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This roster formula shows Browns have a ways to go before expecting playoff contention

Jul 09, 2012 -- 6:00am

By Tony Grossi


The Morning Kickoff …

Building a better roster: Pat Kirwan of CBSSports.com wrote an interesting analysis of the smaller roster pieces that separate good teams from great ones. One general manager listed the following 10 areas that need to be filled for an NFL team to contend for the Super Bowl.

These are beyond having a great quarterback, mind you.

Here they are:

1. A backup quarterback that can go at least 2-2 if he had to take over for a month straight.

2. A second running back that could be a 1,000-yard back if he had to take over or at least generate 75 yards of offense a week as a runner and receiver.

3. A third wide receiver that could go in for an injured starter and generate 4-6 receptions a game as an X or a Z.

4. A second tight end that could be a legitimate threat as a blocker or receiver.

5. Two experienced backup offensive linemen – one swing tackle who can play right and left and one combination guard-center.

6. A third defensive tackle already in the rotation that could play a whole game well if a starter went down.

7. A pass rush specialist that could play against the run if a starter went down.

8. A fourth cornerback that could bump up to nickel corner if that player had to replace an injured starter.

9. A third safety that could start or play some “Big Nickel” when needed.

10. Four core special teams players that can help on offense or defense if needed.

How the Browns fare: Let’s break it down, point by point:

1. Seneca Wallace is 1-6 as a starter with the Browns, but was 5-7 in Seattle when the Seahawks had competitive teams. I think he could hold the fort for a month.

2. It’s a stretch to think that Montario Hardesty or Brandon Jackson could stay healthy from week to week, much less generate 75 yards a game.

3. Four to six receptions a game? They don’t even have a legitimate No. 1 receiver to do that, much less a No. 3.

4. Evan Moore can be a legitimate receiver. Alex Smith can be a legitimate blocker. Maybe – maybe – Jordan Cameron can be both. In any case, check this one off.

5. Oniel Cousins and John Greco qualify. This also is one of the easier areas to fill, as veteran swingmen are almost always available.

6. Prior to the Phil Taylor injury and surgery, Scott Paxson would qualify. But with Paxson likely moving in to replace Taylor, the depth is down to untested rookies John Hughes and Billy Winn, and Brian Schaefering, who backed up mostly at end last year.

7. The main candidates – Juqua Parker and Marcus Benard – are suspect in the running game.

8. Buster Skrine isn’t there yet, but possibly can prove worthy in his second preseason. Next in line would be James Dockery and Trevin Wade. Neither is quite ready for the rigors of regular nickel duty.

9. Whichever safety does not start – Usama Young or Eric Hagg – can fill this role.

10. They’re good here with Josh Cribbs, Ray Ventrone, Kaluka Maiava, Dockery, and rookies James-Michael Johnson and Emmanuel Ocho.

Sizing it up: By my calculations, the Browns have the depth on hand to fill five of the 10 needs – Nos. 1, 4, 5, 9 and 10. Given good health and rapid improvement during preseason, it’s possible we might check off Nos. 2, 6 and 8 by season’s start. I don’t see Nos. 3 and 7 being filled this year.

Keep in mind that Kirwan’s analysis assumes the team already has in place the elite foundation pieces that most GMs ascribe to – quarterback, left tackle, pass rusher, No. 1 receiver, cornerback. One can argue the Browns have two proven pieces in this category – Joe Thomas and Joe Haden.

Now you can see why the Browns preach patience and are reserved in stating their expectations. They know their roster is short of having all the pieces to contend.

Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com.

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 44 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Email your “Hey Tony” questions to tgrossi@espncleveland.com

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi

 

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