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Browns Mailbag: What's the state of the D-line after recent shakeups?

One game down, three to go and plenty of questions to address in between.

Our goal is to make sense of a few of them in this week's mailbag.

I'm concerned about the defensive line with the injuries and suspensions looming in their front seven. Have you seen any signs of life from them? Anyone standing out? -- Howard B., Stuttgart, Germany

With Desmond Bryant injured, who do you see as the three starters Week 1 on the defensive line? -- Brent H., Lombard, Illinois

Let's start with the signs of life part of this question. If we're defining that by players stepping up and making plays, there are three newish faces who fall into that category. It's been well-documented on this website how much of an impact rookies Carl Nassib and Emmanuel Ogbah had in the Browns' preseason opener. They were the top two players in snaps, each picked up a sack and combined for nine tackles. It was everything you want to see from a pair of rookies in a debut.

Another player who fits this bill is Nick Hayden. The veteran was added to the roster shortly before training camp and has emerged as a first-team option. This kind of response has been pivotal during a time in which John Hughes III was absent because of a personal issue.

"I think Nick has done a good job, and until John is ready to go and play, we won't be able to evaluate that," Browns coach Hue Jackson said. "We're just glad to have him back in the building and have him have a chance to get back out there and compete with his teammates, but Nick has done a good job."

As for the starters, the Browns have lined up with Hayden, Danny Shelton and Jamie Meder in practice this week. Meder is the new addition, filling the spot of Xavier Cooper. It's been hard-earned by the third-year Parma Heights native who has gone from nose tackle to end in the recent shakeup.

"I think he deserves it," Jackson said. "Jamie played extremely well last week. He's very valuable to us."

With the departure of Travis Benjamin, we need to find that spark in the return game. Thus far Justin Gilbert hasn't exactly panned out at CB, but given his success in college and in his limited opportunities in the NFL, doesn't it make sense to use him as a returner? -- John H., Fairborn

Gilbert has been an option on kickoff returns but not punts. Gilbert returned 12 punts as a freshman at Oklahoma State, picking up 50 of his 55 yards on a single one. He never did it again.

The Browns' options on punt return for 2016 appear to be Corey Coleman, Tramon Williams, Raheem Mostert and Jordan Poyer.

How is Raheem Mostert looking and is there a good chance he'll be in a special situation/change of pace role at RB along with his being named starting KR on the first depth chart? -- Mike S., New Smyrna Beach, Florida

Mostert started Friday's preseason opener on the wrong foot when he fumbled a kickoff following a safety, but he bounced back nicely and looked very much like someone who should be taken seriously as the No. 3 option at running back.

Mostert was the third running back used Friday, following brief appearances by Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson. He picked up all five of his carries on a second-quarter scoring drive and led the team with 43 yards -- 27 coming on a single carry. He also notched a solid 24-yard kickoff return and a 24-yard punt return that set up the Browns for their only touchdown. His chances are solid to make the roster if he eliminates the fumbles and maintains the solid running and returns.

Do you believe that the Browns will keep both Shon Coleman and Spencer Drango on the final roster? -- Brian F., Crestline

It's certainly possible and plausible. Neither are currently working with the first-team offense, as Austin Pasztor is working ahead of them at right tackle. Drango, though, has plenty of versatility and the upside on Coleman, a third-round pick, is something that is definitely valued. The Browns typically had seven offensive linemen on the 53-man roster last season, and it's not out of the norm to keep eight in the NFL.

Why is Ricardo Louis not in the conversation for punt and kick return work? From all the tape I've seen of him he's great running in the open field. Pair those skills with his size and speed and he should at least get a shot at returns. -- John R., Akron

Louis never returned punts and only handled a handful of kicks during his time at Auburn. He's been a main cog on special teams, though, as he was among the team leaders with eight special teams snaps against the Packers.

"He's a guy that we love his size, the way he can run," Browns special teams coordinator Chris Tabor said in May. "We liked him on tape."

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