The Cleveland Browns' First Preseason Game is All About Depth

We’ve heard the line so many times the phrase has lost all meaning – “Injuries are part of the game.” 

Your team is going to lose an incredibly important player in the preseason. It happens every year.

Still, I freaked out when the news broke about Trent Richardson’s injury, coupled with Chris Gocong’s injury, in addition to Joe Haden’s rumored suspension, combined with Phil Taylor’s injury.

So, as much we are looking forward to watching all of the new players tonight, the Cleveland Browns’ first preseason game (actually, the entire preseason now) has become a study in the team’s depth.

The Browns haven’t been deep in years. Injuries always seem to kill them, or at least it feels that way. But there is plenty to be hopeful about this season.

First of all, would the team prefer to have all of these men go down prior to their first preseason game, or later, during the regular season? You can make the case that these injuries happened at just the right time, giving the  Browns time to adjust.

Secondly, the Browns actually are deep in key spots, like the along the offensive line. It’s a young unit, with two first-round pick Pro Bowlers, a new second-rounder, and backups who have all started NFL games in their careers.

They’re also deep at tight end. No, really.

Evan Moore, Ben Watson, Jordan Cameron and running-back-in-disguise Alex Smith – that group is set. And they might even have a surprise in store for us.

The Browns always seem to get injured but never seem to have that out-of-nowhere contributor to replace the loss of talent. I wrote about Jordan Cameron last December, when the Browns’ season was all-the-way screwed, but that was a tough time to be a developmental guy. I’m looking for Cameron this year.

In two key spots, the Browns may also be seeing the benefit of team depth as it relates to position competition.

How will Mohamed Massaquoi look tonight? Now that he’s fighting for his job, word out of camp is he’s doing very well.

Same goes for Montario Hardesty, now a full year removed from his ACL surgery, which is how long that recovery needs. Has the arrivial of Trent Richardson pushed Hardesty to be the impact player he was once thought to be?

General manager Tom Heckert also managed to draft players in April at positions that caught the injury bug later on in June. Hey, the more draft picks the better, and reason to hope is good enough for me.

Phil Taylor has gone down, but Heckert added John Hughes in the third round, who is now going to see more action and, hopefully, develop faster.

With Scott Fujita suspended and Gocong lost for the season, the linebacker position has taken a major hit, but things would look even worse without fourth-round pick James-Michael Johnson stepping in.

If one of those guys emerges as a late-round gem, Heckert will have really moved the needle on his 2012 draft.

The loss of Joe Haden is tough, but at least he’s not hurt. I guess we could go over every position and gush over guys who have impressed bloggers at training camp. I mean, everyone impresses at training camp.

But the loss of Haden has turned our eye to his secondary teammate specifically for help, and yes, more hope.

Like with Cameron Jordan, the Browns need desperately to get some unaccounted play out of T.J. Ward. This is his third season, he’s healthy, and as a high second-round pick, he’s got the most to prove and the most room to improve, so I’ll be looking for his number tonight.

After all, what happened to this guy below, who in his first preseason game made us all think Tom Heckert was a delicate genius?

Find this guy again, T.J.

Then again, maybe depth is overrated.

A great team, like the Green Bay Packers in 2010, is regarded as proof that the best and deepest teams can overcome injuries (16 players on IR) and still achieve greatness.

It doesn’t hurt to have the best quarterback on the planet, though. When Aaron Rodgers is healthy, the Packers are a threat to win the Super Bowl every season, regardless of how healthy everyone else is.

That’s the blessing of having an MVP play the most important position in sports. Maybe there’s a silver lining there, too, for Browns fans.

As beat up as the team seems right now, Brandon Weeden, their most important part, is still intact.

We’ve yet to discover if the guy can actually play, but if he can, maybe the Browns will be just fine.

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Tags: 2012 NFL Preseason Brandon Weeden Cleveland Browns Joe Haden Trent Richardson

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