While there won’t be preseason games and fans won’t be able to attend training camp, there will still be battles to keep an eye on once things start to get going next week.
There is some interesting battles to watch for the Cleveland Browns and here are the ones to watch:
Locked In: Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry
Battling: Rashard Higgins, Taywan Taylor, Donovan Peoples-Jones, KhaDarel Hodge, Damion Ratley, JoJo Natson, DJ Montgomery, J’Mon Moore, Ja’Marcus Bradley, Tony Brown
Jack Duffin wrote back in May that on average there is 5.7 wide receivers on NFL rosters but with tight ends have a more favorable role in Kevin Stefanski’s roster, there’s a good chance Cleveland will keep five.
Fan favorite Rashard Higgins is far from a lock and the attitude he showed towards the previous coaching staff will likely not be tolerated this go-around if he tries to do it again. Taywan Taylor was a late addition last year before the final roster cuts but was active in just three games.
The three names to watch are Hodge, Peoples-Jones, and Natson. All will be potential big contributors on special teams with either Peoples-Jones or Natson being the return specialist. Hodge was a special teams ace in 2019 and will likely receive a recommendation from coordinator Mike Priefer.
Montgomery showed flashes early in camp last year before going down with a knee injury but with a new regime and new scheme, it’ll be interesting to see what Berry and Stefanski think of him once he gets on the field.
Locked In: Myles Garrett, Olivier Vernon, Adrian Clayborn
Battling: Chad Thomas, Porter Gustin, Robert McCray, George Obinna
The battle is strictly for the fourth guy on the depth chart and who could get into a potential rotational role.
Thomas has been lackluster as a third-round pick can get so far through his first two seasons and with John Dorsey and Alonzo Highsmith both gone from the organization, it’s unclear how much longer he’ll be around. Gustin showed flashes late in the season when thrusted into playing time after the Myles Garrett incident. McCray played very little in the final two games. Obinna was an undrafted signing earlier this year and could likely land on the practice squad if all goes well.
When looking at this position group, everyone knows that Denzel Ward will be one of the starting cornerbacks. The position battle will actually be for who starts opposite Ward and this could be the most interesting battle in training camp.
Greedy Williams is entering his second season and while he did show some flashes last season, he needs to become more consistent especially in coverage.
The Browns added Kevin Johnson in free agency and while everyone was calling for him to be the nickel back, Johnson played limited snaps as a nickel and was more effective on the outside which would tend to believe that Cleveland brought him in not only because he was solid in Buffalo but to also push Williams and let him know that he won’t be handed the starting role.
Also in the cornerback room is veteran Terrance Mitchell, 2019 draft pick Donnie Lewis, Robert Jackson and Tavierre Thomas who contributed on special teams, free agent signing Donovan Olumba previously with the Cowboys and undrafted rookie AJ Green, who Cleveland gave a lot of money to sign here which means there’s some expectations.
Both positions are wide open heading into camp although the projected starters are free agent signing Karl Joseph at strong safety and second-round pick Grant Delpit at free safety.
Cleveland also signed Andrew Sendejo who was with Minnesota and Philadelphia so there’s a history there with both head coach Kevin Stefanski and general manager Andrew Berry. Sendejo can still contribute at age 32 and year 11 in the NFL but he’ll also be a mentor to the young safeties in the room.
Sheldrick Redwine, JT Hassell and Montreal Meander are all returning from last season and will be looking to impress the new regime as well as defensive coordinator Joe Woods, who is expected to deploy more nickel and dime packages which would lead to more defensive backs than linebackers out on the field which could bode well for the safeties.