After sitting through the first two Browns' training camp practice sessions, I was certain better things were on the horizon. The Browns are working towards the 2007 season opener against the less-than-liked Pittsburgh Steelers, and plenty of work needs done between now and September 9th.
During the two-hour session late Saturday afternoon, all the Browns draft selections (except the still-absent Brady Quinn) saw extensive time on the practice field. Some fared well, while other went through the customary rookie struggles expected in training camp.
Joe Thomas, the Browns' top selection, had his share of ups and downs during the practice session. Lining up with the second team, Thomas displayed qualities one would attribute to a quality offensive lineman, though he was beaten by Kamerion Wimbley and rookie Chase Pittman on outside speed moves. Thomas followed up by shutting the door on Pittman and Wimbley in succession as the drills progressed.
Overall, the offensive line could be the core of the 2007 Browns. The team is looking to be increasingly athletic along the line, and coordinate an offensive scheme to utilize the talent base on the roster. Some of the players are fitting into the new regime, while other are going through early camp struggles.
Whereas Eric Steinbach, Seth McKinney, and Kevin Shaffer have looked solid, you could turn the coin over and note the struggles of Andrew Hoffman, Isaac Sowells, and Nat Dorsey. Hoffman was repeatedly beaten in individual and team drills, as his hand-placement, footwork and overall strength waned.
Sowells is the case of a young player with talent, but who is still missing a key ingredient. When the opportunity exists to engage the defender, Sowells maintains his ground. But, if a defender can get a half-step on Sowells, he does not display the ability to recover. After watching this happen a number of times, this creates a question around his agility and mobility.
Rookie cornerback Eric Wright continues to display quality play at the corner opposite Leigh Bodden. Wright, splitting time in this practice session with Kenny Wright and Daven Holly is very quick, tremendously athletic, and is not afraid to stick his nose into the action. When lined up against wide receiver Braylon Edwards, Wright held his ground and did not permit a completion.
Beyond the obvious quarterback battle, another interesting position battles in training camp is at backup running back.
Heading into camp, Jason Wright and Jerome Harrison are listed two and three on the depth chart. In early practice sessions, it looks like they were slotted correctly. Both players display an excellent quickness and acceleration to the hole, but Jason Wright has been solid in blocking drills and appears comfortable in the backfield and in the passing game.
Let's not understate the potential of Harrison, however. As a third down back, Harrison will have an immediate role, as he gets out of the backfield quickly and displays the ability to catch the ball and turn up-field. The challenge for Harrison in this training camp is whether he can improve in the blocking aspects of the game. While running from scrimmage against the second and third team defense, he has made a good impression.
The most contested position battle in training camp, at least to the mainstream media, has started off somewhat surprising. Charlie Frye is the first-string quarterback and is practicing as if he intends to remain at the top of the depth chart. While not performing to the level which will make anyone forget the 2005 and 2006 seasons, he has been relatively steady after a poor start to camp. Frye is throwing the ball reasonably well, has improved his timing and accuracy, and appears comfortable.
On the flip-side, Derek Anderson has struggled through the first three team practice sessions, but he was much crisper during the Saturday afternoon practice. Anderson completed some nice passes during the 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills late in the session. While physically throwing the ball well, his timing with receivers has been off-balance in many instances. Possessing the best arm at the position, Anderson at times has been overthrowing the ball, which has created some of his accuracy problems.
We'll keep going through the notebook. Thoughts on Sunday's action is up next.