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Browns Mailbag: What's the latest with rookie OL Cameron Erving?

Isaiah Crowell gave everyone one big reason to keep a close eye on Thursday's game against the Chicago Bears.

Had it not been for Crowell's big-time performance in last year's preseason finale, the second-year running back might be somewhere else entering 2015. That's the significance of a game like this, one where most players on the field are fighting for their careers.

Everyone loves Danny Shelton from all reports, but I haven't heard much about Cameron Erving except that he has not been able to win the job. At this point is he expected to be able to make an impact immediately if needed or does he need more time to add polish? -- Greg W., Rocky River

It all depends on how you define immediate impact. Is Erving projected to start in the Sept. 13 season opener against the New York Jets? Probably not, as veteran John Greco has had a strong camp and not shown any signs of relinquishing the job he held throughout last season.

But Erving's role is an important one. He's a stabilizing presence as the offensive line's sixth man, something the Browns lacked in a big way last season. His position flexibility, which includes center, will allow the team to plug him in and not miss a beat -- even if it means running on the field for a play if one of the linemen loses a cleat. It's rare for an offensive line to go through an entire season without an injury, and Erving will be there when/if the Browns have to deal with one. Looking ahead to the future, Erving gives the Browns options if players who have options to leave at the end of the season (center Alex Mack and right tackle Mitchell Schwartz) opt to go elsewhere.

I grew up in Ohio and long to see another DB tandem like Frank and Hanford. Do you see a tandem like them on current roster? -- Jake H., Sacramento, California

As it stands right now, the Browns are in pretty good hands with two players who have made the Pro Bowl. Joe Haden is in the prime of his career and Tramon Williams appears to have plenty left in the tank after a decorated stint with the Green Bay Packers. Though Justin Gilbert has struggled to adjust to the NFL in the early part of his career, he has athleticism that can't be taught, and the coaches believe he has the potential to be a reliable starting NFL cornerback. Pierre Desir has great size and an incredible work ethic. Injuries have hurt him throughout training camp, but he's been one of the most pleasant surprises on the practice field when healthy.

I just want to know does Terrelle Pryor even have a chance of making this team? He's missed an awful lot of time. Thanks for responding. GO BROWNS!!!!! -- Tim H., Brunswick

Browns coach Mike Pettine said Sunday he would not consider Thursday's game a "make-or-break" opportunity for Pryor. Based off that, it's safe to presume Pryor very much has a chance to make the final 53. All indications are Pryor will give it a go against the Bears but his snaps will be limited.

Pettine's comment last week about Pryor was telling when it pertained to how he'd be evaluated when the Browns make their final decisions on the roster.

"We're not expecting him to go out there and light it up and catch 10 balls for 150 yards and two touchdowns. Just continue to get better," Pettine said. "At the beginning, to just make that decision and come into a training camp and say, 'Hey, I'm going to switch my position,' our expectations weren't real high for him by the end of training camp to be a viable player at wide out. We understand it's a process. It's just been unfortunate with the injury, the setbacks that we haven't been able to get as good of an evaluation as we wanted."

Could Travis Benjamin be a potential threat to others above him on the depth chart? -- Matt J., Mentor

It's hard to find anyone on the entire roster who had a better August than Benjamin, who not only stood out as a receiver but also as a return man. Based on what we've seen at practice and in preseason games, he's poised to have a larger role in the passing attack than he did last season. Whether that's at the expense of someone else's snaps is hard to distinguish.

Which running back will be the starter, and who do you think will be the most productive out of the three? -- Darel D., Massillon

Heading into the Browns' fourth preseason game, it's safe to say that position battle remains wide open. Rookie Duke Johnson has been hampered by multiple injuries and likely will have to deal with more of a learning curve through the first few regular season games than he would have if he were healthy during the preseason. Isaiah Crowell and Terrance West both produced double-digit carries against the Buccaneers but are averaging 2.8 and 3.5 yards per carry, respectively. There may not be an answer after Thursday's game, either, because of the potential of one or both receiving some rest.

That's a long way of saying I have no more idea now than I did at the start of training camp.

I saw last year's greatest road comeback in history, and I've been a Browns' fan since Jim Brown helped win us the '64 championship. How many practice squad players do we get to keep? And what are the current rules governing practice squad players? -- Will H., Nashville, Tennessee

After a recent expansion, practice squads can contain as many as 10 players. To qualify for a practice squad, the majority of players have to have less than one accrued NFL season worth of experience. Two spots on the practice squad can be filled with players who have fewer than two accrued seasons. An accrued season equals six games on the active roster. Players can only be on a practice squad for two seasons (at least six weeks).

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