CLEVELAND -- The Cleveland Browns have plenty of decisions to make before cutting down the roster to the 53-man limit, and that is a good thing.
After completing a perfect preseason with a 25-0 win over the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field Thursday night, the Browns have until Saturday afternoon to make nearly 40 roster moves to get to the NFL-mandated 53-man maximum, and there will be plenty of discussions before Cleveland opens the regular season against the Pittsburgh Steelers at FirstEnergy Stadium on Sunday, September 10.
“There are tough decisions we have to make, but we’ll make them, and we’ll move on from there,” Browns coach Hue Jackson said. “It’s a good problem to have. It’s not a bad problem to have. You’ve got guys that you’ve got to make decisions about, and I think that’s important.
“When we become the team that I think we all hope we become someday, we want those hard decisions at the end because that means you’ve got some really good players on your team. I think some young guys stepped up, and it’s going to make some tough decisions, so that was good.”
Cleveland Browns battle Chicago Bears at Soldier Field in preseason finale
During the 2016 NFL Draft, the Browns selected four wide receivers, and while first-round pick Corey Coleman turned eight receptions into 106 yards during three preseason games, none of the other pass catchers, Rashard Higgins, Ricardo Louis and Jordan Payton, caught more than three passes throughout the four exhibition games.
And while three of the members of the 2016 NFL Draft class struggled, Jordan Leslie turned nine catches into 93 yards and two touchdowns.
“We’ve got to figure them all out,” Jackson said. “I thought Ricardo made some plays. The ball was thrown at him. We didn’t get it to Rashard as much as I would’ve liked, but I think we’ve got to make some tough decisions at that position, period. We understand, and for me, one of the keys is we’ve got to continue to get better at that group, and we’ll work through that.”
The Browns got the roster trimming started early when they released veteran defensive lineman Desmond Bryant last week, and followed it up on Wednesday by letting go of two-time Pro Bowl cornerback Joe Haden, who subsequently signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers only eight hours later.
And regardless of who is let go when the roster gets cut down, those who remain must have a singular focus as the team gets ready to open the 2017 season against the Steelers.
“The focus of our team is really about the guys that are here, and that’s my charge,” Jackson said. “With our players, with our staff, we’re going to coach the guys that are here, the guys that are Cleveland Browns.
“Not that we don’t respect the guys that left, but I think what’s important is we just keep getting better because regardless, this team, there’s just something about them that I like. We’ll keep working and keep pushing. Regardless of who’s here, we feel good about where we’re headed.”