Running back Jamal Lewis (hamstring), linebacker Willie McGinest (groin), wide receiver Braylon Edwards (heel), quarterback Derek Anderson (concussion), safety Sean Jones (knee), return specialist Josh Cribbs (ankle) and safety Brodney Pool (concussion) are expected to be cleared to practice. None of the group was to play in the final preseason against the Bears Aug. 28.
PLAYER TO WATCH: WR Syndric Steptoe -- Steptoe seemed like no more than an extra body at the beginning of training camp, but injuries to Joe Jurevicius, Josh Cribbs and Kevin Kasper plus inconsistent play by Travis Wilson and Steve Sanders opened the door for Steptoe. A seventh-round pick in 2007, he is also the back-up kick and punt returner.
DRAFT PICKS TO STICK
Rd. 4/104, LB Beau Bell, UNLV - Bell had arthroscopic knee surgery Aug. 7. The Browns are trying to decide whether to put him on injured reserve or make him part of the 53-man roster.
Rd. 4/111, TE Martin Rucker, Missouri - Rucker had arthroscopic knee surgery Aug. 13. The Browns must decide whether to place him on I.R. or keep him on the roster.
Rd. 6/190, NT Ahtyba Rubin - Rubin could end up on the practice squad, but he will stick if the Browns do not keep Louis Leonard.
Rd. 7/231, LB Alex Hall, St. Augustine - Hall was impressive in practice but was overwhelmed in preseason games. The Browns believe he has potential as a pass rusher.
UNIT BY UNIT ANALYSIS
QUARTERBACK: Starter Derek Anderson. Backups -- Brady Quinn, Ken Dorsey.
Anderson did not get as much game experience in preseason as he would have liked. A thunderstorm in the first quarter of the opener cut short the time the starters played and then he suffered a concussion early in the second quarter of the second game. He did not play against the Lions and was doubtful for the final preseason game. Anderson threw the ball well in practice before the injury. He is building on the 29 touchdown passes he threw last year, so he should not be rusty. Quinn benefited with two starts while Anderson rested. He needs to be sharper to fill in for Anderson in the regular seaso=
n if necessary. Dorsey is more valuable as a coach in pads than as a quarterback.
RUNNING BACKS: Starter -- Jamal Lewis, FB Lawrence Vickers. Backups -- Jason Wright, Jerome Harrison, FB Charles Ali.
Lewis is lighter than a year ago when he rushed for 1,304 yards and nine touchdowns. He plans to run around rather than over opponents. The Browns were cautious when he suffered a pulled hamstring Aug. 18. Wright is a quick change of pace back. This could be Harrison's biggest year to date. The Browns like the way he runs with the ball in open space.
TIGHT ENDS: Starter -- Kellen Winslow. Backups -- Steve Heiden, Darnell Dinkins.
Winslow is having an excellent training camp and preseason. He missed some time with a hamstring injury and the Browns rested him on occasion during two-a-days. He is a true pro. He dresses in full uniform even when shorts are the order of the day. He fights for every blade of grass. Heiden overcame a knee injury early in preseason. He will be primarily a blocker, but he can catch the ball well. Dinkins will have a role similar to Heiden, though he will play mainly on special teams. Rookie Martin Rucker will get chances as a receiver if he does not end up on I.R. recovering from knee surgery.
WIDE RECEIVERS: Starters -- Braylon Edwards, Donte Stallworth. Backups -- Josh Cribbs, Syndric Steptoe, Travis Wilson.
A heel injury prevented Edwards from playing in the last three preseason games. The theory is Stallworth can stretch the field, opening space for Edwards and Winslow. Stallworth and Edwards run well after catching the ball. The talent drops off after that. Cribbs is inconsistent as a receiver, Steptoe is inexperienced and Wilson is unpredictable. Joe Jurevicius would be the third receiver, but he is on PUP recovering from his fourth knee operation since January.
OFFENSIVE LINE: Starters -- LT Joe Thomas, LG Eric Steinbach, C Hank Fraley, RG Rex Hadnot, RT Kevin Shaffer. Backups - G/T Ryan Tucker, G/C Lennie Friedman, G Seth McKinney, T Isaac Sowells.
Derek Anderson was sacked only 14 times last season. The line that blocked so well is back intact with the exception of right guard, where Hadnot is starting because Tucker is recovering from a fractured hip. Tucker is making progress. He started training camp on P.U.P. and might start the season with that designation, in which case he could not play until Oct. 19 at Washington at the earliest. The Browns are solid with their inside backups, but they are thin at tackle after Pro Bowl player Thomas and Shaffer, the converted left tackle. The Lions quick defensive line got the best of the Browns on the artificial turf in Ford Field.
DEFENSIVE LINE: Starters -- LE Corey Williams, NT Shaun Rogers, RE Robaire Smith. Backups -- E Chase Pittman, NT/E Shaun Smith, NT Ahtyba Rubin.
This is the showcase group of the 2008 Browns. Williams and Rogers are charged with improving an anemic run defense and pass rush. The run defense looked improved in preseason, but coach Romeo Crennel wants to see more of Rogers in the pass rush. Rogers had seven sacks with the Lions last year. Robaire Smith is a solid if not spectacular right end. Shaun Smith is versatile. He can play the nose or move out to left end. Pittman packed on 30 pounds so he could play in the 3-4 defense. Rubin is a developmental player.
LINEBACKER: Starters -- LOLB Willie McGinest, MLB Andra Davis, WLB D'Qwell Jackson, ROLB Kamerion Wimbley. Backups -- LOLB Antwan Peek, MLB Leon Williams, WLB Kris Griffin, ROLB Alex Hall, WLB Shantee Orr.
The Browns are counting heavily on Wimbley and Peek to rush the quarterback. The pair totaled nine sacks last year. The Browns want that number increased. With the improved defensive line Davis, Jackson and McGinest should be more active near the line of scrimmage stopping runners after two yards instead of five. Williams, Griffin and Orr provide enough depth for the Browns to put rookie Beau Bell (knee surgery Aug. 7) on injured reserve.
DEFENSIVE BACKS: Starters -- LCB Eric Wright, RCB Brandon McDonald, SS Sean Jones, FS Brodney Pool. Backups -- CB Terry Cousin, CB Travis Daniels, CB A.J. Davis, S Mike Adams, S Nick Sorensen, S Travis Key.
Wright and McDonald are second-year players. They know they will be tested early by Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo in the opener. Confidence is not a problem. Jones (knee) and Pool (concussion) were injured in preseason and missed the last two games. There is a significant drop-off when they do not play. They are expected back for the opener. Adams will be the nickel back if he doesn't have to play safety. Cousin would be the nickel back if Adams isn't.
SPECIAL TEAMS: K Phil Dawson, P Dave Zastudil, LS Ryan Pontbriand, KR Josh Cribbs, PR Cribbs.
Dawson kicked a 56-yard field goal and a 53-yard field goal in preseason. He scored 120 points last year and is ready for more. Zastudil is over his back problems of a year ago and punting well. Pontbriand continues to be automatic as a long snapper. Cribbs sprained his left ankle in the second prese=
ason game. The Browns were cautious on his rehab and expect him back for the opener. If he can cut and accelerate on that ankle he is the most dangerous weapon the Browns have.