Cleveland Browns: 5 Veterans Who Could Be Camp Casualties
Now that training camp is officially underway, we finally get to catch a glimpse of the 2014 Cleveland Browns in all their glory.
With their helmets on, draped in the classic Cleveland colorway, this Browns team already looks completely different than it did just a season ago.
For starters, there's now a real sense of depth at the quarterback position.
The revolving door of names to take snaps under center over the last five years has been narrowed down to two guys: Brian Hoyer and Johnny Manziel.
The quarterback competition is without question going to be the biggest draw for the media this summer. However, another important storyline to watch for is which veterans will make this roster and which will be sent packing before the regular season kicks into gear.
It's no easy task making the final 53-man roster. Talent on both sides of the pigskin will put head coach Mike Pettine and general manager Ray Farmer in an interesting position during the dog days of August.
Perusing through the team's roster, let's take a look at five veteran guys who could wind up becoming camp casualties.
Veteran wide receiver Anthony Armstrong's Browns tenure started at the beginning of rookie minicamp. Normally a time reserved for first-year players—as you can tell by the name—Armstrong was invited to try out for the team.
Impressing the coaching staff, the 31-year-old wide receiver wound up signing a deal to play ball in Cleveland.
The Browns' wide receiving corps is a huge question mark right now. Josh Gordon's potential suspension has opened up the door for just about anybody to come in and make an impact.
Just a handful of days into camp, Armstrong is already making a name for himself. Tom Reed of The Plain Dealer is in attendance at camp, and his takeaway on Armstrong's performance was positive.
"Veteran Anthony Armstrong might have been the day's most impressive receiver. He caught a 65-yard touchdown pass in an 11-on-11 session and made another nifty grab over the middle in traffic. Both balls were thrown by Brian Hoyer," Reed wrote.
If he keeps up this type of play, the veteran pass-catcher should walk away with a roster spot.
Still, the competition is going to be fierce. With a ton of guys all out there jockeying to make the team, nothing is set it stone.
Even though the Browns struggled to move the football on the ground last year, Chris Ogbonnaya proved that he was a durable, multipurpose runner.
Ogbonnaya's biggest claim to fame last season was his ability to catch passes coming out of the backfield. Tallying 48 receptions for 343 yards and two scores, the 6'0", 225-pound tailback was one of the lone producers out of the Browns' entire running back stable.
Last year, it felt no one could run the football. After Trent Richardson was traded, the team had itself a makeshift tandem comprised of Willis McGahee and Ogbonnaya.
This year, things are a lot different. The Browns are sensationally deep at the position, which means Ogbonnaya could struggle to make the final roster.
Former Houston Texans running back Ben Tate is the favorite to be the starter, while rookie Terrance West will get a ton of work himself.
There's also Dion Lewis—the shifty former Philadelphia Eagles runner missed the entire 2013 season due to a broken leg.
Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan's zone-blocking scheme benefits those guys. They are one-cut runners who should thrive behind a talented Browns offensive line.
Logic dictates that Ogbonnaya may wind up being the odd man out. His only saving grace comes down to position.
Ogbonnaya played a lot of fullback last season. He's experienced there and, because of that factor, we could see the 28-year-old make it out of camp once again.
The Browns' front office took a flier this offseason when it went out and signed defensive back Aaron Berry.
Despite being skilled, Berry has struggled to stay on the field during his NFL career. He'll be looking to make his mark on a deep Cleveland secondary after missing all of last season with a torn ACL.
Browns general manager Ray Farmer was excited about Berry's potential when the signing was announced. "He's tough and relentless and his strength prior to his injury was man coverage. He's also accountable for his past, which is well-documented," Farmer told ClevelandBrowns.com.
The biggest issue with Berry has been that he rarely finds a way to actually contribute. Over the four seasons he's played with the Detroit Lions and New York Jets, he's only suited up for 19 regular-season games.
To understand why the Browns gambled on Berry, you have to look at his 2011 season with the Lions. Playing a career-high 11 games, he was assigned a plus-7.1 grade by Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
It all came down to what he was able to do in coverage.
Looking further into the numbers, out of the 53 times he was thrown at, Berry allowed just 33 receptions for 411 yards and one touchdown.
He wasn't an elite cornerback by any means, but his productivity was welcomed in Detroit.
Coach Pettine needs players who can contribute in a positive manner. Depth is important, and if Berry can stay healthy, he's a piece this team could come to rely on at times.
So what's the reason Berry could become a training camp casualty?
It comes down health and competition. The Browns' secondary could be the strongest part of their roster. Berry is going to have play well enough to stand out amongst a deep group of defensive backs if he wants to stay in Cleveland.
One of the more interesting storylines that has emerged from camp so far has been the absence of veteran offensive guard Jason Pinkston.
What makes this story so confusing is that there's been no explanation to why he's been missing in action.
"Pettine revealed that Jason Pinkston is unavailable for practice, but that he's not at liberty to say why right now. He said it's a possibility that Pinkston will return at some point," Mary Kay Cabot of The Plain Dealer explained.
Pinkston wanted to clear the air, so he took to Twitter. The 26-year-old tweeted that he isn't thinking about retiring and isn't in any "legal trouble."
For now, we'll have to sit and wait to see how this whole situation is resolved. But if there's one takeaway from this narrative, it's that Pinkston's time in Cleveland may be coming to an end.
Earlier, we talked about the Browns finally having some depth at the quarterback position.
A victim of that depth could be longtime NFL journeyman Tyler Thigpen. The 6'3", dual-purpose quarterback has bounced around the league ever since he landed with the Kansas City Chiefs in 2007.
Thigpen won't come close to displacing Manziel or Hoyer on the depth chart. His biggest battle is going to be trying to hold down the No. 3 spot with rookie Connor Shaw breathing down his neck.
It may not be as intriguing as the whole Manziel vs. Hoyer situation, but the battle between Thigpen and Shaw is an important one.
If last season was any indication of how things can change in the blink of an eye, the Browns need to have a quality third-string quarterback on their roster heading into September.