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Training camp position battles to watch: Right guard unexpectedly tops list

After two busy and transformative offseasons, the roster is as set heading into training camp as it’s been in recent memory. The perennial quarterback question was answered with the selection of Baker Mayfield last year, and many other key positions were addressed through the draft, free agency and trades.

While Dorsey is ahead of schedule in rebuilding the roster that went 1-31 before he took over, there’s still work to do and decisions to make.

Here are the top position battles to watch in camp:

RIGHT GUARD

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Perhaps the biggest surprise of the offseason practices was the rotation at this spot. When Dorsey traded Kevin Zeitler to the Giants for defensive end Olivier Vernon, part of the reason was to clear a starting spot for Austin Corbett, the No. 33 pick in 2018.

But Corbett was only a part-time starter in organized team activities and minicamp. Kyle Kalis, Eric Kush and Bryan Witzmann also took snaps with the first team, and an open competition has been declared for camp.

“We are not even close to deciding anything,” coach Freddie Kitchens said at the end of minicamp. “The offensive linemen need pads on before we can start determining anything like that.”

Corbett remains the favorite to win the job. Dorsey and the coaching staff loved him enough to pick him two spots ahead of running back Nick Chubb, and it would be a big swing and miss if Corbett played only 14 snaps as a rookie then wasn’t a starter to open Year 2.

But it’s far from a certainty he’ll emerge victorious. He spent his college career at left tackle and must adjust to life inside, and on the right side.

Kalis, who went to St. Edward High School, is a weight room fanatic who believes he’s ready for the role despite playing only one offensive snap last year. Kush and Witzmann offer valuable experience.

Right guard isn’t the sexiest spot on the roster, but it’s an important one in the quest to keep Mayfield in one piece.

KICKER

Greg Joseph had a promising, if not perfect, rookie season after replacing Zane Gonzalez in Week 3 last year. He made 17 of 20 field goals, with a long of 51 yards, but was only 25-for-29 on extra points.

The inconsistency led Dorsey to draft Oklahoma’s Austin Seibert in the fifth round. In order for Dorsey to spend a pick on a kicker, someone in the organization felt the need to upgrade the position.

Kitchens and new special teams coordinator Mike Priefer insist Seibert won’t be handed the job just because he was a draft pick, and that the competition in camp and the preseason will determine who wins the job.

But logic and reality say draft status gives Seibert a leg up. He didn’t have outstanding numbers in college (17-for-19 as a senior, 63-for-79 overall, with a long of 42 last year and 51 in his career) but has a strong leg. He hit some clunkers in the offseason, but if he can find a rhythm and handle the pressure of the competition, he’s the big favorite to open the season in Cleveland.

Kicker can get lost in the shuffle when the focus is on Mayfield, receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and the rest of the superstars, but making the playoffs could come down to a kick or two in the final seconds. Seibert and Joseph deserve plenty of attention in the next six weeks.

LINEBACKER

This position is almost certain to look a lot different in 2020.

The change could come even sooner.

Sione Takitaki was drafted out of BYU in the third round and Mack Wilson out of Alabama in the fifth, signaling the organization’s desire to upgrade the position. The rookies spent much of the offseason working with the second team, but it wouldn’t be a shock if one or both challenged for a starting spot or significant playing time. Due to draft status and early impressions, Takitaki has the edge over Wilson.

Veterans Joe Schobert and Christian Kirksey have been mainstays in the starting lineup and remained there during the offseason. But Schobert is in the last year of his rookie contract, and Kirksey’s guaranteed money runs out this year.

They were joined on the first team by free agent pickup Adarius Taylor in May and June, but his grasp on the role seems tenuous.

New coordinator Steve Wilks used the two-linebacker nickel package almost exclusively during offseason practice, so the real question is whether Takitaki or Wilson can unseat Kirksey or Schobert for one of the two top spots.

Takitaki’s aggression and speed should really show up when the pads come on and make for an interesting competition.

PUNTER

Britton Colquitt has been punting in the NFL for nine years, has a Super Bowl ring and is coming off another solid year — Pro Bowl alternate, 45.4-yard gross, 38.2 net (despite two blocks) and a team-record-tying 32 punts inside the 20.

But the Browns went out of their way to work out and sign undrafted rookie Jamie “The Scottish Hammer” Gillan, and Priefer insisted the big-legged left-footer has a legitimate chance to unseat the veteran.

Dorsey, Kitchens and Priefer might be reluctant to rely on rookies at kicker and punter, so Gillan has a steeper climb than Seibert. Gillan must also perfect holding for kicks, something he’d never done because he was also the kicker at Arkansas Pine-Bluff.

RECEIVER

The top three spots are spoken for with Beckham, Jarvis Landry and Antonio Callaway.

Then what?

Rashard Higgins had a solid 2018 season and is the early favorite to be fourth on the depth chart and part of the rotation, but it’s premature to lock in his spot there. Dorsey has spent the last two years bringing in young, largely unknown wideouts he believes have plenty of upside.

Derrick Willies, Damion Ratley, Jaelen Strong, Blake Jackson and Ishmael Hyman top the list and have realistic chances to claim the final roster spots.

Others to watch: Cornerback (veterans TJ Carrie and Terrance Mitchell will play, but the question is whether rookie Greedy Williams can hold them off and keep the starting spot opposite Denzel Ward); kick returner (Callaway, running back Dontrell Hilliard and Damon Sheehy-Guiseppi are the early favorites).

Browns writer for The Chronicle-Telegram and The Medina Gazette. Proud graduate of Northwestern University. Husband and stepdad. Avid golfer who needs to hit the range to get down to a single-digit handicap. Right about Johnny Manziel, wrong about Brandon Weeden. Contact Scott at 440-329-7253, or email and follow him on and Twitter.

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