Browns Focusing on Offensive Line in Mobile
Anyone who has watched Cleveland play this season could outline the club's strengths and weaknesses. Tim Couch is, indeed, emerging as one of the AFC's best young gunslingers. The defensive line has two of the NFL's most promising youngsters in Warren and Brown, and perhaps most importantly, the entire team has a sense of confidence, urgency, and attitude it didn't have before Butch Davis took over.
That said, for the Browns to take the next step they need a true thumper at middle linebacker. They could use a playmaking safety, a veteran, stabilizing influence at wide receiver, and, quite possibly, a running back. More than anything else, however, the Browns need to implant some attitude, physicality, and simply pure size to their offensive line.
If his staff's primary focus at the Senior Bowl is any indication, that is just what Butch Davis is planning to get.
The following is a breakdown of the specific players the Browns have shown interest in while at the Senior Bowl.
Tennessee's Fred Weary has stood out with his consistency and physicality at guard. Terrence Metcalf struggled early in the week at left tackle, but since being moved inside to left guard, he has been a force. A clear project as a pass blocker, Gardner-Webb's Richard Williams (6'3, 340) has the pure beef and awesome strength (confirmed 51 reps of 225) Davis wants inside.
Center LeCharles Bentley has arguably been the most impressive interior lineman here. Not only has he consistently driven his man off the ball during run blocking, he has held up nicely in pass blocking, as well. Intensity is a trait Bentley has plenty of, as he has easily been the intimidating and aggressive player here.
Of the tackles, Victor Riley has been almost dominating when he remembers to play with leverage. Levi Jones and Chester Pitts both will likely eventually play left tackle, but each will begin their NFL careers at either ROT or OG and have shown nice drive blocking skills and plenty of potential. Boise State's Matt Hill has shown a great deal of strength and tenacity and has proven that he belongs with the big boys.
Of the linebackers in Mobile, two have clearly stood out. One, outside linebacker Napoleon Harris of Northwestern, was expected to stand out – he is almost universally considered the top OLB in the draft. The other is middle linebacker Andra Davis of Florida. Davis has always shown good instincts, aggression, and flow to the ball against the run, but it is his pass defending skills that has impressed scouts this week.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the team has been watching the defensive back drills, specifically safeties, quite consistently. A few players that have stood out among the safeties, Florida's Marquand Manuel, Stanford's Tank Williams, and Colorado's Michael Lewis. Manuel has been a surprise - showing aggression towards the run and athleticism and pure coverage skills in the passing game. Tank Williams is huge (6'2, 220) and has played with instincts and surprising speed. Michael Lewis is simply the highest rated and most athletically gifted safety here, and has done nothing this week to diminish his status.
A surprise has been how diligently the Browns have scouted the defensive tackles here. Specifically, the club has been looking at powerful fireplug types to compliment Warren's collapse the pocket skills. A few players of this specific type have truly proven to be among this game's most consistent and exciting performers. Justin Bannan of Colorado has shown the pure strength and fundamental interior line play to move drastically up the charts. Likewise, Nate Dwyer isn't the run stuffing presence that Gilbert Brown was for the Kansas in the early nineties, but at 6'2, 312 and super strong, he is a similar type player. Two other highly rated, dedicated pluggers on the inside, North Carolina's Ryan Sims and Washington's Larry Tripplett, have each flashed big play ability, but haven't been as consistently disruptive against the run as either Bannan or Dwyer.
In reviewing this summary it would be easy for the reader to conclude that Browns' scouts had spent relatively equal amounts of time at each of these positions. In reality, however, the Browns collective scouting department, including Butch Davis himself, has spent as much time with the offensive line as all the other positions combined. The other thought-provoking element to this summary is simply this:
Every player named here has two indistinguishable characteristics. One, their play in Mobile has, at the very least, solidified their rankings. Two, and most importantly for Browns' fans, is that every single player listed here was interviewed, either in person or by written questionnaires, by Browns' scouts.
Rob "Boomer" Rang owns and operates Boomers Draft Website, http://www.boomersdraft.com where he has extensive rankings, player interviews and in-depth player evaluations.
He is in Mobile this week scouting the players and agreed to drop his thoughts on us here at Bernie's Insiders. Boomer will be conducting a chat from Mobile Thursday night at 7pm ET in the chat room at his website. Thanks Rob!