October 1, 2014

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Browns notes: Cuts not so easy to make this year

CHICAGO — Today is decision day.
The deadline for the mandatory roster cut to 53 players is 4 p.m. Saturday, but the Browns will spend today discussing the players on the bubble and choosing which ones stay. Coach Romeo Crennel said this week that about 10 players fall into that category.
The biggest questions involve the third quarterback, third running back, third tight end and cornerback Gary Baxter.
If the Browns feel Brady Quinn is ready to back up Charlie Frye — presuming he’s the opening-day starter — the Browns could choose between big-armed Derek Anderson and veteran mentor Ken Dorsey for the emergency quarterback. They could also keep all four for the start of the season.
“In San Francisco we kept four quarterbacks my last year there and every single one of them played,” Dorsey said.
Jerome Harrison and Chris Barclay are battling to be the third running back. Harrison has the edge on offense, and Barclay on special teams. Harrison entered Thursday night with 18 rushes for 62 yards and led the team with 10 catches for 88 yards and a touchdown. Barclay averaged 37 yards on five kickoff returns, including an 88-yard touchdown that won the opener.
Darnell Dinkins, the best blocking tight end on the team, is the favorite to be kept, but Ryan Krause rebounded from a terrible start to apply pressure. He’s a better receiver.
Then there’s Baxter, who’s trying to make an unprecedented comeback from two torn patellar tendons. He returned to practice in a limited basis July 30 but has yet to participate in full-contact drills. He insisted again this week he plans to be ready for the opener Sept. 9, but it would be tough for the Browns to give him one of the 53 spots without seeing him go full speed.
They could put him on injured reserve, which would cost him the season, or carry him on the roster for a few weeks in the hopes that he can make it back. They could also release him if he refuses to go on IR.
The decisions may be difficult, but they’re also a sign of progress.
“It’s going to be tougher because there’s better competition on the team,” Crennel said. “The last two years when you made the cuts, you knew that those were guys that needed to move on. This year, it’s going to be a little tougher because some of these guys we move on from will be able to play.”

Lineup notes

Nat Dorsey started at right tackle ahead of Kelly Butler, who’s listed as the backup on the depth chart. Starter Kevin Shaffer sat out after suffering a concussion Saturday night in Denver.
Rookie free agent Charles Ali started at fullback for Lawrence Vickers (hamstring).
For the Bears, Ricky Manning started at cornerback for Charles Tillman.

Extra points

Punter Dave Zastudil had a good night, landing two first-quarter punts inside the 10-yard line.
Backup defensive lineman J’Vonne Parker left the game with a calf injury and didn’t return.
Tight end Greg Olsen, Chicago’s first-round pick, left the game with a knee injury and didn’t return.
Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7136 or spetrak@chroniclet.com.