Training camp is all about getting players into shape, ready for the battles brewing on the field and, in the case of the Browns, installing a new scheme on the offensive side of the ball. The offense isn't the only area which is garnering focus, as acquisitions on the defensive side of the ball look ready to make an impact.
As these early
days of camp progress, there are always a handful of players which show early
promise, only to fade as the team gets into the pre-season. We'll attempt to look past the pretenders and find the shining stars of
the first week of training camp, who we will call the "Magnificent Seven".
- Kellen Winslow – Winslow may be the most talented player on the offensive side of the ball, even after the multiple knee issues. He's in great shape and Winslow is a threat on any given play. He elevates the play of those surrounding him. During camp sessions, Winslow has lined up as a tight-end, spread out as a receiver, and has been in motion. If he can maintain his health, Winslow is going to put up tremendous numbers this year.
- Braylon Edwards – The Edwards of 2007 does not resemble the player we once knew. Edwards has been great in practice. He is working very hard and is catching everything thrown his way. Fully healthy and hungry to prove the critics wrong, Edwards is extremely focused and is letting his on-field activity speak for itself. His demeanor is pleasant and his teammates are noticing the change.
- Sean Jones – Coming off a very good 2006 season, Jones has not missed a beat during training camp. If anything, Jones appears to be a step quicker. Jones' overall speed is surprising, especially when comparing him to to where he was early last season. He's comfortable in the defensive scheme and is the type of defensive player head coach Romeo Crennel looks for and likes. Fully recovered from a 2005 knee injury, Jones is one of the best safeties in the league and teaming with Brodney Pool could become one of the best duos in the game at this time.
- Kevin Shaffer – The first thought was to trade Shaffer once the Browns selected Joe Thomas in the draft. Shaffer has looked past the team drafting his eventual replacement and has had a very good training camp. The competition has made Shaffer better, and so has facing off with Kamerion Wimbley and Robaire Smith everyday. Whether he plays on the left or right side of the line, Shaffer has been solid. Shaffer did not go from being a better than average tackle to a mediocre talent overnight, as many suspected throughout the 2006 season. With talent at the guard positions next to Shaffer, he can focus on his responsibility and has done so very well in camp to date.
- Jamal Lewis – Lewis has a look of hunger, desire, and a passion to play. Many around the game are of the belief Lewis' star is fading and they may be correct - but I see a player with something to prove. After losing fifteen-plus pounds and having his ankle scoped during the off-season, Lewis is again cutting hard and strong. He is quick again due to the weight loss and physical conditioning. In rushing drills, Lewis has been powerful through the hole and is very active in the passing game coming out of the backfield.
- Eric Wright – Not often does a rookie cornerback step onto the field and make an impact. He has lined up against the best the Browns have to offer and done extremely well. He rarely is out of position and has grasped the defensive philosophy quickly. Wright is not afraid to take chances. For a rookie cornerback, he does not bite often on fakes and has the recovery speed and instincts to make up for an error. If Wright maintains his consistency throughout training camp, he will start for this team in week one.
- Antwan Peek – Peek could be a huge off-season acquisition. Known primarily as a pass rusher, Peek has filled that role extremely well in camp. If he keeps it going, Peek should open further opportunities for the Cleveland defense. With a legitimate pass rusher on the field to team with Wimbley, the Browns will again threaten opposing quarterbacks. Peek has been regarded as a liability against the run and pass, but has practiced well in all phases of the scheme and could be the one player which helps ignite the Browns' defense in the 2007 season.
- Eric Steinbach – Steinbach has provided leadership and athleticism and should be regarded as one of the best at his position.
Through the early days of camp, Steinbach has been workmanlike and
- Leigh Bodden – Bodden has turned into a shutdown-type cornerback and has
displayed this quality in camp. If healthy, Bodden and Wright could become
one of the best duos of starting cornerbacks in the league today.
- Ryan Tucker – Tucker has returned to the Browns and is performing better than we have ever seen him. Physical, but quick in this camp, Tucker is competing with all comers and is not only handling his position, but in some cases been dominant. Unfortunately, the team will lose him after September 1st.