CLEVELAND — The Browns beat the Lions 20-16 to wrap up the preseason, and with the final roster cut deadline just three days away, the Battle for the Barge was more of a battle for a roster spot for many players.
Here are five players who had standout performances in Thursday’s game as they fight for a spot on the team:
1. Jamie Gillan
The “Scottish Hammer” already drew the attention of his coaches and fans with his 74-yard punt in the second preseason game against the Colts. He impressed again with his six punts for 266 yards on Thursday.
The Scottish-American punter got his start playing rugby for Highland Rugby Club, and he showed off those skills Thursday as he took the first punts of the game in front of Britton Colquitt.
Gillan made his second tackle of the preseason with a massive take-down of Lions’ Tom Kennedy, who was returning the punt. He also recorded a third preseason tackle near the end of the second quarter after a 67-yard safety kick.
Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer previously said the way for Gillan to make the roster is to show consistency.
“[Gillan] needs to find consistency. Britton [Colquitt] needs to do what he does. Jamie [Gillan] will win the job if he is more consistent. Britton will win the job if he is obviously the guy that he has been the last several years here in Cleveland,” Priefer said.
With consistency shown and a wider skill set than just punting, Gillan has shown his worth and has put his potential to action.
2. Devaroe Lawrence
The defensive tackle made his final bid to make the Browns final 53-man roster and did not disappoint. With a sack in the defense’s first play of the game, Lawrence made sure to show his head coach Freddie Kitchens and GM John Dorsey why he belongs on the team.
The Browns are stacked defensively, with Myles Garrett, Sheldon Richardson, Larry Ogunjobi, Olivier Vernon, Denzel Ward and Christian Kirksey, to name a few.
What Lawrence brings to the Browns' table is depth.
The 26-year-old recorded two sacks in the Aug. 23 preseason loss to the Buccaneers and with his early sack on Thursday, and explosion off the line, he might have made enough impact to keep him on the team.
It doesn’t hurt that Kitchens has already shown interest in Lawrence.
“Devaroe is a good example of somebody who did not worry about his surroundings, just worried about himself and stayed focused on what he had to do to get better. I think you are seeing the results of that. Did he surprise us? I would not say he surprised us because anytime you trade for someone, your expectation level of them is up there, but he has definitely made good on his opportunities.”
3. Braxton Miller
The former Ohio State quarterback and wide receiver was signed by the Browns on Aug. 21 after being waived by the Eagles on Aug. 17.
Miller had said on his first day with the Browns that he felt at home in Cleveland.
“It felt good. I feels like I am home. It is good to be out there with new teammates. They brought me in like I was here already. I went out there and had fun just playing football,” Miller said.
Feeling at home surely helped the 26-year-old ease into his role during the Battle for the Barge, and a 13-yard reception, his third of the preseason since signing with the team, definitely helped make a name for himself.
With three catches for 19-yards, Miller was targeted six times. His competition Derrick Willies had an impressive outing himself with two receptions for 46 yards.
What might set Miller apart is the fact he could provide value to the Browns at the punt returner position.
Although he’s had a short time with the Browns, he’s been able to fit in with the team quickly.
“I think he is picking up the offense. That tells you a little bit about his learning ability. We will see if we can put him in some positions to make some plays Thursday night. He is doing well, though,” Kitchens said of Miller prior to the game.
Was his short time on the field enough to land him a roster spot? That is the biggest question surrounding Miller at this point.
4. Dontrell Hilliard
Although not exactly fighting for a roster spot, Hilliard is fighting for a bigger role. The running back was expected to have big shoes to fill after the Browns traded Duke Johnson to the Texans and Kareem Hunt was suspended for eight games, and is now recovering from hernia surgery.
In 12 touches, Hilliard ran for 65 yards and caught a 6-yard pass near the end zone, finding his way inside for six. He had another 7-yard reception in the first half, keeping himself high in the running in a very competitive position battle.
His biggest competition lies in D’Ernest Johnson, who when asked about, was described as having a similar skill set as Hilliard.
“I think they have very similar skill sets, and they are battling. Just because camp is broken does not mean that these battles have ceased. They are going to battle and they are going to battle all the way to the end. Do they have the same type of skill sets? Yes,” Kitchen said.
We’ll see whose skill set deems itself most valuable for touches by Saturday, but at this point is seems likely that they both make the roster.
5. Austin Seibert
In his last attempt to steal the position away from Greg Joseph, Seibert was successful in his two field goal attempts, one from 36 yards out and another from 33 yards out. He was also successful in both of his extra point attempts.
Last week in the preseason game against the Buccaneers, Seibert stayed on the field the entire game, making all four field-goal attempts, one of which was from 54 yards out. That alone wasn’t enough to impress Kitchens though.
“Yeah, just because [Seibert] made four kicks doesn’t mean the competition is over. These guys are still competing. We wanted to give a game-like setting to a punter and to a kicker and see how they responded to that because clearly, the alternating attempts were not working. Greg will have his opportunity now, and we will go from there.”
Although Kitchens said Joseph would be taking the field, it was Seibert who did all of the kicking once again.
Whether that was the last his coaches needed to see before naming him the winner of the position battle is unclear, but things look promising for the fifth-round rookie.
The Browns play their first regular season game on Sept. 8 and all of these players are hoping they'll still be here to be a part of it.