Training Camp

Browns Mailbag: Who could be a surprise player on final 53-man roster?

The locomotive was first used in the early 19th century.

Wireless Internet started gaining some serious traction at the turn of the 21st century.

The two came together today to help produce this week's mailbag as we make our way back to Berea after a couple of days in Pittsford, N.Y.

Who do you suspect to be surprises on the final 53-man roster? Which rookies do you see pushing their way into the mix? - Keri R., Brunswick

First, let's define "surprise." To qualify as a surprise, in my mind, the player has to be either undrafted or a player who was recently added to the roster who hasn't logged many snaps in the NFL.

When I first glanced at the 90-man roster to start training camp, I found it hard to identify many potential surprise finalists for the 53. The Browns' depth was in a much better position than last year, when a number of these "surprises" not only made the final cut, but produced at a high level throughout the season.

Alas, a number of players are on the path to proving those who doubted them wrong because of a combination of strong play and injuries ahead of them that have potentially thrust them into premium roles.

Here are a few that come to mind.

TE E.J. Bibbs

At this point, he may no longer be considered a surprise because of all the good things Browns coaches and players have said about him. He caught three passes in last week's preseason game and has been a consistently strong player in practice. He's shown some versatility, too, by filling in for the injured Malcolm Johnson at fullback.

WR Josh Lenz

All he's done is consistently get open and catch the ball when it's thrown in his direction. He had a solid two practices against Buffalo's defensive backs, particularly in one-on-one drills. The Browns wide receiver room is very crowded and spots will be at a premium when it's time to decide who will be the last one selected. Through the first half of the preseason, Lenz has made enough plays to enter the discussion.

DL Dylan Wynn

An undrafted rookie from Oregon State, Wynn is undersized (6-foot-2, 283 pounds) but makes up for it with a relentless motor. He's made the most of his playing time, particularly at the Orange and Brown scrimmage, and he's proven versatile enough to take on extra tasks. He was spotted playing fullback at one practice and has helped out as a pass rusher after injuries limited the depth in that group.

DB Kendall James

Much like the wide receiver room, the Browns secondary isn't exactly flush with openings. Injuries, though, have decimated this unit through the first few weeks of the preseason. None of the injuries are considered to be serious, but they've allowed a player like James to work his way into first- and second-team work. The next few weeks will provide the undrafted rookie from the University of Maine the opportunity to make his case for a roster spot.

With the Browns new offense being an unknown, do you see them using a fullback in the offensive formations? Or are they transitioning into a H-Back role? - Zach H., Sagamore Hills

The answer is a little bit of both. When healthy, Johnson can serve as a sturdy blocker in the running game but is certainly capable of running routes and making catches out of the backfield. With Johnson and Luke Lundy both out with injuries, the Browns have essentially been without a fullback in recent weeks. Johnson appears close to returning, and his presence will add another wrinkle to John DeFilippo's offense.

After trading for Andy Lee, don't the Browns have to keep two of the best gunners in the NFL for his booming kicks to cover on special teams? - John H., Orlando

It certainly makes players such as Marlon Moore and Johnson Bademosi, both of whom have been regarded for their special teams prowess, more valuable. Special teams coordinator Chris Tabor called Bademosi one of the NFL's best gunners last year, and Moore forced a fumble on a punt return in last week's preseason opener. That will certainly be factored when Browns coaches decide who the best 53 players are to help the team win on Sunday's.

Hey there from Down Under! My guy, Andrew Hawkins, hasn't had much press in the last couple of weeks … to the point I was wondering if he was injured or on holiday (kidding). But honestly, are he and McCown not syncing or is the new offense just not using him? - Scott G., Albany, Western Australia

The Browns truly are a global organization. Great to get a question from this far away.

There are no chemistry issues to report between McCown and Hawkins. Quite the opposite, actually, as the two hooked up for a long connection during Tuesday's practice and a couple other intermediate routes. After filling in at a number of spots because of injuries and suspensions last season, Hawkins has been able to play more in the slot and has been used on a bunch of short passes at the line of scrimmage that allow him to use his quickness and elusiveness to pick up yards with his feet.

Despite a pretty crowded DL room, any real chance Jamie Meder makes the 53-man? Are the Browns high enough on him that they'd at least try to retain him on the practice squad in his last year of eligibility? - Bartholemew S., Cleveland Heights

Meder's had a very good camp and played well in last week's preseason opener against the Redskins. It's also worth noting he held his own in active duty against the Ravens in last year's season finale. If he keeps this level of play up, he'll force his way into the discussion and would certainly be valuable as a member of the practice squad if he's unable to crack the 53.

What are your thoughts so far on the longer extra points after seeing the first set of preseason games? I hate it! Why increase the importance of the kicker?! - Matt F., Pickerington

Kickers have made the vast majority of these extra points, but they're certainly not gimmes. They've forced me to watch them, which, is exactly what the NFL wanted. It will be interesting to see just how much, if at all, it will increase attempted two-point conversions.

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