The Cleveland Browns' passing game struggled terribly in the 2008 season, with the lack of quality and depth being a primary cause. In the months following a disappointing end to the season, the Browns have revamped the wide receiver position with an influx of youth and experience to combat their 2008 woes.
This influx of talent has provided some positives throughout the limited off-season mini-camp sessions and OTA's. Such sessions are an avenue to get the players together in working on preparation, conditioning and, in the case of rookies, a feel for the pro game.
Let's remember, these sessions are relatively contact-free compared to what transpires in a training camp or game environment. But the opportunity to coach and evaluate remains a viable tool for a team such as the Browns.
These OTA's and mini-camp sessions provided a glimpse of what is transpiring at this ever-important position, but there is more than meets the limited eye of the media in these sessions. From film and class work to what these players are accomplishing on the field, The OBR provides exclusive notes on Mike Furrey, David Patten and Josh Cribbs.
- Veteran receiver and Ohio native Mike Furrey has come into Cleveland and fit in immediately with the Browns. Due to the youth and inexperienced depth at the receiver position, Furrey has been impressive in spring drills. Furrey does not posses the prototypical physicality a team generally seeks in an X or Y receiver and is best suited as the Z or slot receiver. This veteran catches the ball well, displays the ability to line-up in the slot and go over the middle. Very quick and shifty, Furrey knows how to find the soft spots in the defense and position himself between the ball and defender. The signing of Furrey this off-season is the type of transaction which solidifies quality and depth on a roster.
- In his second tour of duty with the Browns, veteran David Patten is the voice of experience to the young receivers surrounding him on the roster. Patten provides a wealth of knowledge and ability to communicate, which has been on display as the veteran has been a positive influence on the youth at the position in these early days of OTAs and mini-camps. Heading into training camp, Patten's role is undefined, due to the development of youth and inexperience within the roster position. Despite his advanced age (he'll turn 35 in August), Patten still possesses the speed and quickness that enabled him to stick in the league for ten years. The addition of Patten on the roster is the type of move an organization makes to solidify depth. These are the type of moves the Browns didn't make in 2008, which ended up costing them dearly.
- Jack-of-all-trades Josh Cribbs figures to gain meaningful playing time in the 2009 season. Unpolished as a receiver, but explosive with the ball in his hands, Cribbs is in position to show the coaching staff he can contribute on a consistent basis in an area other than on special teams. One of the best kick return and coverage players in the game today, Cribbs has requested the opportunity to play an increasingly significant role -- either offensively or defensively. In the recent mini-camp session, Cribbs was primarily lined-up at WR and did see some time in specific sets coming out of the offensive backfield. Cribbs did not gain actual playing time in the defensive backfield, which is an area head coach Eric Mangini appears to be relatively enamored with Cribbs potentially filling a depth role at some point in time. Cribbs reported for the mandatory mini-camp session despite an ongoing contract issue with the team. Unless there is positive movement made on a new contract for Cribbs, the player could be a holdout when training camp begins on August 1st.