Browns release initial depth chart for season opener

Linebacker Chris Kirksey was one of the Browns in a tight position battle.

BEREA, Ohio – The first regular-season Cleveland Browns depth chart offered few surprises. Now that the roster is down to the regular-season size of 53, there really wasn’t much intrigue, either.

At positions of note, the Browns listed Craig Robertson as the starter at inside linebacker ahead of rookie Christian Kirksey and Buster Skrine as the starter at cornerback over rookie first-round pick Justin Gilbert. Along the defensive line, the Browns listed Armonty Bryant and Phil Taylor as the starting ends and Ahtyba Rubin as the starting nose tackle. Desmond Bryant, who’s been out with a wrist injury, is the only player designated as injured and is listed as a third teamer.

On Sunday, Browns coach Mike Pettine said he considers Bryant "day to day" ahead of Wednesday’s initial game-week injury report. The depth chart was released as part of the team’s official press release for Sunday’s season opener at Pittsburgh. The depth chart is clearly marked as unofficial.

Left guard Joel Bitonio, a second-round pick, and undrafted fullback Ray Agnew are the only listed rookie starters. Pettine has said he believes it will be a time-share situation at cornerback with Skrine, who missed two weeks of the preseason with a thumb injury, and Gilbert, who struggled in those preseason games without Skrine.

The Browns are pretty clearly planning to use a lot of defensive backs, having kept 12 of them on the roster that reported for practice Sunday and Monday. Veteran nickelback Isaiah Trufant, a Pettine favorite and free-agent addition last spring, was placed on injured-reserve.

Andrew Hawkins and Miles Austin are listed as the starting wide receivers. Travis Benjamin, a second-team receiver, is listed as the team’s first kickoff and punt returner.

Last weekend, the Browns cut veterans Rex Grossman and Nate Burleson in cutting to 53 players, leaving two quarterbacks. Among four waiver claims were 6’4 wide receiver LaRon Byrd and undrafted rookie running back Glenn Winston, who becomes the fourth rookie in the Browns backfield. Behind Ben Tate are third-rounder Terrance West, undrafted rookie Isaiah Crowell, Winston and Agnew.

The Browns have six undrafted rookies among their 53, most of any team in the league.

Just two players from the team’s 2013 draft remain and just four from an 11-man class in 2012 remain. Of those four, just two are listed starters.

An aggressive free-agent haul under first-year general manager Ray Farmer brought in five players listed as starters on the initial depth chart: Donte Whiter, Karlos Dansby, Tate, Hawkins and Austin.

The Browns list Paul Kruger and Barkevious Mingo as the starting outside linebackers ahead of Jabaal Sheard and Eric Martin, an important special teams player who made the roster despite missing almost all of August after suffering a concussion.

Based on what’s happened since the first veteran minicamp last spring, Armonty Bryant has probably made the fastest rise. The second-year pass-rush specialist earned high praise from Pettine during camp. Pettine said Bryant, a seventh-rounder in 2013, reminded him of longtime NFL player Trevor Pryce.