The Cleveland Browns released their first depth chart of the season, not because they wanted to but because they had to. There are a few surprises and things to note from the first release even though much of this is still up in the air. First here is the Browns depth chart:
With so many players in camp the depth chart looks huge, it obviously will get cut down to 53 by the end of camp. Yet for Mike Pettine and Ray Farmer‘s first camp together their were things that stuck out to use about who is noted where on the chart and how it could impact their ability to make the team or get a starting spot.
John Greco, not Garrett Gilkey was listed as the starting right guard. Gilkey had been given much of the snaps with the first team throughout camp so far, partially due to Greco’s injury. With Joel Bitonio likely locked in at LG, having Greco instead of Gilkey gives the Browns more veteran stability. Yet for the offensive line it is important that the starting 5 get as much time together as possible. The other 4 spots are likely sewn up, who gets that 5th spot and how soon they claim it is important.
With Josh Gordon‘s appeal ruling not likely for a week or 3 (seriously that long?) , he is listed on the first team. Behind him is veteran Miles Austin and outstanding slot guy Andrew Hawkins. The surprise here is the two young receivers that have been the talk of the camp by reports and fans, Charles Johnson and Willie Snead, are buried on the chart. Snead is at least 9th on the depth chart at receiver.
It is never good when they have to try to force two names into the last column on the sheet but that is where Dion Lewis and Isaiah Crowell find themselves on the RB chart. Crowell has seemed like a long term lock for the team while Lewis, the camp star last year, doesn’t seem to fit the new Zone Blocking scheme. Can Crowell scrap his way onto the 53 man roster? Will the Browns try to sneak him on to the Practice Squad (and likely fail)?
Phil Taylor just returned to practice but they have him listed second team. Not only second team but also at defensive end instead of nose tackle that he played last year. Ahtyba Rubin is listed as the starting nose. Billy Winn and Desmond Bryant fit the scheme well as DEs while Armonty Bryant seems locked in to the roster. Will Taylor bump Winn or Bryant from the end spot or will he return to the nose ahead of Rubin? Will John Hughes become a 3rd round bust or will he fight his way to make the team?
The Browns have a problem at outside linebacker. They have 3 starter level players and 2 spots. Thankfully Pettine’s defense is creative but for this depth chart that means Jabaal Sheard is the short man out behind Barkevious Mingo and Paul Kruger. Sheard, when healthy, provided constant pressure for the Browns last year. He can still put his hand in the dirt and expect Pettine to get all 3 on the field as often as possible. Inside Craig Robertson is holding off rookie Christian Kirksey, though the Iowa rookie has reportedly outplayed the incumbent during camp.
The Browns also have a “too much talent” issue in the DB room. With Joe Haden locked in as one of the best in the league, Justin Gilbert and Buster Skrine will battle to be the official other starter. Most likely all 3 will be on the field a ton but right now Skrine got the edge. Fellow rookie Pierre Desir sits near the bubble of getting cut but should easily make the team. 2nd year man Leon McFadden is currently buried and looks like he will be cut if he can’t make something spectacular happen. New signee Jim Leonhard is already #2 at strong safety and has been lining up at free safety with Tashaun Gipson hurt. The rest of the safeties seem to have something to prove.
If there is a theme to Pettine’s first depth chart it is that the rookies will have to earn it. Only Bitonio is slated to be a starter. Every other area where rookies, and young players, seem to be competing for starting spots the veteran is winning. Even near the back end of the roster Pettine seems to have favored veterans, especially at WR and RB, over the young guys. Could this just be a motivational tool? Will they cut young players in favor of veterans? Or is this a way to keep the rookies on their toes and show veterans how much he respects him?
Either way we know that this chart will change. Names will come off, a few will go on and in the end we will have our 53 man roster. Which will change throughout the season anyway.
What do you think of the depth chart? What stood out to you?