We’re a few days away from training camp opening for the Cleveland Browns and the start of the 2018 season.
The Browns underwent a roster overhaul during the offseason and have turned the roster that went 0-16 into a competitive roster that should look night and day compared to what they were a year ago.
Here are some of the position battles to watch during training camp and preseason
Shon Coleman vs Austin Corbett
For the first time since 2006, Joe Thomas isn’t on the Cleveland Browns and the hole the future Hall of Famer left at his position is apparent.
Competing to fill that position is third year tackle Shon Coleman, who is transitioning from right tackle where he started all of last season and rookie Austin Corbett who was selected with the 33rd overall pick in April’s NFL Draft.
Coleman took the majority of the first team reps during the spring practices but I think it’s obvious they aren’t 100% set on making him the starter. Corbett can play tackle but is a little undersized for the position coming out of Nevada, much like Joel Bitonio was coming out of Nevada in 2014 and why Cleveland slid him inside to guard.
The Browns also brought in undrafted rookie Desmond Harrison as well as 2014 #2 overall pick Greg Robinson to potentially get reps at left tackle so I’d expect this competition to be wide open.
Joe Schobert vs Mychal Kendricks
One of the few bright spots to the 2017 Browns campaign was the emergence of Joe Schobert. The second year player transitioned from outside to inside linebacker and it paid off with him being the NFL’s co-leader in tackles and being selected to the Pro Bowl as an alternate but getting to play when Ryan Shazier’s potential career ending injury forced him out.
Schobert is coming back but that didn’t stop Cleveland from signing Super Bowl champion Mychal Kendricks in June. Kendricks graded out as a top 10 linebacker in football last season but was released after requesting a trade out of Philadelphia.
The Browns linebacker unit of Schobert and Kendricks along with Jamie Collins and Christian Kirksey is one of the strongest groups at that position in the NFL.
Linebacker coach Blake Williams gets the difficult task to not only determine who will be the best three of the group to go out on the field but to actually coach them a lot better than he did last season.
Jabrill Peppers vs Derrick Kindred
Peppers is moving to strong safety after an abysmal rookie season where defensive coordinator Gregg Williams played Peppers 20-25 yards off the line of scrimmage as the “Angel” in his defensive scheme.
However, Peppers isn’t being given the starting position as he’ll have to compete with third year safety Derrick Kindred who Williams called “one of the best strong safeties I have had the chance to coach in my career in the run game and zone pass game.”
Peppers played strong safety more at the end of the season and seemed like it was a better fit for his game. Now he has to put it together during camp and preseason to beat out Kindred who has proven he can do it over the course of a season.
Corey Coleman vs Antonio Callaway
2018 is going to be a make-or-break season for third year player Corey Coleman. He has struggled with injuries, immaturity and production throughout the start of his career.
Obviously he’s been bumped down the depth chart with the acquisition of Jarvis Landry and Josh Gordon being able to stay on the right track since returning last December. Now he has another receiver on his trail with the Browns drafting Antonio Callaway in the fourth round of April’s NFL Draft.
Callaway had his trails and tribulations during his college career in Florida but the talent is there. He was injured for the majority of the spring practices so he didn’t get much of an opportunity to showcase his abilities on offense.
He will be back and at full strength for training camp and many people think he can beat Coleman out to be the third wide receiver behind Landry and Gordon but I’d expect Coleman to give it all on the field knowing he’s on the hot seat heading into training camp.
Carlos Hyde vs Nick Chubb vs Duke Johnson Jr.
This might be the most exciting competition of training camp and preseason because you have three talented runners all vying for the starting role and to get the most reps out of the group.
Hyde was one of the team’s big free agent signings in March, Chubb was selected with the 35th pick in April’s NFL Draft and Duke Johnson was the best playmaker on offense last season and was awarded with a contract extension earlier this offseason.
Running backs coach Freddie Kitchens told reporters he will go with whoever has the hot hand when determining who gets the first team reps but I think the belief is they’ll be going with all three backs all season. Hyde and Chubb bring the bruising back role to the table while Johnson’s dual threat as both a runner and a receiver allows him to be used in a variety of roles by new offensive coordinator Todd Haley
TJ Carrie vs E.J. Gaines vs Terrance Mitchell vs Briean Boddy-Calhoun
I think it’s apparent that Denzel Ward will be one of the starting cornerbacks when we get to the regular season opener against Pittsburgh. The other cornerback is still to be determined.
It’s a wide open competition with veterans Carrie, Gaines, Mitchell and Boddy-Calhoun all vying for that spot as well as the nickel back position although based on reports from the spring, Boddy-Calhoun has that spot currently secured.
Carrie, Gaines and Mitchell were all brought in via free agency this offseason and all had good seasons last year with Oakland, Buffalo and Kansas City respectively.
Carrie is the favorite to start opposite Ward according to Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal but Gaines graded out as a top 20 corner last year and has a history in defensive coordinator Gregg Williams’ scheme from his time with the St. Louis/Los Angeles Rams.