It's time to take SS David Sims seriously. He's making it impossible for the Browns to ignore him.
He's tied for the league lead in preseason interceptions with two. He has been a ball-hawk throughout training camp. He picked off two more passes in practice on Monday.
"He's flashed for the coaches with his interceptions," said coach Pat Shurmur. "He's challenging, he's physical and he's made a huge amount of progress. We're hopeful that continues over the next two preseason games because that's how he can make the team."
Few believed when camp began that Sims had a strong chance to earn a roster spot. But the team lacks depth behind starter T.J. Ward. Usama Young is listed behind Ward at strong safety, but he's more experienced at free safety. Ray Ventrone is almost exclusively a special teams player, putting Sims in an advantageous position.
LB Johnson on fast track?: Rookie OLB James-Michael Johnson could be starting out of necessity when the Browns open the regular season against Philadelphia. Shurmur would prefer he earns the job.
Kaluka Maiava is set to replace weakside LB Chris Gocong (season-ending Achilles surgery). But the strongside spot will be open if the suspension to Scott Fujita for his alleged role in Bountygate stands. Johnson is his likely replacement.
"The production he's given us in games points to him maybe being a starter for us this year," Shurmur said. "He has a chance. The young linebacking corps has done an outstanding job for us."
Johnson has registered two tackles and an interception in two preseason games. But he has some competition. Second-year LB Craig Robertson has been the defensive surprise of camp and rookie free agent L.J. Fort has also played well. Fort, however, is best suited to play in the middle.
Too late for Mitchell?: Shurmur said WR Carlton Mitchell still has time to make the team, though it seems unlikely. Mitchell boasts plenty of athleticism, but was not productive when given the opportunity in 2011 and just returned to practice after missing time with an undisclosed injury.
Lewis to affect QB decision: The backup quarterback situation could be greatly affected by the performance of Thaddeus Lewis. Shurmur, who coached Lewis in St. Louis, has praised his potential. If the Browns feel comfortable with Lewis as the third quarterback, they will also feel more comfortable dumping Colt McCoy or Seneca Wallace.