After the first two games of the preseason, the Cleveland Browns are coming into what is known as the dress rehearsal for the regular season in game three. With the team headed to Tampa Bay to take on Jameis Winston and the Buccaneers this Saturday, there are still a number of battles to be figured out across the roster before cutting down to 53.
For starters, general manager Ray Farmer and head coach Mike Pettine are going to have some big decisions at both wide receiver and defensive back. With Terrelle Pryor expected to come in and make a splash switching from quarterback to wide receiver, other receivers have stated their case as he has nursed a hamstring injury. At defensive back, Justin Gilbert continued to struggle in the first preseason game and during camp prior to an injury, leaving his front office to question when (if) the former Top 10 pick will develop into the starting corner they thought they were drafting last year.
With the dress rehearsal just around the corner, there are four players this writer feels Farmer and the front office should move on from when it comes time to trim the roster down to 53. These may or may not be popular moves, but with so much competition (yes you read that correctly) occurring throughout the roster, it may be time to cut ties with a few players.
Billy Winn, DL
A former sixth-round pick in the 2012 NFL Draft out of Boise State, Winn has been a solid rotational player on the Browns defensive line when he has been out there. However, after bursting on the scene as a rookie—Winn has had a difficult time staying on the field and earning playing time like he did that season. He started in 10 of the 16 games he played in 2012, but has only started eight of the next 24 played in (missed eight games in 2013 and 2014).
It was expected by many that Winn would bounce back this offseason, however, he suffered a leg injury early in camp and was carted off the field with that injury at the beginning of August. In his absence, rookie Xavier Cooper and veteran free agent Randy Starks have made their presence known in a big way.
With the Browns likely looking for a roster spot or two to keep an extra receiver, linebacker or defensive back, Winn could be the odd man out on the line. With Desmond Bryant, Starks, John Hughes, Phil Taylor, Danny Shleton and Ishmaa’ily Kitchen likely to make the roster, it is tough to find a spot for Winn. Add in the fact that Jamie Meder has impressed and Armonty Bryant can play both defensive end and outside linebacker, and the end could be near for Winn in Cleveland.
Johnson Bademosi, DB/Special Teams
To start this out, I acknowledge the fact that Bademosi basically received a badge of honor from Coach Pettine this week for being a standout on special teams. Bademosi is known around the league as one of the best gunners and all-around special teamers in the league. While those are both obviously very important to the team, if the Browns keep Bademosi over a bubble player based on his special teams play, it would be a huge mistake.
Bademosi has been so bad as a defensive back during preseason that I almost removed the “DB” from after his name when penning this article. He has consistently been beaten by undrafted receiver after undrafted receiver—with his lone defensive highlight coming against Buffalo in the endzone on a play he failed to get his head around on, sticking out his arm and batting it down instead.
Do football teams need players for special teams? Absolutely, but not at the expense of other positions of need with players standing out. Instead of keeping Bademosi around another season, I would rather give the spot to one of the fringe receivers (Shane Wynn, Darius Jennings or Josh Lenz). You could even cross-train one of the rookie defensive backs (Charles Gaines or Ibraheim Campbell) to make the move.
Tank Carder, LB/Special Teams
Another player Pettine and company have lauded for special teams play, Carder needs to be on the outside looking in when it comes cut time. He certainly has a knack for locating the ball-carrier on kick returns—as we saw on the opening kickoff against Buffalo—but his defensive contributions have been limited.
On top of that, seventh-round rookie Hayes Pullard has been making quite the name for himself during the offseason at linebacker. One of the most productive linebackers at USC during his four years as a starter, Pullard may have needed to campaign to be drafted—but he has lived up to every word of it.
With Pullard’s emergence as a playmaker during his first two games of the preseason, Carder’s limited upside as a linebacker should not be kept for his special teams abilities. If it comes down to Carder and Pullard, Pettine and company should keep the rookie out of USC on the roster.
Rob Housler, TE
If you have been following the articles on here, Housler’s name being on this list should not be a surprise—despite a better showing in the last preseason game against Buffalo. Signed as a free agent in the offseason, many thought Housler was a lock to replace Jordan Cameron as the team’s No. 1 tight end. However, that has not been the case.
Instead, all we have heard all offseason is how Gary Barnidge and undrafted free agent, E.J. Bibbs, have impressed the coaching staff. Pettine has pretty much put his seal of approval on Barnidge as the No. 1 TE at this point, and Bibbs is receiving accolades for his versatility and ability to make people miss when he gets the ball in his hands.
Since Housler is not much of a blocking tight end, Jim Dray would seemingly earn the third roster spot over him. Could Housler come out and absolutely wow the coaching staff in the third preseason game? Sure, but he has failed to impress anyone during his first few years in the league—so why thwart the emergence of Bibbs and comfort level Josh McCown has with Barnidge?