roster and as the season progressed, GM Andrew Berry proved he had an eye for offensive lineman. With the injuries to Teller and tackle Chris Hubbard, Berry found players like Michael Dunn and Blake Hance off of other teams’ practice squads. He was also good at stashing the right players on the Browns practice squad, (Taylor and Senat). Assuming the Browns again keep nine offensive linemen on the roster, the players battling for those spots will be G Michael Dunn, G Drew Forbes, G Colby Gossett, G Blake Hance, G Cordel Iwuagwu, T Chris Hubbard, T James Hudson III, T Greg Senat. T Alex Taylor, C Nick Harris and C Javon Patterson. One of these spots will depend on the health of Hubbard. If healthy he can play both guard and tackle. Harris and Hudson were drafted by this front office, so they have a leg up. My four would be Chris Hubbard, Nick Harris, James Hudson III and Drew Forbes.
Third String Running Back: Last year the Browns kept four running backs on the opening day roster if one counts fullback Andy Janovich. The backup to Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt was D’Ernest Johnson. Dontrell Hilliard started the season on the practice squad and did play. This year they have Chubb, Hunt, Johnson, Demetric Felton, John Kelly and Tre Habison on the roster. What makes this position group interesting is the addition of 2021 sixth-round draft choice Demetric Felton. Felton can line up as a running back and as a wide receiver. He also can return punts and kickoffs. NFL teams love players who can play multiple positions. Johnson proved he could be a valuable backup last year after Nick Chubb got hurt. After the bye week, he helped stabilized the kickoff return position. I think the Browns can keep four running backs with both Johnson and Felton making the roster due to Felton’s versatility.
Defensive Line: I saved this for last because this position group is loaded with talent. Last year the Browns kept eight defensive linemen on the opening day roster. The only starting position battle is at defensive tackle and it’s between Andrew Billings and Jordan Elliott. I’m going to assume the other starters are DE Jadeveon Clowney, DT Malik Jackson and DE Myles Garrett. The others on the roster are DT Sheldon Day, DT Damion Square, DT Tommy Togiai, DT Marvin Wilson, DT Malik McDowell, DE Porter Gustin, DE Joe Jackson, DE Takk McKinley, DE Curtis Weaver and DE Cameron Malveaux. Both Day and Square are valuable veteran backups. Togiai was drafted this year. Wilson was a much-sought-after undrafted free agent and Weaver spent the entire 2020 season being developed. I could see the Browns keeping nine defensive linemen. My nine are Garrett, Clowney, McKinley, Weaver, Elliott, Billings, Jackson, Togiai and Wilson. The cuts from this group are going to be tough.
In past years, Browns fans couldn’t wait till the final cutdown day to 53 players so the Browns could add talent. This year it’s the opposite; the Browns will cut players other teams will want. This year’s training camp battles are going to be something to watch.