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Browns Mailbag: What role could Jermaine Whitehead have in deep Browns secondary?

Camp's over, summer break awaits, but the mail doesn't rest.

We've got five questions on this sunny Friday in Berea.

Hi Andrew, you must be very busy about now. Simple question: What is the current roster count (since they released Desmond Harrison) and how many cuts may happen after Day 3 of this week's minicamp? I assume only 53 players are allowed (other than practice squad members) by end of preseason/game 1? The reason I ask is it seems cuts are going to be difficult with a loaded and talented bunch of men!! -- Chuck B., Columbus

I appreciate your concern, but we know how to manage the load at around this time of year. The current roster count as of the Friday after Cleveland's mandatory minicamp is at 90. Because safety Tigie Sankoh, who was signed last year through the NFL's International Player program, does not count toward the allotted maximum of 90, the Browns have room to add one more player if they like. Rosters can remain at as many as 90 players until Aug. 31, when they're required to be trimmed to 53.

You're right about the difficult decisions that lie ahead for general manager John Dorsey. Take, for example, what coach Freddie Kitchens said Thursday about the team's defensive line.

"They all can play," Kitchens said. "I think we have about 10 guys who can play. I don't know how many have actually played, but my personal opinion is we have 10 guys who can actually play. Now, the proof has yet to come, but that is what I feel."

Check out photos from the last day of Browns Minicamp

Why do the Browns players wear plain orange helmets during training camp/preseason? -- Mark C., Barberton

This dates back to last season. The players will get their stripes on their helmet when they make the 53-man roster.

How's Jamie Gillian doing in practice? -- Jack C., Hampshire, Tennessee

Gillan was largely sidelined during the early portion of OTAs but he received a big opportunity at this past week's minicamp. He sent a number of high, booming punts during the team's many special teams drills. He's also spent a lot of time working on the nuances of holding on field goals and extra points -- something he's never had to do because he was the one kicking those field goals and extra points in high school and college.

In interviews last month, special teams coordinator Mike Priefer made it clear Gillan wasn't just an extra leg. He's here to push veteran Britton Colquitt.

"I'm not really into camp legs," Priefer said. "I know Britton is an older punter, but Britton was pushed last year and he was up for the challenge. I'm sure he'll be up for it again this year."

I'm hearing a lot of buzz about Jermaine Whitehead. Who will he replace in nickel packages? Morgan Burnett or T.J. Carrie? -- Gurjit S., Rocklin, California

With Burnett dealing with a minor injury throughout minicamp, Whitehead handled the majority of the snaps with the first-team defense opposite of free safety Damarious Randle. How that changes when Burnett is back at full strength remains to be seen. When the Browns deployed their nickel package, Carrie largely played in the slot with Denzel Ward and Greedy Williams manning the outside spots.

The key for a player like Whitehead is flexibility and versatility. That could come in handy whenever the Browns look to deploy formations with three safeties. What was made clear over the past week is that all of the Whitehead chatter over the past month wasn't just lip service. He's a real-deal player to keep an eye on as the Browns craft their depth chart over the next couple of months.

"I had Jermaine last year in Green Bay. He probably played the safety position the best for us last year," said Joe Whitt, Cleveland's pass game coordinator/secondary coach. "We didn't play very good defense, but he was a very important part of what we were doing, and he's going to be a very important part of what we're doing here. He's valuable. He's tough. He's physical. He can play close to the line. He can cover tight ends. I've been pleased with what he brings to the defense."

Other than the change of Tyrod to Baker, do you expect the captains to be the same in the 2019 season or have some better suited leaders emerged on the team this offseason? -- Elliot B., Worcester, United Kingdom

That's a tough one to gauge at this point. It wouldn't surprise me in the least if Christian Kirksey, Joel Bitonio, Myles Garrett and Colquitt all retained their captainship in 2019. If Mayfield were named a captain, he'd follow in the line of Garrett, who was named a captain in his second year with the team.

Mayfield certainly seems ready to hold that mantle. We'll just have to wait and see if he takes on the honor when captains are named in early September.

"This is the time that I have been looking forward to being that guy," Mayfield said. "Like I said, I got to earn that respect with everybody. We are going to have new faces in this locker room and I have to continue to work every day. It is not like I am just that guy now. I have to continue to work every day and continue to show people that I have that same mindset."

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