Early Camp Impressions

It's training camp and there are always players which rise to the top early and fade later. A few days into the 2012 Browns training camp sessions we see some talent developing and others which may surprise.

BEREA – If Sunday's practice session is any indication, the Browns offense has a long way to go this summer. Then again, we are talking about a unit with a rookie starting QB, extreme youth at WR and a rookie at RB.

- On Sunday, QB Brandon Weeden was hot and cold, which is to be expected at this early time. One can see, Weeden has a gunslinger mentality, he trusts his arm, now he just needs to gain timing with his receivers.

There is little doubt what the Browns brain-trust saw in Weeden. He has shown the ability to get the ball down-field and isn't afraid to pull the trigger.

Outside of QB Derek Anderson, the Browns have not fielded a QB that could make all the throws. We're not talking about passes that float, we are talking about a football ripping through the air to its intended target.

I believe as Weeden gets reps and gains timing with his receivers, this Browns offense could become a legitimate threat on game-day.

While most are quick to point out interceptions and inaccuracy at times, I see Weeden making progress.

Yet again, we are talking about a rookie QB three days into training camp.

- Rookie RB Trent Richardson has the ability to be something special. Rarely do you see a rookie RB follow blocks, blast off defenders, break arm tackles and run to daylight as quickly as Richardson has thus far in camp.

Richardson definitely looks the part, plays the part and is an asset in the receiving game as well. Only three days into training camp, Richardson looks by far to be the best RB this team has secured since returning to the NFL in 1999.

The state of the Browns rushing attack is in good hands with Richardson in the backfield.

- RB Montario Hardesty looks in great shape and is running the ball well. Healthy and fighting for a spot on the roster, Hardesty has been quick to the hole and appears confident and comfortable.

- WR Josh Gordon is a large, imposing figure when compared to other WR's in camp and while lining-up against CB's. What makes Gordon so interesting is his great athleticism and ability to absorb what the coaching staff tells him and translating that to the playing field.

There is little doubt Gordon is rough around the edges. He gains consistent up close and personal coaching from WR's coach Mike Wilson, Nolan Cromwell and at times head coach Pat Shurmur.

Gordon is making strides and I see a player which will be contributing to this Browns offense by opening day.

- Of all the players in camp, rookie WR Travis Benjamin may be making the biggest impact on the offensive side of the ball. Benjamin is fast, quick and is catching everything thrown his way, which he was as the rookie camp and OTA's developed during the spring and early summer.

Benjamin is developing the knack of finding the open space in the defense and quickly turning up field. The speed and quickness Benjamin possesses is an aspect in the passing game this Browns team has lacked.

Unless Benjamin is injured or completely melts down, he is going to be on the 53-man roster coming out of camp and a legitimate part of the offensive strategy.

- WR's Greg Little and Mohamed Massaquoi are quicker in route from a season ago. Both players were requested to lose weight, which by appearance appears to be the case.

It's going to be increasingly interesting to watch the development of Little lined-up in the slot. His size and strength are going to create issues for smaller DB's and his speed and quickness have improved due to his weight loss.

- It's interesting and surprising to see veteran offensive lineman Oniel Cousins competing at starting RT and getting reps at LT. Cousin appears in much better shape than a season ago when arriving in Cleveland.

A knock on Cousins in the past was he would become lackadaisical at times, which would lead to consistency issues and poor technique. At this time, Cousins hasn't lapsed into that category.

- Rookie Mitchell Schwartz has taken reps with the starting unit and second team offense. As witnessed in the rookie camp and OTA sessions, Schwartz gains a comfort level once on the field and his true skill and ability are quick to show.

Presently Schwartz may be lining up with both offensive units, but this does not appear to be a long-term situation, as his strides already show him to be a better option at RT than Cousins.

- Rookie offensive guard Ryan Miller has done fairly well in camp. Miller is a large body that appears to fundamentally sound. As Jason Pinkston is the starter at LG, Miller has the early look of a player that could be a developing prospect for the Browns.

- Speaking of Pinkston, the second year lineman from Pittsburgh looks to be in very good physical condition, somewhat trimmer and more defined. But, the difference may be what he does on the practice field. Pinkston has been quicker to get into his set and is extending his arms/punch solidly.

- With DT's Phil Taylor (pec) and Ahtyba Rubin (pelvis) out with injuries, the rotation at DT early in camp has been interesting to watch.

Rookie Billy Winn shows a quick burst off the point and is learning hand-fighting. Winn could develop into a solid DT.

John Hughes, the rookie from Cincinnati hasn't been flashy, but his size and strength cannot be ignored. Presently, Hughes appears to be a man which takes up space and is improving his technique.

- Safety Eric Hagg has performed well in early camp sessions. Hagg played reasonably well in the later part of the 2011 season and this experience gained, as well as an off-season in the strength and conditioning program is proving to be beneficial.

Hagg is competing with Usama Young for the starting role next to T.J. Ward. Is this early camp session are an indicator, Hagg is developing well and could become the starter.

- While not as noticeable to most, but the play of two rookie LB's stood-out on Sunday. James-Michael Johnson and Emmanuel Acho are being noticed by the Browns coaching staff. Both players play the game at a high speed and are a quick study in Dick Jauron's defensive scheme.

Johnson is more of an ILB, he has gotten some reps at OLB, while Acho is an OLB, having gained a solid number of reps behind OLB Scott Fujita and Kaluka Maiava.

If the early development process is an indicator of the learning process Johnson and Acho are instilled with, the Browns could be on the verge of having two higher quality LB's for the future.

When selected by the Browns in the fourth and sixth rounds respectively, the thoughts were both players were an absolute steal and the organization was excited.

Through the early days of camp, Johnson and Acho have not disappointed.

- Starting CB Joe Haden is off to a great start in camp. Looking in great physical condition, Haden is challenging more pass attempts in the past few days than has been the norm in prior camp and game conditions.

- Starting opposite of Haden, veteran Sheldon Brown has been solid. Brown is not flashy, but is consistent. As the dog-days of camp presents itself, Brown could be pushed by backups Dimitri Patterson and Buster Skrine, both have looked very good in sessions thus far.

A few days into training camp, I will say Travis Benjamin, Trent Richardson, Montario Hardesty, Joe Haden and Eric Hagg impress the most.


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