Browns Mailbag

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Browns Mailbag: How did the rookies fare in training camp?

Staff writer Anthony Poisal answers your questions every week

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One more preseason game separates us between 53-man roster cuts and Week 1 of the regular season.

A few spots on the roster have yet to be decided, and those decisions must be made Tuesday by 4 p.m. The final chance for evaluations will happen Saturday at 7 p.m. against the Bears, and then things get serious as we prepare for Week 1 in Carolina.

We're taking four of your questions on this Friday from CrossCountry Mortgage Campus.

Could this year be one of the best draft classes for the Browns in terms of upgrading depth of several position groups? - Rob M., Fairmont WV

It could be, and it's no question after watching training camp that adding quality depth is exactly what this rookie class should do.

So many of the guys from the nine-man class have stood out — CB M.J. Emerson Jr. made the play of the Browns' preseason so far in Week 1 with his 74-yard pick-six, K Cade York has been marvelous, RB Jerome Ford has impressed as both a runner and pass-catcher and DEs Alex Wright and Isaiah Thomas have looked strong at times. We haven't quite seen a big day just yet from WR David Bell, but that's largely because he spent the majority of camp injured with a foot injury. He could still be involved — potentially at a high level — sooner rather than later in the passing game.

The Browns didn't need any of the rookies, except for York, to instantly become starters this year, and a large chunk of the class has proven they can at least be serviceable in depth and rotational roles in 2022. Kevin Stefanski was complementary of the class earlier this week.

"I think they have definitely made strides," he said Tuesday. "You've seen it in the games, which is always important when they take the practice field to the game. I think that's been great."

Check out photos of players and coaches working to prepare for the teams final preseason game against the Chicago Bears Saturday

With this roster the Browns have do you think they can reach the playoffs regardless of which QB is starting? With the Watson suspension do you think the players will be more motivated to win games? - Ken P., Dorset

The Browns certainly believe they can still make the playoffs, and no one has said the suspension gives them any added motivation. They know how talented this team is, and they don't want to waste its potential.

Personally, I think the Browns can still remain playoff contenders with Jacoby Brissett as their QB for the first 11 games if they start strong, which they can do with favorable matchups against the Panthers, Jets, Steelers and Falcons. The defense has the potential to be one of the best units in the league and is capable of shutting down each of those first four opponents. Brissett doesn't need to be a superstar in those games, and the Browns will want to lean on their top-tiered run game first to control the pace. If he protects the ball and keeps the chains moving on pass downs, the Browns can stay ahead on the scoreboard.

Those two factors will remain the two biggest keys for Brissett in those first 11 games, and a 3-1 or even 4-0 start would be huge in setting the tone the rest of the year.

Is Takitaki still on the team? - Roger H., Pleasant Grove, Utah

Yes, Sione Takitaki is definitely still around. He's bounced between first and second-team reps depending on how many linebackers the Browns need in defensive formations, and he's a likely candidate to back up the top LB trio of Anthony Walker Jr., Jeremiah Owusu-Kormaoah and Jacob Phillips. The 2019 third-round pick is entering his fourth and final year of his rookie contract.

Who are the undrafted rookies that could make the roster or practice squad? - Rob M., Fairmont WV

S D'Anthony Bell from West Florida is one guy who could crack the 53-man roster as the fourth safety. He's looked good in two preseason games with six tackles and had a tackle for a loss and forced fumble in the first game against Jacksonville.

WR Mike Harley Jr. from Miami is another name to watch. He's looked good at times in practice and had three catches for 30 yards against the Eagles last week. The Browns have tried him as a kick and punt returner, and if he's able to leave any good impressions in that area then the Browns might look to hang onto him as well.

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