Cleveland Browns: Biggest position battles heading into training camp

(Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) /

The Cleveland Browns will open training camp with a lot of new faces, meaning there are several position battles set to get underway.

Training camp is nearly here and that means the preseason and the regular season are right around the corner.

There are 90 Cleveland Browns players reporting but only 53 will be able to make the final team come Week 1. Everyone knows the stars and contract players are in no danger of losing their spots, but that only applies to about 10 percent of the team. Everyone else is fighting for a spot, and some are fighting for a starting spot.

Four of the offensive line and two of the starting linebacker positions are set, as well as running back, tight end and the defensive ends. All of these positions look promising and for good reason. Not only do we know the starter(s), but we trust them too.

However, some positions are up for grabs and can have as many as three realistic candidates to take some of these jobs.  As far as who will win them, remains to be seen but we all have our opinions of who we want to see.

Right Tackle

Shon Coleman vs. Cameron Erving

This could be the biggest, most talked about competition in Browns camp. Cam Erving played guard in 2015 and center in 2016 and has been a disaster. However, against Pittsburgh at the end of the season, he was switched to right tackle and looked much better. He looked more fluid and looked as if he fit at the tackle position. Not surprising considering he played tackle in college.

However, Erving’s past failures could already have written out his chances. Shon Coleman got his chances during the season and we saw a few glimpses of what he could be at the position. With last year’s starter, Austin Pasztor, gone, many fans and analysts expect and hope Coleman can become the guy, which has led to many considering him the leader in the competition.

This competition will probably be as highly viewed as the quarterback battle but without the flair (Wooo!). I had projected earlier this year that I think the job will ultimately be Coleman’s but make no mistake, Erving is a former first-round draft pick and as such is an enormous investment.

Great business men don’t dump a big investment unless there’s no other way out, so expect Erving to be given a good shot to start.


Zane Gonzalez vs. Cody Parkey

May not seem as exciting of a battle, but it is odd that the team would draft a kicker after Cody Parkey was 20 for 25 (80 percent) in field goals last season. However, If you are going to use a draft pick on a kicker, there should be two rules:

  1. Never draft one before the fifth round *cough* Tampa Bay *cough*
  2. That kicker had better be a Groza award winner

Check. Check. I’d like to give Parkey some leeway, but the writing on the wall doesn’t say he’ll be in Cleveland much longer.

Middle Linebacker

Tank Carder vs. Dominique Alexander vs. a rookie?

Jamie Collins and Christian Kirksey are locked in at the outside at SAM and WILL, but that leaves the MIKE as the only question mark in the group.

The new 4-3 defense has made some players have to change positions but it also features many names that have Browns fans foaming at the mouth.

But the MIKE linebacker is the most important player. He’s the quarterback of the defense, he calls the plays and shifts players by reading the offense. Whoever does it needs to not only be a good player, they need to be ready to lead.

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Tank Carder has only started two games and has primarily been used in special teams, but he’s likely going to get the first crack. As far as how effective he’ll be remains to be seen. He hasn’t been asked this kind of full-time responsibility since he was at TCU.

Dominique Alexander played this scheme and this position at Oklahoma and had success, but didn’t get a lot of playing time last season. His upside, though, makes me think he may have a realistic shot at winning the job.

The surprise here is that I put a rookie in the competition, but it’s entirely possible that a rookie can come in and swoop the job out from under the vets.

Last week I wrote about my projected 53-man roster and I guessed that undrafted Kenneth Olugbode would make the team. His size is concerning at 6-foot-1 and just 222 pounds, which makes me think he’d be a WILL, so he’d need to gain about 10 pounds or so if he wants to be the man in the middle.


Cody Kessler vs DeShone Kizer vs Brock Osweiler

Finally, the piece de resistance. You have the game manager vs. the athlete vs. the guy who somehow has a winning record as a starter. This should be fun.

Kizer is the fan favorite. He had impressive stats in his two seasons as starter at Notre Dame with 45 touchdowns, 18 interceptions, and 1,029 rushing yards with 17 rushing touchdowns. However, his less than stellar 14-11 record made people believe he wasn’t ready, yet Cleveland took a chance on him anyway.

Kessler had a 92.3 passer rating last season but had an 0-8 record to show for it. The new look O-line may help him though as the season goes along. He’s who going to get the majority of starting snaps and it’s his job until further notice.

Next: Projecting the 53-man roster

I say that, but then Cleveland brings in a guy who has a 13-8 record as a starter and apparently has caught the attention of coach Hue Jackson. Is Cleveland the place where Brock revitalizes his career? Probably not, but it doesn’t mean he’s out as a potential starter.