Adkins: Notes of Note

Will the Cleveland Browns massive turnover in the offensive line, defensive backfield, tight end and reciever help? Who will emerge from the position battles? Things are becoming clearer, and Lane brings the scoop.

- With Alex Mack, the obvious heir apparent at center, last year's starter Hank Fraley continues to be a veteran presence and stabilizing force along the offensive line. Fraley remains working as the starting center and is expected to see some reps at guard in the coming days. He has been a true professional in the locker room, in spite of team obviously looking to replace him at some point with Mack. Fraley has been a leader in film sessions and on the field, while providing Mack the benefit of his vast experience.

- The right side of the Browns offensive line is going to take on a new look in the 2009 season. Veterans Ryan Tucker, Floyd Womack and John St. Clair are in competition to man the starting guard and tackle positions. Each of the three players provides an improved physical presence in the rushing game compared to the departed Kevin Shaffer and Seth McKinney. Last year's starting right guard, Rex Hadnot, is garnering reps at left guard and right guard during mini-camp sessions, but early indications are Hadnot is not in the mix for a starting role on the right side.

- Upon the signing of defensive back Rod Hood, the assumption among some was that the vet would step in and replace either Eric Wright or Brandon McDonald at a starting cornerback spot. Hood has garnered reps on the flank, as well as inside on the slot, and his versatility is viewed as critical for the Browns to improve their coverage skills in the intermediate passing game. Hood excelled in the slot as a member of the Philadelphia Eagles prior to inking a free agent contract with the Arizona Cardinals three-years ago. This experience provides options for the Cleveland defensive coaches, to the extent that replacing either of the starters from a season ago may not be the end result. At the present time, Wright and McDonald remain the starting corners, with Abe Elam and Brodney Pool at safety in the defensive backfield. The competition in the defensive backfield will certainly heat up as rookies Don Carey and Coye Francies continue to impress.

- Last year's offensive struggles and lack of consistency required have been well-documented. Questionable decisions on personnel and the lack of quality depth stripped the team of production and confidence. This was nowhere more obvious in 2008 than at the wide receiver position. The off-season brought veterans David Patten and Mike Furrey, along with draft selections Brian Robiskie and Mohamed Massaquoi to Cleveland, in an attempt to address the issue. Despite the massive changeover in personnel, the Browns coaching staff does not appear to have any reservations regarding the influx of talent and depth at the position and believe Robiskie and Massaquoi can contribute immediately.

- The Browns seemed determined to deprive themselves of pass receptions from the tight end position this off-season. Starting tight end Kellen Winslow was traded to Tampa Bay, Steve Heiden was coming off major knee surgery and free agent acquisition Robert Royal has been viewed primarily as a blocking tight end. As the off-season has progressed, Heiden is recovering well from his surgery and is expected to be ready to go in training camp, though there are concerns due to his perceived inability to stay healthy. In camp sessions, Martin Rucker is gaining significant experience and reps, while the coaching staff recognizes the length he provides to the position, and John Madsen has performed well. Perhaps the Browns may get some receptions from the position, after all.


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