Browns Mailbag

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Browns Mailbag: Where does Rashard Higgins fit in WRs competition?

We've got five questions for the final mailbag before The Fourth. [

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Let's have at it.

I haven't heard much info on Rashard Higgins. What kind of camp did he have and do you think he has a chance to win the slot position? -- Leroy K., New Kensington

Coming off a season in which he caught six passes for 77 yards, Higgins was much improved throughout OTAs and minicamp. That's according to senior offensive assistant/wide receivers coach Al Saunders, who had good things to say about Higgins and the two other receivers Cleveland selected with Day 3 picks in the 2016 draft, Ricardo Louis and Jordan Payton. The last selected of the three, Higgins had the most productive college career of the trio, hauling in 171 passes for more than 2,800 yards over his final two seasons. He just struggled to find a regular role in a group that included Terrelle Pryor, Corey Coleman and Andrew Hawkins. Near the end of the year, Higgins got some regular snaps as a big slot receiver and looked comfortable at the position. It was small, but important for Higgins as he looks to land a spot on the 53-man roster in a competition that currently includes 11 different wide receivers.

"That was big, man," Higgins said. "It gives me experience and it teaches me what it takes. Learning from Andrew Hawkins and him showing me the way and what it takes to be a pro. He did a good job of that and I look forward to getting the job done."

How is John Greco doing after his injury? - John H., Zanesville

Greco has been a regular fixture inside the Browns' Berea facility since he went down with a foot injury last November against the Giants. The injury is similar in nature to the one suffered by Joel Bitonio seven weeks earlier in the 2016 season. Bitonio participated in some individual drills during minicamp and said he expects to be 100 percent by the start of the season. It's unclear what Greco's status will be in late July or whether he'll be ready for the season opener. The veteran has come up big for the Browns since he came to Cleveland in 2011. His versatility helped stop the bleeding a bit last year when the Browns suffered a rash of injuries at center. If he's healthy, Greco can be a valuable member of the group, able to fill in for either Bitonio or Kevin Zeitler at the guard spots or JC Tretter at center.

First, is Joe Haden going to be fully healthy for the start of the season? Also who are you hopeful will step up to make the defensive backfield more competent this year? -- Lee F., Springfield

Haden was a full participant from start to finish in OTAs and minicamp. That was a great sign for the veteran, who has dealt with a slew of injuries over the past couple of offseasons. Haden had surgery right after the season on both of his groin muscles but didn't look slowed at all throughout the offseason program.

"I feel healthy. I'm ready to go," Haden said. "I'm just super excited to be able to be out here for OTAs, being able to just try new stuff – just coming out of my breaks and feeling good, feeling like I can open up, feeling like I can run and just not feeling any restrictions."

As for players who could step up and make an impact, keep an eye on Briean Boddy-Calhoun, who did just that as a rookie in 2016. The Browns' top defensive backs -- Joe Haden, Jamar Taylor and Jason McCourty -- have a ton of experience, and Boddy-Calhoun gained a bunch of it last season when he emerged as a reliable, third cornerback who was capable of playing on the outside and inside.

Getting PK Zane Gonzalez with the seventh round pick was brilliant! As Lou Groza award winner and top 2016 kicker in the NCAA, I think he might make a run at becoming the Browns MVP by playoffs time. Possibly another Phil Dawson! -- Bob K., Ravenna

Gonzalez has a ton of potential and a big leg, but the Browns aren't going to just hand him the job. He'll have to beat out Cody Parkey, a former Pro Bowler who was rock solid after a rocky debut last season. After missing three kicks in his first game with the Browns, Parkey went 17-of-19 and missed just one of his extra points.

"I always look at whoever does the best is going to win the job, regardless if you are drafted or not drafted," special teams coordinator Chris Tabor said. "I have had players play for us that have been good players that were drafted, and I have had players that have played for us that were not drafted. That status does not mean anything to me."

What day is the first roster cuts? - Steve S., Wooster

The NFL made a big change this offseason to how teams can handle their roster downsizing. The 75-man cutdown, which traditionally occurred after the third preseason game, has been eliminated. Now, there's just one big day when the roster goes from 90 to 53, and that's set for Saturday, Sept. 2, at 4 p.m. Teams, of course, can cut their rosters down at any point before that to avoid releasing 37 players at the same time.

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