The Browns' roster is down to 53 players, and the 2021 season is officially getting closer and closer.
Though the roster remains fluid, we're breaking down the most important things to come from this version of the Browns' 53.
1. Depth and versatility on D
A quick glance at the Browns' 53 shows the team has achieved what it was hoping to do when it attacked the offseason through free agency and the draft. This is a deeper and more versatile team with experienced options at every position.
It's especially apparent on defense, where the Browns did the bulk of their offseason work. Playoff-experienced leaders were added to every level of the defense with the signings of Malik Jackson, Anthony Walker and John Johnson III. New additions at cornerback such as veteran Troy Hill and first-round pick Greg Newsome II have already shown the ability to play multiple positions. The same could be expected for Pro Bowl DE Jadeveon Clowney, who has talked excitedly about lining up on the inside in certain packages.
This is the kind of group defensive coordinator Joe Woods hopes can become a top-five unit in the NFL. Now, it's all about coming together, jelling and executing looks that put the defense in the best position for success. As Woods said last week, the defense could look different from one week to the next based on the opponent they're facing. This group, on paper, certainly gives Woods that ability.
2. Unprecedented offensive stability
At last, some unprecedented stability on offense.
That was the hope when the Browns attacked the offensive side of the ball during the 2020 offseason, and it's certainly apparent in the initial 2021 53-man roster. A whopping 22 of the 25 offensive players finished the previous season with the team. Of the 22, 20 were on the 53-man roster at the start of the 2020 season. The lone three new faces? All of them were 2021 draft picks
Tack on the fact the Browns returned almost all of their coaches from 2020, and the ingredients are there to truly build off all of the success from the previous season.
The Browns' 53 man roster on October 12, 2021
3. Building through the draft
The odds seemed long that all of the Browns' eight draft picks would find a spot on the 53, but it became clearer and clearer throughout training camp that it was a distinct possibility.
That's largely the result of strong performances from the two final picks, S Richard LeCounte III and RB Demetric Felton. LeCounte, fully healthy and recovered from an accident that derailed his senior season, showed off the kind of traits and skills that made him an every-game starter at Georgia and intercepted two passes during the preseason. Felton gobbled up all that was asked of him as a running back, wide receiver and special teams player and showed the Browns he was ready to handle all of it.
Fifth-round LB Tony Fields II didn't participate in most of training camp because of a foot injury, but he recently returned to practice and the Browns remain optimistic in his future.
The Browns are adamant about building the foundation of their roster through the draft, and EVP of Football Operations and GM Andrew Berry has certainly made the most of his first two swings at the plate. Every member of the 2020 and 2021 draft classes — 15 players in total — are a part of this year's initial 53.
4. Stay tuned
You may have noticed how many times the word "initial" was used in this story. It's not by accident. The roster is churning 365 days a year, and it seems to churn the most league-wide on the day AFTER the rosters are reduced to 53.
The Browns are regularly active on this day and have landed key players in the process. There's also the business of constructing a 16-man practice squad and making moves on the injured reserve. Now that rosters are down to 53, players can be placed on injured reserve and have the ability to return. That opens up the possibility of adding even more new faces — or familiar ones — to the mix as Cleveland looks to construct the best possible group of players for each of its 17 games.