With training camp in high gear, positional battles and speculation surrounding the Cleveland Browns is evident. Whether it's scoop, thoughts we hear coming out the organization or what we gather from various sources………….
This is "What We've Been Told".
• The Browns coaching staff has been quite satisfied with the performance of rookie QB Brandon Weeden to date. The staff anticipated Weeden would struggle early, but display steady progress as the training camp sessions moved along. There is a little bounce in the step of the offense and staff when Weeden displays the arm strength and ability to find receivers down-field.
• The staff has been quick to coach-up receivers that have run poor or incorrect routes, leading to some incompletions and interceptions. WR's Mohamed Massaquoi (who is having a tremendous start to camp), Greg Little and rookie Travis Benjamin has escaped the wrath of WR coach Mike Wilson and senior offensive assistant Nolan Cromwell.
• While the Browns staff won't directly note it, the play of rookie WR Josh Gordon has them excited. Knowing it would be a process in getting the WR up to speed, Gordon is progressing quickly and has earned the right to gain reps with the first team offense. Gordon has gone from a player which was expected to contribute early to a player that may line-up as one of the first three receivers on the playing field. It's early, but the young WR has the tools to become special.
• As rookie RB Trent Richardson looks the part and has played the part well in early training camp sessions, the biggest surprise in the offensive backfield may be how well RB Montario Hardesty has looked in practice sessions. Hardesty has dropped weight, coupled with his good health, a tandem of Richardson and Hardesty could be a huge advantage in keeping the rookie fresh throughout the season. Again it's early, but Hardesty has looked that good.
• When the Browns were watching the draft play out, general manager Tom Heckert was anxious whether LB James-Michael Johnson would remain available. Surprisingly, he was and the Browns made a quick decision on the player. Through the early days of camp, Johnson continues to show-up and make plays, which the coaching staff has noticed. And to think a team behind the Browns in the fourth round almost made a deal to jump in front of the Browns to select Johnson, but the team ran out of time.
• Rookie offensive lineman Ryan Miller may not be the most technical of players, but he is an old-school type lineman. Miller is physical, rugged and tough and has the knack of locking up defensive linemen. Despite being a sixth-round draft pick, he is expected to make the Browns 53-man roster. If the Browns try to sneak him through to the practice squad, they will not be successful, the big man is on the radar of a couple teams.
• Second-year LG Jason Pinkston has come a long way in one-year. A year ago, Pinkston struggled mightily early in camp and improved as the sessions progressed, ultimately being named the starting LG. Now, into his second training camp, Pinkston appears much more comfortable, as well as gaining agility and experience. A season in the strength and conditioning program has benefitted Pinkston, but his biggest gains may have come from working at LeCharles Bentley's Offensive Linemen Camp. Following the hard work and ultimate dedication, Pinkston is healthier, eats properly and has grown leaps and bounds.
• All the talk of veteran CB Sheldon Brown's demise may have some growing steam. While Brown has been consistent in the early days of camp, there is little doubt CB Buster Skrine is on his heels. The team isn't looking to replace Brown, but the development of Skrine could ultimately push the issue.
• Why not veteran CB Dimitri Patterson in the mix? Actually, Patterson has practiced well and player well a season ago. The staff really likes how well Patterson plays the slot and think of him as a starter in that spot.
• Veteran defensive linemen Frostee Rucker, Juqua Parker and Jabaal Sheard have had their moments of creating havoc along the defensive line. Browns defensive coordinator Dick Jauron is counting on these three to be instrumental to an improved defensive line in the 2012 season.
• The play of the young defensive tackles has been as expected in training camp. John Hughes and Billy Winn have been up and down, and have been mainly relegated to the second team at the DT spots. While neither player is flashing, the staff is going to force feed them to gauge how well they absorb and show on the practice field.