Football season is officially upon us. Today the Cleveland Browns rookies, and veterans coming off injuries, report to Berea for the opening of Training Camp. The Browns have a lot of hope going into this season but may have a big learning curve as the coaching staff changes over one more time. The Browns plan to name their starting quarterback before the 3rd pre-season game, which bodes well for Brian Hoyer, while the distraction of Josh Gordon situation is expected to play out in the next week. With rookies reporting today we bring you 3 things that are important for that group.
1. Johnny Manziel‘s Timing & Accuracy - Whether he has a shot to compete this year for the starting job or not, Manziel has to improve on his timing and accuracy in the NFL. During OTAs and mini-camps he showed this problem, while also showing off his live arm and improvisation skills. For his long term development it will be vital to see Manziel hit his back foot and fire the ball out to his target. In college he could either wait for his target to get open or just heave the ball to Mike Evans and let him out muscle people. In the NFL, for Manziel to be a quality starter, he will need to learn to lead his receivers, throwing them open. Training Camp and pre-season games will give both the coaching staff and the fans an opportunity to see how he develops with this part of his game. He will likely have some big plays but its in the routine ones his game truly has to develop.
2. Terrance West’s Reps - The Browns traded up to draft West, likely to make sure the rival Baltimore Ravens, West’s hometown team, didn’t get him. West has equal number of analysts that believe he can be a big time weapon as he does those that think he lacks the explosion to excel on the next level. He will be in competition with free agent signee Ben Tate for reps on the field. Tate is seen as a big free agent acquisition but his contract has a ton of incentives. If he can’t beat out West then the Browns pay him accordingly. West has a lot to prove but the Zone Blocking Scheme fits his style perfectly. The Browns have a good problem on their hands with West and Tate, especially after last year’s “running back by committee” which was a committee of none. Mike Pettine even called him “our guy”:
3. Joel Bitonio‘s Ankle and Position - The Browns spent their high second round pick to select Bitonio even though their offensive line was already considered a strength. Bitonio lined up at left guard during most of the off-season work but that doesn’t necessarily mean that is where he will end up. Many had him pegged as a right tackle as a rookie going into the draft. Could he force Mitchell Schwartz inside? Is he better suited to play the left guard spot over the right guard spot after playing left tackle in college? Bitonio creates a good problem for the Browns as 4 of their 5 starting linemen seem locked up. Whichever guard spot Bitonio or Schwartz do not take will be up for grabs. Bitonio also hurt his ankle in off-season work, which could be a big concern. Big men put a lot of pressure on their ankles. Add on to that the need to cut and pull in the ZBS and his ankles are extra important. Did the rest before Training Camp help heal him up or will the problem linger all season?
Plus 1: Justin Gilbert - Gilbert still is not under contract due to some off-set language (basically if he gets cut during his first contract he wants all his money). Gilbert’s signing and development will be huge for Mike Pettine’s defense. Can he get signed quickly and can he take over the #2 spot next to Joe Haden to help #LockDownTheLake?
What are some things you are looking forward to from the Rookies?