When you found out that the lockout was over, you knew that injuries would be an issue for NFL players this season. Without a full offseason, the amount and quality of training for players has been drastically diminished. As a result, injuries have been piling up this preseason. For a young team like the Browns, it’s hard to get a read on their potential with the amount of injuries they’ve had. Several key positions such as safety, wide receiver and linebacker to name a few have spawned questions from fans as to the talent level and quality depth. Players such as Carlton Mitchell, Chris Gocong, Usama Young, Mohammed Massaquoi and Titus Brown have all been hit by the injury bug in camp. I know, Massaquoi showed up to camp hurt, but it still makes things tougher to evaluate when a player being counted on to contribute more cannot even practice.
I was convinced that this would be the season that Carlton Mitchell makes a name for himself and works his way into the rotation at receiver. While that could still happen, it’s disheartening when injuries derail the growth of a player. I was thrilled when the Browns drafted this kid and I hope that they don’t give up on this guy after just one full season. It’s not everyday that you get receivers that are 6’3″ 215 lbs and run a 4.42 40. Bottom line: this kid deserves a roster spot over a guy like Demetrius Williams because you know he hasn’t reached his full potential yet. I’m not trying to take anything away from Williams, but if the motto the front office keeps reiterating is to develop the young talent, then Mitchell has to stay.
Getting back to my point about depth on the roster, take a look at the linebackers currently on the roster and honestly tell me that you aren’t concerned. If you ask me, even if the starters (presumably Jackson, Fujita and Gocong) would stay healthy for a full season, I’m not sure that they are going to cut it in the ultra-competitive AFC North. Jackson looks great in the preseason and he looks like a captain on this defense manning the middle. Health-wise, this unit scares me to death though. Obviously, the Browns aren’t going to find a player like Patrick Willis available in free agency, but they do need to be on the lookout for quality depth at the position. Maiava and Brown will make the final roster, but more depth is needed given the age and injury history of our linebackers.
Another position that I have been questioning for a while is the defensive line. I’m not questioning if the starters can play or not, I’m questioning if the backups would be able to hold their own if an injury would happen to one of the starters. As evidenced by last Thursday’s game against the Eagles, Phil Taylor is starting to figure it out and I have no doubt that him and Ahtyba Rubin can plug holes in the middle. My main concern is that they have absolutely no one to rotate in when one of those guys need a breather. At least at defensive end, you know that Marcus Benard can be counted on to put pressure on the quarterback if he is rotated in. I simply don’t have the same confidence with the backup defensive tackles. GM Tom Heckert would be stupid not keep an eye on defensive linemen that are let go during final cuts.
If you would have told me back in April that Jason Pinkston would play a key role this year I would have told you that you are crazy. It’s not a joke though. With the recent back injury to Eric Steinbach, Jason Pinkston is in line to start at left guard for the Browns in week 1. The Browns have two young guards projected to start currently in Pinkston and second-year player Shawn Lauvao. These two guys will play a major part in how Peyton Hillis does and also keeping Colt upright in the pocket. I’m glad that the coaching staff has enough confidence in the young guys to do their job and I’m excited to see what they can do.
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