Under Coach Freddie Kitchens the Cleveland Browns have had one of the toughest training camps in recent memory. On the other hand few could argue that the Browns first string has had one of the easiest preseasons in recent memories so far. The starting wide receiver tandem of Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry have yet to see the field in either of the team’s first two games. Most of the projected starters have only seen a handful of snaps in one game. Neither first string’s offense or defense have been on the field at the same time. In fact the only action Baker Mayfield saw was with backup players running a two minute drill. The Browns have not shown us even a tiny glimpse of play that will resemble the team they roll on the field in September.
While the third game of the preseason typically is referred as a dress rehearsal for the regular season it will be interesting to see if Coach Kitchens agrees. It has been a long wait to see this team at full strength. That wait could end in a couple days or a couple weeks. Ultimately it will be up to Coach Kitchens to balance that delicate risk / reward situation. Kitchens seems to favor practice reps to playing time in these exhibitions so that may end up being the case.
Kitchens has prioritized these games to answer the questions about players that may be on the roster bubble instead. That was no more evident than in the second game against the Indianapolis Colts. The Browns started their third string quarterback in Garrett Gilbert. It has been a long time since the Browns have put themselves in a position to use an entire preseason game to make decisions on how many quarterbacks they will keep. That will take some getting used to for long time Browns fans.
Antonio Callaway’s injury and suspension has created an unexpected opportunity for the wide receiver hopefuls. What initially looked like a crowded competition for one spot may have had another opening. Players like DJ Montgomery, Jaelen Strong and Derrick Willies may have had new life injected into their Training Camps. All three receivers have been heavily featured in the Browns offense this preseason. Kitchens will have plenty of film to look at on all of these players when he makes his final roster decisions.
The Browns have even more questions of depth on the defensive side of the ball. With the NFL moving to a more passing oriented league the linebacker position has been devalued. With defensive backs at a premium it may be time to make some difficult decisions on how many linebackers will be kept. If young players like Mack Wilson, Adarius Taylor and Sione Takitaki can show value it could sway the front office into making an incumbent veteran expendable. As of now the Browns depth chart lists Joe Schobert, Christian Kirksey or Genard Avery as starters. It will be interesting to see if that is the case in a couple weeks.
As a first time Head Coach there probably isn’t a decision that Kitchens could make that won’t yield some scrutiny. I’m sure the selection of the final 53 man roster won’t come without some surprises. While preseason results don’t matter it is at least encouraging to know that the Browns have won both of the games featuring mostly roster bubble players from beginning to end. That should make for some strong depth on the roster no matter who gets chosen to fill those last spots. We will see if Coach Kitchens actually gives us a glimpse of what the team will actually look like in the dress rehearsal. If he does play the starters don’t expect to see them long. He’s got final roster spots to fill.