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3 position battles to watch in Browns preseason finale

The Browns will conclude a spirited preseason full of highs and lows Thursday on what looks to be a gorgeous September evening in Northeast Ohio.

Not long after, first-year coach Hue Jackson and his staff, who have been carefully evaluating their club for the better part of the last eight months, will finally trim the roster to 53 members by Saturday afternoon as per league rules.

"I'm going to watch everything, along with our executive staff. We are at the stage of trying to put our best team together," Jackson said. "How many spots, what the numbers are, I'm not sure of that.

"But obviously, we all know there are some (position battles). There are 53 (spots) that we have to make sure that we have here so we will work at it and we will see how this thing shakes out."

And while the coaching staff, of course, continues to evaluate every single unit as a means of fielding the possible team next week at Philadelphia in the season opener, here's three position battles to keep an eye when the Browns host the Bears later tonight.

Outside linebacker

After parting ways Monday with starting outside linebacker Paul Kruger in the first round of roster cuts, the Browns are eager to see who fills that role. Fortunately for Cleveland, it has a host of candidates who looked poised to handle the load.

Among them are Nate Orchard, Cam Johnson and rookies Emmanuel Ogbah and Joe Schobert.

"Exactly who the starters are going to be, that will be revealed obviously on Thursday night, but we have four candidates that are going to go out there and play, and we are going to play them all and give them an opportunity to go out there and show what they can do," Jackson said earlier this week. "That is what the game is for so guys can showcase their talent and ability. We will see exactly how that unfolds Thursday night."

Defensive secondary

Perhaps outside of Joe Haden, who made his preseason debut last week against Tampa Bay, the Browns are find themselves fine-tuning a new-look secondary still rounding into form.

At safety, Ibraheim Campbell and Jordan Poyer have carried the bulk of reps with the first-team defense, but Derrick Kindred, the rookie from TCU who played through a broken collarbone last season, has had more than a few impressive moments over the course of the preseason.

Jackson, who has stressed competition in order to put the best players on the field, said he feels "very good about all three of those guys."

"I don't think it really matters who walks out there first. I know quote-unquote people want to know who the starter is, but I think as much nickel as we see – I'm talking about three wide receivers in the National Football League, two tight ends, all that – all of those guys can play at any time. What is really important is that we are beginning to feel comfortable with three guys that can go in there and play. We will determine who the starters are here pretty soon."

Also in the mix at safety are Rahim Moore, Pierre Desir (who has played both cornerback and safety) and Don Jones.

At cornerback, we saw Jamar Taylor run with the first-team defense against the Buccaneers last week and, in that capacity, the former second-round draft pick and Miami Dolphin had two pass breakups.

Of course, Jackson said the Browns are still taking a careful look at the veteran Tramon Williams, Justin Gilbert (who remains in the team's concussion protocol) and a handful of other candidates like Tracy Howard, Charles Gaines and Eric Patterson.

Wide receiver

In training camp, Jackson described the Browns' depth at wide receiver a "good problem" to have and it certainly still seems that way.

But Jackson said the reality is Cleveland won't be able to hang on to all 10 receivers on the 75-man roster.

"There are some very talented young men in that room, and obviously, all of them can't stay so someone is going to get some really good players," he said earlier this week. "At the same time, I know we will make sure that the guys we keep are the guys that we need to keep here that have a chance to help our football team." The Browns, who feature a wide receivers room full of both veterans and rookies, drafted four newcomers this past spring as a means of bolstering the position group. From seasoned players — like Andrew Hawkins, Terrelle Pryor, Josh Gordon, Marlon Moore, Taylor Gabriel and Darius Jennings  — to rookies in Corey Coleman, Rashard Higgins, Ricardo Louis and Jordan Payton, the Browns receivers top-to-bottom have shined over the past few months. ​

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