Rumors? Just the facts, please!

Surrounding nearly every team in professional sports are rumors and speculation. In Cleveland the situation is much the same, despite the national media seemingly looking at the Browns as a ‘joke' for the better part of 13 years.

With the talent acquisition plan being utilized by general manager Tom Heckert, the Browns could be on the verge of being relevant outside the Cleveland area, and chatter about the team has sharply increased.

Surrounding nearly every team in professional sports are rumors and speculation. In Cleveland the situation is much the same, despite the national media seemingly looking at the Browns as a ‘joke' for the better part of 13 years.

With the talent acquisition plan being utilized by general manager Tom Heckert, the Browns could be on the verge of being relevant outside the Cleveland area, and chatter about the team has sharply increased.

The Browns………………

- starting offensive right guard Shawn Lauvao has been on the receiving end of criticism due to his inconsistent play a season ago. Lauvao, a physical lineman has struggled in the past with defensive linemen gaining an advantage against him with the initial step off the snap. The Browns coaches have paid attention to Lauvao's balance and footwork after noticing the lineman would hesitate off the snap at times either in rocking back on his heels or reaching for the opposing lineman. All of which negates Lauvao's punch and leverage at the point.

- like the look of rookie offensive lineman Ryan Miller. Miller has lined-up at LT and the guard positions, faring well. Miller was available in the sixth round of the draft due to many scouts believing he was to upright, stiff and slow to translate to the pro game. When watching film of Miller from his collegiate time at Colorado, it screamed ‘football player' and this is exactly what he is.

- WR Carlton Mitchell was expected to come into camp and display the ability to not only make the roster, but contribute for a team seeking difference-makers at the position. Four days into camp and Mitchell is sidelined with a leg injury, losing valuable time. Mitchell's inability to practice has opened the door further to others such as the surprising Jermaine Saffold.

- maintain an optimistic approach on Saffold. Saffold did a good job in the rookie and OTA sessions, but has excellent in the early days of training camp. With his speed and quickness, Saffold has displayed the ability to get open and is surprising good at getting his body between the ball and defensive back. With the Browns likely to field Greg Little, Mohamed Massaquoi, Josh Gordon and Travis Benjamin as their first four receivers, there may be room for one, two tops to make the roster and Saffold is staking his claim early.

- believe once his responsibilities come natural to him, WR Josh Gordon is going to become a legitimate play-maker.

- love the speed and quickness Benjamin provides. The staff envisions creating matchup issues for the opposition due to the size and speed of Little and Gordon, the improved quickness and smoothness of Massaquoi and the legitimate deep-threat potential of Benjamin.

- OLB Ben Jacobs had the benefit of being on the player roster a season ago. With the addition of LB's via the draft and undrafted FA players, Jacobs sits in a positional logjam. Through the early portions of camp, Jacobs has been non-descript as others such as James-Michael Johnson, Emmanuel Acho and Craig Robertson have done considerably better in drills.

- believe if Johnson continues to develop and impress, he could start outside, much sooner than later.

- perceived roster battle at safety may not be a battle after all. 2011 season starter Usama Young is not practicing to the level of second-year defensive back Eric Hagg. Hagg appears to get better with reps, while Young has the look of a player that has reached his peak.

- selected fullback Owen Marecic a year ago to be the FB when free agent FB Lawrence Vickers was not re-signed. Marecic had a rather mediocre first season with the Browns and struggled with a concussion. In the 2012 draft, the Browns selected a fullback/h-back/TE type in Brad Smelley from Alabama. In the early days of training camp, Marecic may be a slightly better blocker at this time, but Smelley shows the look of a player improving daily and is already a much greater asset as a potential receiver and situational player. This roster battle may be one that goes down to the wire.

- are hopeful former OLB Marcus Benard can utilize his speed and quickness off the edge as a DE. Benard displays a good first step, when in the standing position. When Benard has to put his hand on the ground, he is much less effective, as he doesn't explode with leverage with his initial steps. Benard has not fared well lined-up against Joe Thomas and Mitchell Schwartz.

- Brian Schaefering and Scott Paxson are the veteran defensive linemen gaining starters reps due to injuries to Ahytba Rubin and Phil Taylor. Neither Schaefering nor Paxson will force us to forget the missing starters, but both are workmanlike contributors. If Rubin and/or Taylor were to miss significant time, the Browns would be in serious trouble along the interior of the defense, as rookies John Hughes and Billy Winn are not faring any better than the veterans.

- coaching staff see improvement coming from Hughes and Winn. The additional reps each is gaining due to injuries at the position will only speed up the process for them.

- believe Paxson can be more than serviceable, as he has the ability to penetrate. Rookie Billy Winn has a quick burst, but needs to improve his hand-fighting and leverage.

- are quite pleased and impressed with TE Ben Watson. Coming off a 2011 season when Watson suffered no less than two concussions, the veteran has been the best TE in camp and a true weapon in a developing offensive scheme.

- have quite a little battle going on at the TE position. Whereas Watson is established and viable, the depth at the position is battling for roster spots. With Evan Moore on the PUP list, second-year TE Jordan Cameron has been showing up in practice sessions, appearing more poised, comfortable and confident that he was a season ago. Cameron is an extremely athletic young man and is learning how to utilize that athleticism on the practice field.

- Dan Gronkowski is a player, plain and simple. He can get open, catch, block and has toughness about him. If the season were to start today, Gronkowski should be on the team, due to his ability to do everything well.

- want to see whether QB Colt McCoy can and will get the ball down-field, as well as making the reads and following play progressions. If McCoy proves he can make the required decisions, his future with the Browns could be much more realistic, as the backup to rookie QB Brandon Weeden.

- have received a little help from one of their own from the past. Former Browns QB Bernie Kosar has been in the ear of Weeden, often since being selected by the Browns. Kosar and Weeden have talked about reading and challenging defenses, as well as watching film together. Kosar approaches Weeden like Gary Danielson helped him as a rookie in the 1985 season.

- GM Tom Heckert's role within the organization under the proposed new ownership group is an unknown. But, we can clarify with the utmost certainty, Heckert and potential team president Joe Banner do not have a personal or professional issue with one another. Yes, Heckert did leave the Eagles organization for a position of authority over personnel, which is something he did not have in Philadelphia with Andy Reid having such control.

If Banner does come to Cleveland and if Heckert does depart, it will not be due to some perceived issue between the two men. It'll be about an ownership group wanting 'their' guys in positions of authority.


LA


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