There was not much to take away from the Cleveland Browns’ fourth and final preseason game of 2011. If you were watching the game to see any starters, you were just about out of luck, as 18 of head coach Pat Shurmur’s 22 starters were watching the game from the sidelines. The only starters who played were rookie defensive linemen Phil Taylor and Jabaal Sheard, rookie guard Jason Pinkston, and wide receiver Brian Robiskie.
The game wasn’t meaningless for everyone, though. This fourth preseason game is a big – and quite possibly the last – opportunity for players to make a good impression before the final roster cuts come. The Browns have until Saturday at 6 p.m. to make the final cuts and trim the roster down to the final 53 players.
Therefore, for players like defensive backs James Dockery, Coye Francies, and Buster Skrine, running backs Armond Smith and Quinn Porter, and defensive end Auston English, this was one of the most important games of their lives. It’s unfortunate, because the game plan isn’t as complex as it would be in a regular season game, and sometimes, a player only gets a few plays to make an impression.
That’s especially evident in the battle between Porter and Smith for the last running back spot on the roster. Both have made impressive plays and both have made their mistakes. It would appear to be a neck-and-neck race for that last spot, and even last night’s game did little to sway it to either side, though if one had to guess, Armond Smith would be the best bet to make this team between the two.
Dockery was another player with many eyes on him, as the undrafted rookie has been making some noise in training camp and the preseason. He had an up-and-down night, getting balls thrown at him, making the plays, but getting called for three penalties. He was also beaten on a few plays by former Ohio State wide receiver Dane Sanzenbacher.
Despite this the ugliness of this last preseason game – and there is no doubt that it was ugly – there was plenty on the line for the guys on the field. Players that have been given high marks all of training camp, such as Dockery, have likely earned a roster spot, but that won’t make the wait until Saturday any easier.