BEREA, Ohio--One position the Browns didn't have to worry about since 2009 was center.
After the Browns drafted Alex Mack in the first round that season, Mack was inserted in the middle of the offensive line and he was a staple for the past seven years. Mack never missed a snap until he suffered a broken leg in the sixth game of the 2014 season and missed the remainder of the season. Mack returned last year and picked up where he left off before the injury and was selected to his third Pro Bowl after the season.
The Browns rushing game was averaging over 141 yards a game under then offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan in 2014 before Mack broke his leg and the offense never recovered. A carefully constructed contract allowed Mack to leave via free agency after the 2015 season and he joined Shanahan and the Atlanta Falcons this past off-season.
The Browns anticipated that Mack might walk after the 2015 season and used their second, first-round pick last year to select Erving to replace Mack, if he bolted.
The problem was Erving never worked at center in 2015 in game, working at all of the positions on the line during practice. He started four games in his rookie year, two at left guard and two at right guard. He said settling in at one position has been what he needed.
“It’s been awesome for me to just be able to focus on one position and just be able to go and play, make corrections and learn from your mistakes and learn from what you did well," he said. "It’s been a total 180 from last year just being able to focus on one thing. I can definitely see growth, and I can see a lot of progression.”
By all accounts, Erving had a disappointing rookie season and there is concern he will be able to handle all of the duties of being a center in the NFL. He spent a lot of the off-season trying to improve his overall strength.
“It’s been coming along really well," Erving center. "Like I said, I’ve just continued to learn and be a student of the game. I’ve been listening to the older guys, picking up on every piece of knowledge that I can and just going out there and playing ball. That’s all it is and that’s all I want it to be – just playing ball. It’s been going really good.”
Erving said he has picked up on the offense and is comfortable in calling the plays.
“Yeah, I’m comfortable," he said. "I’m a vocal person and everybody on our offensive line knows what to do so it’s not like everybody is waiting on me to make a call just so they can play because the ball is going to be snapped whether I make a call or not. We’ve all taken that role of just being accountable for each other and just making sure that if one guy has a brain fart, then the next guy comes in and is just like ‘Hey, hey. Make a call here or there.’ For the most part, everything is going good as far as play calling and communicating throughout the offensive line.”
An injury to his left elbow less than a week into training camp sidelined him through the Friday night team scrimmage and the Orange and Brown scrimmage in Columbus last weekend. Erving returned to practice on Monday and showed some rustiness on Tuesday with two snaps over the head of Robert Griffin III and another Griffin III had to jump to grab.
Hue Jackson wasn't happy with the result.
"That’s what happens when you miss practice," Jackson said. "We haven’t practiced for a while. We know those balls on the ground were Cam, and he’s got to get that corrected. That’s him and the quarterback. I’m not going to coach quarterback-center exchange at times. You’re just going to fix it. It’ll get fixed. I’ve been through this dance before so we’ll get that squared away.”
Erving said it was hard to miss the scrimmages, but said he expects to play Friday night in Green Bay.
“It’s hard to watch it, but at the end of the day, we know we’re going to have the right guys in the game, and we’re going to go in there and we’re just going to play ball," he said. "That’s been one of our points of emphasis – being able to finish the ball in the red zone, being able to finish the ball on the goal line. To not happen, yes, we weren’t satisfied, but we’re getting there. In all aspects and at every position and on each level – ones, twos and threes – everybody has that emphasis, and it’s going to be important all year.”
DeValve Active: Rookie TE Seth DeValve was activated off of the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list and practice for the first time Wednesday. DeValve said he couldn't wait to get back on the field.
“Absolutely. It’s very hard to watch," he said. "It’s very hard to watch. Unfortunately, I’ve been a spectator for the majority of my time here so far. It’s something you have to be patient with because a hamstring injury is not something you can tough through like some injuries where you can just wrap it up and get out there. Hamstring, you’ll just keep re-injuring it if you try to do that. I’ve had to be patient. It’s been very difficult, very frustrating at times watching instead of playing, but my time will come.”
Coleman, Hawkins Will Not Play: WR Corey Coleman and WR Andrew Hawkins were still with the training staff not practicing Wednesday with hamstring injuries. DB Trey Caldwell (hamstring). Others still not practicing were: DB Trey Caldwell (hamstring), WR Dennis Parks and DL Nile Lawrence-Stample. Jackson said that Coleman and Hawkins won't play against Green Bay. WR Terrelle Pryor had his calf wrapped during practice, but Jackson thought he would still play Friday.
Nothing New on Hughes: DL John Hughes was absent for the seventh-straigt practice due to personal reasons.
Moving In: The Browns started practicing outside but the rains began and the continued to practice. However, after about 10 minutes of practicing in a down pour, there was a lightning strike and thunder causing the team to move inside and close practice to the public. It was the third time during training camp that practice had to be closed. After about 30-45 minutes inside, the team was able to move back outdoors to finish practice.
Off to Green Bay: Jackson said he hadn't decided how much QB Robert Griffin III and the starters would play in Friday night's game. The Browns will travel to Green Bay on Thursday for Friday night's game at 8 p.m., which will be televised by WEWS Ch. 5 in Cleveland.