BEREA, Ohio -- Mike Pettine listed several positions he will be watching with great interest during the preseason finale against Chicago.
Pettine’s philosophy on building a roster is not to lock himself into numbers at each position, but to go in with a minimum needed at each spot, then fill in with the best players.
“What’s the absolute minimum we have to have at this position to function?” Pettine said. “Then, I think that puts you in a position to go ahead and build from there to go ahead and take the best players. You don’t want to cut a guy just because you’re heavy at one position.”
The positions he will be watching shake out this way:
Wide receiver -- This jumbled mess has to shake out some sort of way. The Browns will get their first look at Nate Burleson, a guy they may need now that they know Josh Gordon will not be around. Anthony Armstrong was waived, indicating Taylor Gabriel’s versatility and play have probably have him competing for a spot. Andrew Hawkins, Travis Benjamin and Miles Austin are givens. Gabriel seems to have an edge, which leaves Willie Snead and Charles Johnson competing for the fifth and/or sixth spots.
Inside linebackers -- Chris Kirksey has definitely earned a spot; he has played so well the local media awarded him the Maurice Bassett Award, annually given to the best rookie in training camp. He’ll be joined by Craig Robertson and Karlos Dansby. Darius Eubanks, Eric Martin, Tank Carder and Zac Diles are competing for the other spot or two.
Defensive line -- It was a bit of a surprise to hear Pettine talk about young linemen because this is a position that seems stocked, with Billy Winn, Ahtyba Rubin, Desmond Bryant, Phil Taylor, Ishmaa'ily Kitchen and John Hughes. This would seem to be a group that would be tough for a young player to crack.
Safety -- Donte Whitner and the underrated Tashaun Gipson are starters. Pettine favorite Jim Leonhard seems to have an edge as one of the backups, which leaves Josh Aubrey, Johnson Bademosi and Jordan Poyer competing for one or two spots.
Fullback -- Do the Browns go with the traditional skills that a player like rookie Ray Agnew brings, or they go for the versatility of a MarQueis Gray. Gray has a lot of skills, but his dropped passes and fumble in preseason don’t help him.