Five Telling Items of Interest

Ten days or so into the 2008 training camp of the Cleveland Browns, one begins to get a sense about the team, in some cases good and in others cases, not so cheery. While nagging injuries have hampered the progress of some in Berea, Ohio, others have stepped up and capitalized on the opportunities.

- Rookies Alex Hall (OLB) and Martin Rucker (TE) are showing that they belong and could help this team in the 2008 season. Hall was come on strong and impressed with his recognition and smooth transition in the scheme. What makes this rookie even more impressive his his ability to drop and cover ground against the run and pass. Hall is a high-energy type player that appears to be more than a potential pass-rushing prospect at this early time.

Rucker simply catches most everything thrown his way, as has been the case since arriving in rookie camp. The size and quickness of this rookie impress, but his mental approach to the game and desire to fit in with the ranks of Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow has been exceptional.

- All the talk of concern has been noted about the #3 WR spot and depth at the CB position, through ten-days or so of training camp practice sessions I don't see those as the biggest worries.

Depth along the defensive line is critical and questionable. Outside of Shaun Rogers, Shaun Smith, Robaire Smith and Corey Williams, who has displayed the ability thus far to fill a void if one of the before-mentioned is out of action? Right now, nobody has stepped-up and appeared ready to contribute, without a dramatic drop-off of quality. Defensive ends Meilia Purcell and Chase Pittman have struggled in camp sessions. Brian Schaefering is raw and may be too light in the britches to contribute, while Louis Leonard has been inconsistent, but has shown he can play. About rookie NT Ahtyba Rubin, his play in team drills has been unimpressive, but the coaching staff believes it is only a matter of time until he settles in.

- Speaking of Shaun Rogers, I have not viewed a defensive lineman of this significance in Cleveland for a very, very long time. The last time this organization has a lineman that could change the complexion of the game was Michael Dean Perry, and Rogers is making it look easy at times against the likes of Eric Steinbach and Hank Fraley, neither of whom are chopped liver.

Rogers comes to Cleveland with baggage in tow, but has been a solid citizen and presence in the Browns locker room. When it gets down to playing, Rogers can play the nose, we haven't seen enough of the lineman to rationalize whether he is going to be effective at the end position. Food for thought, Rogers is dominating inside, which happens to be the strength of Shaun Smith's game as well. It will be interesting and telling in the remaining weeks of camp to see whether Rogers becomes a more active participant at the defensive end position.

- Quite often we'll hear a little squabble about the size of the Cleveland cornerbacks, such as who is going to cover the big receivers the team will face? There is a reason why CB's Eric Wright and Brandon McDonald have progressed and taken hold of the starting roles, each face WR Braylon Edwards, Kellen Winslow and Joe Jurevicius (prior to his knee issues) on a consistent basis. Both players are very strong, athletic and bright. In the camp setting, the Browns CB's are playing more press or closer to the WR's in general, which tends to provide a much clearer view of the type of talent and players these CB's are and will become.

As the days close toward the season, a thought often pondered is regarding CB Ty Law or another veteran presence in the defensive backfield. I keep thinking the CB position is an injury away from some potential issues and Law could step-in and be an effective player in a specified role. With this team potentially being on the cusp of a contender, it may make sense to add a veteran.............and then I think about at whose expense?

- Prior to the season, the Browns inked OLB Shantee Orr to a one-year deal. In almost every published report known to man that acknowledged the signing, Orr was mainly noted for his special teams ability. Since arriving in Cleveland, Orr has been a player the coaching staff is actively looking to find ways to get on the field............get it, as a LB. Primarily an OLB with the Houston Texans and a short stint with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Orr was a player that made plays when the Texans utilized the 3-4 defense. Why shouldn't he is a system somewhat similar in Cleveland?

Good question and one the Browns coaching staff wasted little time in addressing. In the spring mini-camp, Orr was playing some ILB, in the middle in certain sets, as well as OLB on each side of the line. In the camp sessions to date, Orr has provided speed, quickness and an ability to get out in coverage. This one-year deal may be one welcomed by the Browns, especially now with Antwan Peek on the shelf for a few weeks following knee surgery.

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