Cleveland Browns defensive end Nate Orchard (44) runs for a touchdown after making an interception during the second quarter against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field

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Browns GM John Dorsey has tough roster decisions to make

Questions on the offensive line, at linebacker and the secondary remain

August 31, 2018
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Daryl Ruiter-Cleveland, OH (92.3 The Fan) – With the preseason coming to an end with a 35-17 win over the Lions in Detroit, Cleveland Browns general manager John Dorsey must get to work to get them down to a 53-man roster by 4 p.m. Saturday.

That process begins first thing Friday morning when Dorsey will meet with the personnel department as well as the coaching staff before huddling with head coach Hue Jackson.

It is expected that Dorsey will begin releasing players Friday afternoon.

Dorsey has some difficult decisions to make from the final receiver position to backup offensive linemen, linebacker and the secondary.

Thursday night’s game had a significant impact.

Of the 28 players that were held out of the Lions game, 3 were injury related – tight end Seth DeValve, who is still sidelined with a calf injury, defensive tackle Trevon Coley, who returned to practice from a high ankle sprain this week, and receiver Josh Gordon, out with a hamstring. So, that’s 25 roster spots we know absolutely are spoken for leaving 28 technically up for grabs, and DeValve is on the bubble for the third tight end spot because of the injury.  

Following the release of Mychal Kendricks Wednesday, a spot at linebacker opened for James Burgess and Justin Currie, but both players suffered injuries against the Lions. Currie a knee injury and Burgess a concussion, which could significantly affect Dorsey’s decision-making process the next 24-36 hours.

Defensive end Nate Orchard went from being on the outside looking in entering the preseason finale to possibly earning a roster spot following a strong night in Detroit. Orchard was effective against the pass and the run. On the very first series Orchard generated a quarterback pressure and on the next play collected a tackle for loss but that wasn’t the highlight moment for him. Late in the second quarter, Orchard anticipated Matt Cassel’s pass, jumped in the air and snared it for an interception before racing 64 yards for a pick-6. Orchard, who also registered a quarterback hit, may have done the most to help his cause Thursday night but can Dorsey afford to keep 5 defensive ends and 3 defensive tackles, or will he split the difference and keep 4 each?

In the secondary 8 players were given the night off meaning 2, maybe 3 spots at most at safety and corner are available. Jeremiah McKinnon, Simian Thomas and Mike Jordan appear to be getting the strongest consideration. Thomas, a sixth-round pick, was flagged twice for pass interference against the Lions while McKinnon muffed a punt on special teams and was called for a defensive holding in the first quarter.

Running back Matthew Dayes made a case for Dorsey to keep 4 running backs by running for 77 yards and a touchdown on 8 carries, but Days, who could help on special teams, also suffered an injury and hobbled off the field in the second half.

Hard Knocks fan favorite Devon Cajuste helped his cause by catching 2 passes for 48 yards on the opening drive – a 41-yard catch-and-run on the first offensive play and later in the drive converting a third-and-6 with a 7-yard reception. He also hurt his cause by having another catch poked away by a defender that could’ve gone for a big gain in the second quarter. Cajuste was penalized twice for holding – on the opening kickoff and again in the fourth quarter that eliminated a 4-yard run.

Receiver Jeff Janis may be on the cutting block. Any time a player is on the field in the fourth quarter – especially a veteran on the bubble – it is not a good sign and that’s where Janis found himself Thursday night. Janis caught 2 of 4 targets for 42 yards. Rookies Derrick Willies – 2 catches for 16 yards – and Da’Mari Scott – 2 catches for 31 yards and a 17-yard punt return – could both be waived and brought back to the practice squad Sunday as it appears highly likely the sixth receiver is won't arrive until after waiver claims are made should Janis not make it.

Shon Coleman went from the starting left tackle in camp and the preseason to third-string right tackle. Coleman was called for an illegal chop block as his struggles continued Thursday night against the Lions’ reserves, which is not a positive, and it doesn’t appear he will make the cut.

Spencer Drango appears to be the sixth offensive lineman. Rookie Desmond Harrison has impressed meaning that 1 spot is left – assuming Dorsey keeps 8 offensive linemen – but that final spot might only be temporarily filled by Austin Reiter or Greg Robinson should a better option on the waiver wire present itself Sunday.

Kicker Zane Gonzalez did nothing to cause Dorsey to look elsewhere for a kicker by hitting a 39 and 45-yard field goal. He also has a 54-yarder on his resume this preseason.