This past week proved to be a productive one for the Cleveland Browns' staff. New head coach Eric Mangini was particularly in the forefront of the action. After openly stating there will be yet another quarterback competition to be found in Berea, he spent a few days personally evaluating talent over on the left coast. The owners' meetings, held last week in Dana Point, California, provided the opportunity to obtain some semblance of potential answers about the team's current makeup while the head coach enjoyed a few meet and greets afterwards.
Tuesday, the floodgates of speculation were opened to the media that Cleveland will once again see another "open competition" between its current quarterbacks. Is it not fascinating that this head coach, who models himself wholly in the mold of his mentor the secretive Bill Belichick and the very same coach who has done everything in his power during his very short tenure to snuff out any leak to the media, would suddenly decide to make this public? Just a month prior to the NFL draft nonetheless?
Then, as the Orange and Brown Report first relayed, comes the story of the Browns' strong interest in Southern California quarterback prospect Mark Sanchez. So much so, they were willing to bring the signal caller to their Berea complex for a personal workout. As a prospect, Sanchez will undoubtedly be drafted higher than his overall skill set would dictate. With such a weak quarterback class, a potential late first round to second round commodity could legitimately be considered as high as this draft class' top five overall. This will certainly have those quarterback-starved teams around the league questioning their approach to the last weekend of April.
At this point, does anyone else smell smoke? It certainly seems to be wafting about and burning these nostrils. If there is no market, then create one. This appears to be a very strong commitment to sell other decision makers around the league on the notion that the Browns' quarterbacking situation is in flux, and the team could go in any direction. So step right up and let the highest bidder for the services of Quinn, Anderson, or the number five overall selection make their play, because any of the aforementioned can be had for the right price. What is the obvious moral to this story? Do not trust anything said leading up the draft.
Once the team's quarterback situation was effectively thrown into upheaval, it was time to travel. Coach Mangini spent an extra day in beautiful southern California after the owner's meeting had ended before flying north to San Jose on Friday. There the coach was able to personally interview Jarron Gilbert. This defensive lineman is a fast-rising physical freak who gets more attention from his personal YouTube video than he does his actual on the field accomplishments.
Make no mistake…Gilbert is not purely a talented phenom with no NFL skill, but rather an often-dominant performer within the ranks of the WAC conference as evidenced by his 22 tackles for loss and 9.5 quarterback sacks. A late bloomer physically, Gilbert entered San Jose State as a 240 pound defensive end who grew into a 290 pound defensive tackle. During the Shrine Game, an annual collegiate all star gathering, this lineman displayed his dominating ability and turned heads within the scouting community.
A combination of unbelievably long arms, top notch athleticism, and overall quickness has allowed this interior defender to control his opponents most of the season. He does need some polish on his overall technique, especially in his hand play. Overall consistency has been his major question mark. His versatility starting at both end and tackle have slotted Gilbert as a strong candidate for the five technique used in 3-4 defensive schemes. Do not be surprised if this late blooming small school product is a late first round selection before it is all said and done.
Then came the weekend where Mangini was spotted taking in USC's first spring practice. This is clearly interesting considering a heavy interest has been paid to other Trojan prospects such as Rey Maualuga, Clay Matthews III, Kyle Moore and Patrick Turner. All are slated to visit Cleveland's complex in the near future, while one internet source even spotted the head coach having discussions with Turner during the engagement. Maualuga is an imposing middle linebacker who at times has trouble reading his keys properly and can be found out of position. Matthews has the perfect bloodlines for Cleveland's fan base and has improved his overall draft stock tremendously due to his recent displays of athleticism and high effort levels of play. Moore is a classic ‘tweener as a defensive lineman who has nice athletic tools but never fully developed, though his experience as a 3-4 defensive end in some of the Trojans' defensive sets is intriguing. Turner is a large target with reliable hands, despite not being the most explosive receiver off the ball or in his routes. This quartet is a talented group, all of which would upgrade areas of need.
A potential dinner arrangement with Cal-Poly wide receiver Ramses Barden and Mangini during this same time period was reported by another internet source as well. While this has not been confirmed, it would seem logical due to his plan of action recently. Barden is another oversized receiving prospect at 6-feet-6-inches tall and 229 pounds. This target uses his body very well shielding defenders and possesses very reliable hands. The major concern with Barden comes in his complete lack of burst. During the Senior Bowl, the former Mustang had trouble releasing off the line when jammed and showed no separation ability. Both Barden and the aforementioned Patrick Turner look to be viable potential attempts to replace the departed Joe Jurevicius.
While Eric Mangini likely did not leave his heart in San Francisco, he certainly made his rounds in California leaving plenty of possibilities open to interpretation. Clearly a lot was accomplished in his short time visiting the Golden State in laying the groundwork for the upcoming draft. All the fans of the Cleveland Browns can hope for is that this new regime is going about it properly and, hopefully, successfully.
Keep an eye on South Carolina offensive lineman Jamon Meredith. Inside the halls of the Cleveland Brows' facilities, the team is very high on this prospect as evidenced by a private workout last week at the team complex. He presents the type of versatility the new staff seems to favor, being able to start at four of the five offensive line positions. It is safe to say Meredith is likely rated higher on their board than some of the more recognizable interior blocking talent.
During last month's NFL Scouting Combine, six players in total failed the league's mandatory drug testing.