As Browns Training Camp gets underway, I’m already thinking about the final 53 players. I know it’s way too early, but that’s how my brain works. Browns fans are starting to hear names like CB A.J. Green, WR Ja’Marcus Bradley and WR Alexander Hollins making plays and looking good during practice. The reality is these players’ best hope is to make the Browns practice squad. Luckily NFL practice squads will again be expanded. Some of the 2020 Covid practice squad rules will carry over to 2021. Kevin Seifert of ESPN.com lists the rules for 2021:
“Expansion of practice squads to 16 players, including up to six who have more than two accrued seasons.”
“The ability to protect up to four practice squad players per week from being signed by other teams.”
“Elevation of up to two practice squad players to the active roster, without removing any current players, before 4 p.m. ET the day before a game.”
“Elevation of an additional practice squad player within 90 minutes before kickoff in the event of a late COVID-19 positive test result.”
“Players placed on injured reserve can return after three weeks, rather than six as in normal seasons.”
“Removal of the limit for how many players can be activated from injured reserve.”
Last year GM Andrew Berry was very good at finding the right players for the ever-evolving practice squad. Where would this team have been without guards Michael Dunn, Blake Hance, cornerback Robert Jackson, fullback Johnny Stanton and kicker Cody Parkey? Injuries are a part of the game and with a seventeen-game season, the practice squad is even more important.
Like I said earlier, training camp has me thinking about the final 53 man roster. Last year the Browns roster consisted of 26 offensive players, 24 defensive players and three specialists. The offensive and defensive positions were broken down like this:
QB(2), RB(3), FB(1), WR(6), TE(5) and OL(9).
DL(8), LB(6), S(4) and CB(6).
The Browns season-opening practice squad in 2020 consisted of QB Garrett Gilbert, RB Dontrell Hilliard, RB Benny LeMay, FB Johnny Stanton, WR Ja’Marcus Bradley, WR Taywan Taylor, T Brady Aiello, G Michael Dunn, DE Joe Jackson, DT Vincent Taylor, LB Montrel Meander, CB A.J. Green, CB Robert Jackson, S Elijah Benton, S Jovante Moffatt and K Cody Parkey.
The only changes I could see from 2020 to 2021 would be at the tight end and defensive line positions, I think the Browns could go with four tight ends and nine defensive linemen. All four tight ends, (Austin Hooper, David Njoku, Harrison Bryant and Stephen Carlton) have game experience so only keeping four makes sense. The Browns could put either Connor Davis or Jordan Franks on the expanded practice squad.
As for the defensive line, there is talent top to bottom. Expanding from eight in 2020 to nine in 2021 can be done. Barring injury, Jadeveon Clowney, Myles Garrett, Malik Jackson, Jordan Elliot, Takk McKinley, Tommy Togiai, Curtis Weaver, Andrew Billings and Marvin Wilson look like the most logical nine. Out of the remaining players, the Browns could place two on the practice squad.
I don’t know why I’m already thinking about the final roster, the Browns will have to cut some talented players and those players will be signed to other NFL teams’ rosters pretty quickly. For a Browns fan, it’s a strange feeling, because it used to be the opposite, waiting for other teams to cut talented players for the Browns to add. Good Times.