Editor's note: Tony Grossi covers the Cleveland Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR.
Ridiculously early depth chart: The past nine weeks have been a “getting to know you” period for the Browns and new coach Hue Jackson and his staff.
They’ve introduced new training methods, new “systems and processes,” new offensive and defensive schemes, new language in a new playbook, and new players into a Browns organization entering another new era.
When this introductory period ended with the conclusion of a three-day minicamp last week, Jackson was asked if he would now formulate a team depth chart to set the position battle lines for training camp.
“Probably not,” Jackson said. “I’ll kind of worry about that when we get back here. If you’re asking if some of the pieces in my mind are coming into focus, then yes, somewhat. Still, until you put on pads and grind it out every day and work like I anticipate this team working, will I know really know about these men in tough conditions. That is something that I am still left to find out.”
All of that is hard to believe. In fact, I’d venture to say that Jackson has a team depth chart hanging in his office right now. He’d better have one. I mean, it is his job to evaluate his team on a daily basis.
Any depth chart right now should be written in pencil, because it’s going to change. But somebody has to take the first reps when team drills commence in training camp – probably on July 29.
So here is our best guess on what Jackson’s depth chart might look like, based on observations from OTAs and minicamp practices and comments from Jackson and his assistant coaches.
Analysis: Coleman is a dynamic player when the ball is in his hand. Higgins looks smooth as a route-runner and reliable as a pass catcher. Hawkins is now the senior veteran. Gabriel (injury) and Payton (UCLA academic calendar) have missed most of the practices. Louis, a physical specimen, hasn’t made much of an impact. Pryor remains a tantalizing prospect, but is far from finished. He needs to learn to play to his height, among other things.
Starter: Gary Barnidge.
Analysis: Barnidge said he’ll be recovered from recent sports hernia surgery for the start of training camp. He’d better be. This is not a distinguished group. DeValve, the rookie from Princeton, could emerge as the primary backup.
Analysis: Coleman’s recovery from offseason knee surgery should be complete by the start of training camp. In his absence, fellow rookie Drango has surged to the front of the line at right tackle behind Bailey.
Analysis: The actual backups may come from the competitors who don’t win the starting job at right tackle.
Starter: Cameron Erving.
Analysis: The concern here is there doesn’t appear to be a backup who can swing from guard to center.
Starter: Isaiah Crowell.
Analysis: It looks like Crowell and Johnson will be sharing snaps on about a 55 percent to 45 percent ratio, in favor of Crowell.
Starter: Malcolm Johnson.
Backup: Patrick Skov.
Analysis: Running backs coach Kirby Wilson has talked up Johnson, but it’s hard to discern how much the fullback will be involved in Jackson’s offense.
Starter: Robert Griffin III.
Analysis: Griffin and McCown are the only ones to take snaps behind the No. 1 offensive line. But it’s hardly been an open competition, as Griffin probably has gotten three snaps for every one by McCown. It looks like Jackson is waiting for Griffin to do something to name him the starter. Kessler can oust McCown as the primary backup with a big preseason.
Analysis: When coordinator Ray Horton shifts to a four-man rush line, it appears that Shelton will battle Nassib for playing time inside. Overall, this does not look like a position of strength.
Analysis: The outside spot opposite Kruger should be interesting. Ogbah, the supremely athletic second-round pick, probably enters camp behind Orchard, who came on strong in his rookie season. Mingo’s role is unclear. Schobert and Wright probably break in as special teamers.
Analysis: Haden, recovering from ankle surgery in March, doesn’t know when he’ll be able to practice, but he vows he won’t miss any regular-season games. Gilbert repped with the No. 1s in minicamp. K’Waun Williams is a virtual lock to open as the nickel back.
Starters: Jordan Poyer and Ibraheim Campbell.
Analysis: Poyer looks beefed up and suitable to play strong safety, but is versatile enough to start at free safety. Moore, a veteran free-agent pickup, wasn’t very visible in OTAs and minicamp.