Browns’ first 53-man roster has me talking to myself: Still worried about DBs – Terry Pluto


CLEVELAND, Ohio – The Browns 53-man roster is out, so let’s break it down:

QUESTION: Who was the biggest surprise cut by the Browns?

ANSWER: I have a better question: Who is the best player cut by the Browns?

Q: OK, who is the best player cut by the Browns?

A: It’s KhaDarel Hodge. He’s not the biggest surprise to be cut because the Browns have so many receivers. He needed someone to get hurt to make the team. But Hodge is a “football player” as the old-school coaches used to say. He is excellent on special teams. He can block. He can tackle. He is sure-handed. I hope the Browns can find a way to get him back.

Q: What do you think of the rumors of the Browns signing Nick Mullens?

A: I love it! A QB question! Browns fans can’t resist it talking QBs! Mullens has spent the last three years with the 49ers. He was 5-11 as a starter in Kyle Shanahan’s offense, which is similar to what the Browns use under Kevin Stefanski. I’d much rather have Mullens as the No. 3 QB behind Baker Mayfield and Case Keenum than Kyle Lauletta.

Q: What’s wrong with Lauletta?

A: When he had to throw from the pocket, he was in big trouble. You could see that in the final preseason game.

Q: Why only three tight ends? Doesn’t Stefanski love tight ends?

A: That was the case in Minnesota, where he was the offensive coordinator. But the Browns have so much depth at receiver, they don’t need a lot of tight ends. They have three talented tight ends in Austin Hooper, David Njoku and Harrison Bryant.

Q: Early in camp, you said Bryant would be your surprise of this season. Still believe that?

A: Part of the reason for that prediction was my sense Njoku could be traded or perhaps not play well. Njoku has been superb in training camp. I expect him to play a lot. Hooper is the starter. So that leaves Bryant more as depth, although someone invariably will miss games due to injuries.

Q: Why are you so obsessed with the defensive backs as a problem area? They added John Johnson III, Greg Newsome II and Troy Hill. That’s a big upgrade.

A: Agree about the upgrades. But safety Grant Delpit was a second-round pick a year ago. He missed 2020 due to a torn Achilles. He pulled a hamstring twice in training camp and didn’t play in any preseason games. That’s a concern. Same with Greedy Williams and his injury history. He played 12 games in 2019, none in 2020. And he had some minor injuries in training camp.

Q: Enough! Some guys will get hurt, it happens.

A: Denzel Ward has missed 11 games in the last three seasons. Safety Ronnie Harrison Jr. missed five games in 2020. Defensive backs are like pitchers in baseball. You need lots of them. And yes, they get hurt.

Q: Who can be a pleasant surprise in the secondary?

A: Richard LeCounte III has been impressive at safety, especially for a rookie picked in the fifth round. Defensive coordinator Joe Woods loves safeties. LeCounte could play a lot, especially if Delpit can’t stay healthy. The Browns gave cornerback A.J. Green $150,000 to sign as an undrafted free agent in 2020 – that’s a large bonus. He played little last season but saw a lot of action in the 2021 preseason.

Q: Isn’t the secondary better?

A: Of course it is. Johnson and Newsome should start. Hill can defend the slot and also do a decent job on wide receivers. But they could still be shopping for help in the secondary from players cut by other teams.

Q: What player sweating out the cut made you the happiest when his name appeared on the roster?

A: D’Ernest Johnson. Like Hodge, he’s a good “football player.” He is a solid running back who helps on special teams. He can catch the ball out of the backfield. He still could end up elsewhere, because the Browns have Demetric Felton on the roster. A sixth-rounder from UCLA, Felton also has experience as a slot receiver along with running back.

Q: What about Chase McLaughlin as the kicker?

A: Nothing personal, but I have not trusted a Browns kicker since the team failed to bring back Phil Dawson for the 2013 season. They haven’t had the same kicker for two full seasons since then.

Q: Is it true every player drafted by GM Andrew Berry in the last two seasons made the team?

A: Yes, and no surprise about that. Unless a guy has major character flaws, it makes sense to keep him for a few years if you drafted him. Tony Fields II and Anthony Schwartz have played little in training camp due to injuries. Some of the veterans cut could be better players, but you don’t know that until those two rookies are healthy and able to show what they can do.

Q: Is this the best roster for the Browns since they returned in 1999?

A: Yes, and none of the other teams are a close second. It’s an impressive group.

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Browns’ first 53-man roster has me talking to myself: Still worried about DBs – Terry Pluto

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