Adkins: A Change in Tone

With the coaching staff and player personnel again on the same page, it's becoming clear that there a change in tone and approach has begun on offense. Lane Adkins' sources tell him about the changes taking place...

- The play of the young wide receivers in camp has impressed the Cleveland Browns coaching staff. Though there is plenty to learn and weeks of hard time ahead, Brian Robiskie and Mohamed Massaquoi have been absorbing the offense under the tutelage of offensive coordinator Brian Daboll and receivers coach George McDonald.

With each passing practice session, Robiskie appears tailored to become a starting receiver at the professional level. Massaquoi may have been the greatest beneficiary of the hands-on coaching in Cleveland. The rookie is gaining a much better understanding of how to run routes and use his physical ability, which were somewhat questionable attributes when arriving in Cleveland.

- Running the football is going to be a necessity in this Cleveland Browns offense. Head coach Eric Mangini wants to play physically at the point of attack and dictate the flow of the game from this aspect. The addition of large, experienced offensive linemen (Floyd Womack, John St. Clair and George Foster) are evidence the head coach seeks a change in the trenches in Cleveland. The selection of center Alex Mack places an exclamation point on the differing attitude and belief this coaching staff has about the rushing attack.

During the OTA and mini-camp sessions, the offensive linemen were primarily utilized in sets to see how well they blended together while learning the line calls and responsibilities. As training camp approaches, these linemen have been informed to be ready for a physical and intense camp, filled with plenty of physical activity and movement across the line. 

The belief of this coaching staff is physical play and attitude will change the direction of the Cleveland offense, which should provide relief to a defense that was on the field far too often a season ago. Running back Jamal Lewis, if he can remain healthy, could again be prominent in the backfield as the scheme would be predicated on the backs running to daylight, rather than relying on quickness to succeed.

- Interestingly, the majority of talk centers around Lewis, but do not dismiss running back Jerome Harrison. Harrison has done nothing but impress the new coaching staff. Picking up the offensive scheme and getting the reps on the practice field in OTA and mini-camp sessions, Harrison has displayed an understanding of what's being asked of him; coupled with excellent vision, strength and quickness, the fourth-year back has been a standout in running drills. 

In following the lead of size and physical play along the offensive line, Harrison has been showing he is the type of back who can run off the blockers and explode off their blocks when defenders do not have a clean shot at the RB. Given the opportunity due to Lewis (rehab-ankle) sitting out the vast majority of team sessions, Harrison is quickly proving to the coaching staff he is a talent that needs to be tapped.

- The state of the tight-end position is changing with the departure of pass-catcher Kellen Winslow. While the newly-installed Cleveland offense will use the TEs in the passing game, the general belief is that the TEs on the roster are going to be much more focused on being physical and, as a result, will be utilized more often in the blocking scheme.

Free agent acquisition Robert Royal has filled the role of blocking TE throughout his career. Since arriving in Cleveland, Royal has slipped into the role well and offers some threat in the passing game. While Steve Heiden regains health following knee surgery, Royal and second-year TE Martin Rucker have gained additional reps in sessions.

Rucker has not disappointed. Displaying the length, quickness and ability to go after the ball in the air, Rucker is much more polished and poised in comparison to a year ago in rookie camp as he potentially provides a down-the-field target in the passing game from the position. If anything, Rucker's size provides options for the Cleveland offense in the red zone and short-yardage passing situations.


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