C.J. Jones (pictured), Qasim Mitchell, and Melvin Fowler."> C.J. Jones (pictured), Qasim Mitchell, and Melvin Fowler.">

Morning Camp Holds a Surprise

Butch Davis surprised us this morning by going with full 11-on-11 drills rather than the special teams practice that was scheduled. With Kelly Holcomb off welcoming a new son, Tim Couch ran the offense. Here's Dave Carducci's full report, along with other items, including some comments on the rise of three young players: <A HREF="http://scout.theinsiders.com/a.z?s=149&p=8&c=1&yr=2003&nid=736252">C.J. Jones</A> (pictured), Qasim Mitchell, and Melvin Fowler.

BEREA - Despite the fact he has known who would start at quarterback in the Cleveland Browns preseason opener ever since the start of training camp, Butch Davis continues to stand by his decision to hold off on announcing who would lead the first-team offense until Friday.

Tim Couch and Kelly Holcomb have still not been told who will start against the Tennessee Titans Saturday night in Nashville.

The only announcement Davis was willing to make regarding his quarterbacks was the fact that Holcomb's wife, Lorie, had given birth early Thursday morning to the couple's third child - a 7-pound, 10-ounce baby boy.

"They named him Paul Hilton Davis Jr.," Davis joked. "Butch" is of course just a nickname. The coach's real name is Paul Hilton Davis.

In truth, Holcomb doesn't want the starting job that bad. His new son is named Jameson.

CHANGE OF PLANS - Only a few fans were on hand to see Thursday morning's short practice that was originally believed to be a scheduled special-teams only session.

Instead, the short workout featured mostly full-team 11-on-11 drills, with Tim Couch working exclusively as the first-team quarterback while Holcomb spent the morning with his wife and newborn son.

While Davis isn't saying, it is a likely bet that Holcomb will be the starter Saturday night. Couch worked against Buffalo's first-team defense in last week's scrimmage. This would give the Browns' staff a chance to see Holcomb against a very good starting defensive unit. Also, it would allow Holcomb a start in his own back yard. Holcomb was born in Fayetteville, Tenn., and played his college ball at Middle Tennessee State, which plays its home games at the Nashville Coliseum.

Thursday morning's practice was the first time the Browns have focused on Tennessee. The Browns will have a light session Thursday afternoon, simulating what a typical Saturday morning walk-through would be like during the regular season.

OPENING SOME EYES - Butch Davis singled guards Melvin Fowler and Qasim Mitchell as two Browns who have shown marked improvement this week.

"I think I can be a great guard," said Fowler, who was drafted as a center out of Maryland. "I'm working extremely hard ... I understand teams like their offensive linemen to be able to play more than one position, so I came in here with an open mind knowing that at any time I could be asked to do something different."

Fowler continues to get comfortable at left guard since replacing incumbent starter Barry Stokes with the first-team at the start of the week.

"Also, Qasim Mitchell has shown improvement for the first time," said Davis. "In the first 10 days, he was real stagnant, but this week he has started to move the bar a little bit."

Apparently some of the extra attention offensive line coach Larry Zierlein has given Mitchell is starting to pay off. Davis said Mitchell has shown significant improvement in his fundamentals and technique. The coach also said he has seen improvement in Mitchell's agility and mobility.

The Browns have even toyed with the idea of using the mammoth 355-pound lineman on kickoff coverage.

"We have approached Qasim about it, and it is potentially something to investigate," said Davis. "But right now he has his plate full learning (to play guard in the NFL)."

A CHANCE FOR JONES? - Wide receiver C.J. Jones has clearly been the most impressive of the rookie free agents to this point of training camp, and with Frisman Jackson still on the shelf with a broken foot, he may have a very real chance to make the team.

Jones made a great over-the-shoulder catch of a deep sideline throw by Josh Booty Thursday morning. Most of what Jones has accomplished in the last few weeks, however, has come in what amounts to glorified touch football. The Browns coaches will be looking to see what Jones and some other rookies can do when the lights go on this weekend.

Like most rookie free agents, Jones will have to show he can make an impact on special teams. He should get that opportunity returning kicks.

"Every year, there will be three or four guys who make this team simply because of what they can do on special teams," said Davis.

The OBR Top Stories