With numerous positions open to competition, the first week of training camp for the Browns has been aggressive, the defense has dominated at times and questions on the offensive side of the ball are evident.
Entering training camp, the Browns coaching staff wanted to make the camp process as competitive as they could. Believing competition brings out the best in an athlete, as well as providing the opportunity for players for make a statement.
Some players have flashed in the eyes of the staff, while others have engaged intrigue in the early days of camp.
Wide Receiver – Miles Austin
The wide receiver position is an area which the Browns entered camp relatively young and inexperienced. The receiving corps is riddled with question. Veterans Miles Austin and Nate Burleson have fought injuries over the past couple seasons, Josh Gordon is fighting a suspension; Andrew Hawkins has dealt with injury issue in the past, while Travis Benjamin and Charles Johnson are coming off serious knee injuries.
Miles Austin: Austin had been a highly productive receiver in Dallas prior to suffering through numerous hamstring issues the past couple years. Inked by the Browns, the Browns and Austin worked on a different workout regime, from different stretching exercises to working his hips more, with less focus on his quads.
Rather than working Austin on the practice field during OTA’s and mini-camp sessions, the Browns focus was on his physical condition, with everything geared toward having him ready to go for training camp.
To the surprise of many, but not the Browns, Austin is healthy, running very well and displaying the ability that made him one of the better receivers in the game. Austin has been in and out of cuts very quickly, displays the ability to get up-field at a high rate and he possesses explosive qualities in catching the ball well.
Austin’s speed and quickness are apparent as he has looked exceptional running seam, slant and post routes.
In the Browns offense under the tutelage of offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, Austin can play any of the receiver roles and has spent time at each with the “Z” of flanker spot being the primary at this time.
If Austin can maintain his physical health, Miles Austin will be a highly productive receiver for the Browns in the 2014 season.
Nate Burleson: Burleson does not look the part of a 32-year old man. The veteran keeps himself in tremendous physical condition and his professionalism shows on the practice field and locker room.
When the Browns looked at Burleson prior to signing him as a free agent, his quickness surprised them as well as his attention to route details. Burleson has never been a primary, number-one receiver and the Browns were looking for veteran, complimentary receivers which could provide a viable option in the passing game. Injury issues have derailed Burleson at points throughout his career and his beginning in Cleveland started with the receiver re-breaking his arm (originated from an auto accident)
Like Austin, Burleson has taken reps at each of the receiver positions in training camp and has displayed quickness, wit and sure hands he was known for prior to coming to Cleveland. On more than occasion during camp sessions, Burleson has discussed ball placement with QB’s when a play wasn't executed properly.
Burleson’s quickness and attention to detail is evident when running out and curl routes, as he has displayed the ability to get a defensive back on his heels due to his seamless burst into cuts, while showing the ability to change direction (cut) hard off his inside foot, changing direction.
The Browns signed Austin and Burleson with the intent to determine whether they are/would/could be physically healthy to help the team in the 2014 season. The risk for the Browns was minimal and the payoff could be extensive – the ultimate low risk, high reward scenario.
One week into training camp, the Browns are pleased with the additions.