AFC North: Lance Leggett
Posted by ESPN.com’s James Walker
This Saturday is the worst day in the NFL when it comes to job security.
It’s the time when every team in the league has to trim its final roster to 53 players.
That means each of the 32 teams will have to make some tough decisions on how to release approximately 20 players. After that, coaches and general managers also will scan the waiver wire to see what’s available to upgrade their team, making for one of the most fast-paced weekends of the summer.
With that said, here is a look at tough roster decisions for each AFC North team:
Position: Running back
Why: The Steelers already have a deep group at running back, which includes starter Willie Parker and backups Rashard Mendenhall and Mewelde Moore. But a relative unknown emerged this summer in rookie free agent Isaac Redman. With rest given to Parker and Moore over the summer, Redman has done a lot with his opportunities. He’s proven to be particularly good at scoring touchdowns within the redzone, which is something Pittsburgh has struggled with in recent years. Keeping four tailbacks active will be tough, so Redman is a candidate for the practice squad. But there are no guarantees another team won’t claim him this weekend.
Why: The Browns entered the offseason in desperate need of wide receivers. Therefore, they brought in as many new players at the position as possible and now it’s time to make a decision. Braylon Edwards and Joshua Cribbs are safe, as well as rookie draft picks Brian Robiskie and Mohamed Massaquoi. After that, things get dicey. The Browns likely will keep just five receivers. Of the remaining group, Mike Furrey had the best preseason and probably played well enough to make the team. Veteran David Patten has been in and out of the lineup with injuries and is on the bubble, but my guess is Patten doesn’t make the cut. Others at the position like Paul Hubbard, Lance Leggett and rookie Jordan Norwood are expected to be released Saturday.
Position: Running back
Why: In what was a weakness most of the last season, the Bengals suddenly have some quality depth at running back this season. So much is the case that the coaching staff has been mulling for weeks what to do with this group when it’s time to put together the 53-man roster. Starter Cedric Benson and rookie Bernard Scott are safe. But DeDe Dorsey and Brian Leonard are not. Both had good training camps and preseasons. It also doesn’t help that they are different styles of runners. Similar to Pittsburgh, it doesn’t appear likely the team would carry four tailbacks, likely making Dorsey or Leonard expendable.
Why: Steve Hauschka and Graham Gano have competed kick for kick since the spring, and Saturday’s decision will finally put an end to this competition. Most expect Hauschka to be the pick as he’s outperformed Gano in the preseason. But keep in mind the “Matt Stover factor” also looms large. The Ravens have not been afraid to admit that the longtime Raven remains on speed dial if the team’s current kicker slips up. So even if Hauschka is the choice Saturday, he can’t get comfortable.
Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker
BEREA, Ohio -- The Cleveland Browns wrapped up their first practice Tuesday at the team's training facility.
Here are some notes and observations:
- No better place to start than with the quarterbacks. Derek Anderson and Brady Quinn both had solid practices Tuesday morning. Anderson made a pair of deep completions in team drills to receiver Braylon Edwards and tailback Jerome Harrison. Quinn, who received the first-team reps Tuesday, completed most of his throws with quick reads over the middle. Browns coach Eric Mangini says he wants to see how the week goes before naming a starter for Saturday's preseason opener against the Green Bay Packers.
- Mangini threw a curveball at the end of practice by giving third-string quarterback Brett Ratliff a chance to work with the starters during two-minute drills. Ratliff led the team down the field for a rare touchdown in the drill when he connected with Edwards for a catch-and-run of 40-plus yards. Both Anderson and Quinn have struggled in two-minute drills so far in camp.
- Cleveland fullback Charles Ali was back in practice but couldn't finish the session. The Browns do not discuss injuries, but it appears Ali may have suffered a concussion. He wore a special helmet upon his return Tuesday.
- Sunday's hero, Lance Leggett, didn't carry his momentum into the latest practice. The receiver had three drops and was on the exercise bike during the second half of practice with an unknown ailment. He caught a 51-yard touchdown from Quinn in Sunday's team scrimmage.
- Former University of Michigan football coach Lloyd Carr was in town to visit the Browns. It was a little strange to see a longtime Wolverines coach in Ohio State Buckeyes' territory. But Carr initiated the visit, Mangini said. Edwards also is one of Carr's top former players.
- Browns linebacker D'Qwell Jackson looks active and appears to be one of the better players in camp. He is getting the defense down pretty quickly and flows fast to the football against the run and pass.
Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker
Here are the most interesting stories Monday in the AFC North:
- Quarterback Brady Quinn's 51-yard touchdown pass to receiver Lance Leggett was the highlight of the Cleveland Browns' team scrimmage.
Morning take: Still, neither Quinn nor Derek Anderson did enough to separate themselves Sunday. It appears this battle will go well into the preseason.
- New Baltimore Ravens center Matt Birk feels rejuvenated.
Morning take: The gritty and physical Birk is a great fit for the AFC North and should do well in Baltimore as long as he stays healthy.
- Pittsburgh Steelers nose tackle Casey Hampton (knee) and receiver Limas Sweed (hamstring) both have ailments.
Morning take: The injuries are considered minor. Starting tailback Willie Parker (back spasms) also should return to practice for the Steelers very soon.
- How will the final 53-man roster shake out for the Cincinnati Bengals?
Morning take: The Bengals will have some tough decisions to make this summer, particularly at positions like receiver and defensive line where there are a lot of capable players.