4 Cleveland Browns long shots who have never gotten a chance

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Here are 4 players on the Cleveland Browns summer camp roster who have never gotten a fair chance to make it onto the 53-player regular-season roster.

The Cleveland Browns have four players who are long shots to make the team, despite the fact that they have played well in the limited opportunities they have been given to date. They may very well be hidden stars, but they could very well be cut at the end of summer camp.

Maybe they aren’t big enough or fast enough or didn’t come from a sexy enough school, or the roster is just overloaded at some positions. Some players just never get the chance they deserve, and yet other players get multiple second, third, and fourth chances for reasons that we cannot fathom. Although it is sometimes said that the NFL is the ultimate “meritocracy” where only achievements are warranted, that’s far from the truth. The Josh Gordon Memorial Second Chance Award should be established for undeserving players who get extra chances to make the Browns.

But maybe the system can be wrong at times. Cleveland waived cornerback A.J. Green in 2020 on the grounds that he was not fast enough and came from Oklahoma State in the Big 12, where the entire Conference has a reputation for sloppy cornerback play. However, Green turned out to have an exceptionally high football IQ and plays with great tenacity and skill. He eventually made the team as an extra defensive back, and for what it’s worth, he received the highest coverage grade of any Browns defensive back from Pro Football Focus in 2021.

Here then are four players who seem to be destined to not make the squad this year, but who are seeking to overturn the verdict that fate seems to have in store for them, starting with Johnny Stanton, who used to be a quarterback and used to be a linebacker and used to be a fullback, and we are still not sure what position he is supposed to play in this year’s offense.

Cleveland Browns long shots who have never gotten a chance

Cleveland Browns

Oct 21, 2021; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; Cleveland Browns running back Johnny Stanton (40) celebrates after catching a touchdown pass from Cleveland Browns quarterback Case Keenum (not pictured) during the second half against the Denver Broncos at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

4. Johnny Stanton IV, FB

Johnny Stanton IV has been on the practice squad for most of the past two seasons, unable to displace highly regarded fullback Andy Janovich the past two years. Janovich is a hard-nosed blocker who has done a good job the past two seasons for the Browns, blowing open running lanes for Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt, and D-Ernest Johnson, while helping the O-Line to protect Baker Mayfield.

However, the “New Look” Browns offense is trying to stack the roster full of wide receivers on behalf of new quarterback Deshaun Watson, who favors a more wide-open offense. Alas for old-school dudes like your humble correspondent, Janovich was not retained, and he wound up with the Houston Texans. Ironically, the Texans are Watson’s former team.

So is this an opportunity for JS4 or not? The first-string fullback is gone, but the fullback position itself may be disappearing from the Browns offense. League-wide, this is part of a mini-trend in the NFL this season, in which offensive coordinators are using fullback-like players as H-backs (tight ends behind the line of scrimmage), rather than stationing them behind or beside the halfback. Hence the traditional fullback may be even more scarce this season than it has been in the previous few seasons.

The fullback position may be phased out of the offense entirely, or it may be up to Stanton to help justify its continued persistence. Cleveland.com beat writer Scott Patsko believes that Stanton will in fact be converted to tight end this summer, continuing an experiment that began last season. We will have to ask Scott whether he includes “H-back” in his definition of “tight end;” if so, that might make even more sense.

JS4, as many Browns fans are aware, had a moderately successful career as a quarterback for the University of Nevada-Las Vegas after transferring from Nebraska by way of Saddleback College. At Saddleback, Stanton was a superstar, with 3,471 passing yards and 27 touchdowns and he also led the team in rushing yards with 747 yards and 12 touchdowns.

He was injured after only four games at UNLV, so he didn’t post impressive season numbers as a junior. In his senior year, he played fullback, linebacker, and special teams and started only three games at quarterback, sharing the position with Armani Rogers. In total, Stanton posted 1,400 passing yards and 12 TD passes versus 10 INTs, and added an additional 327 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns, averaging 4.2 yards per carry, much of it in the form of short-yardage situations.

In preseason games, we have seen him demonstrate nice hands catching balls out of the backfield and good athleticism, beyond the level of Janovich. However, the feeling was that Janovich might be the more reliable, experienced blocker that you want down at the goal line.

We have also seen Stanton line up as a traditional tight end as well as the fullback and H-back in the preseason. The question is whether there is a roster spot for him. The Browns may be de-emphasizing not only the fullback role, but much of the time they carried only three tight ends.

In addition to David Njoku and Harrison Bryant, the Browns have Miller Forristall, a pedigreed tight end from Alabama on the roster who played two games for the Browns last season. They also have Nakia Griffin-Stewart from the Pitt Panthers after transferring from Rutgers; Zaire Mitchell-Paden from Florida Atlantic University; and Marcus Santos-Silva, a converted power forward from Texas Tech.

As masochistic Browns fans, we can be absolutely, positively sure that offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt has the fullback option play in his playbook somewhere. If Stanton does make the team, I can see fourth-and-one, a trip to the Super Bowl on the line, Nick Chubb and Stanton in the backfield together. I just know they are going to call the fullback option play to try to trick the defense. Here’s hoping it works.

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