- Starting CB Eric Wright turned his right ankle early in the practice sessions while working in positional drills. Wright hopped off the practice field and was attended to by a member of the staff. Wright walked along the sideline under his own power and was on the sideline for the duration of the session. The injury does not appear to be serious as Wright has been having a solid camp and appears poised to be a major contributor in defensive coordinator Rob Ryan's increasingly aggressive system in the defensive backfield.
- The defensive line of the Browns in camp has been surprisingly strong. With the return of DE Robaire Smith from Achilles tendon surgery and Corey Williams with a year of experience under his belt in the 3-4 along with a healthy shoulder, camp has been interesting to view.
Splitting reps with the first team, Smith and Williams have been solid in camp sessions. The return of the two players has vastly changed the complexion of the DE position, as quality and depth are now now visible. Heading into the spring camp sessions there were concerns over who would line up opposite Kenyon Coleman at DE -- those concerns have been minimized, as long as Smith and Williams remain healthy.
- With RB's Jerome Harrison and James Davis not practicing recently, Jamal Lewis and Noah Herron have been carrying the workload at the position. Lewis has been practicing regularly, but has not been getting beat-up in drills aimed at working the recognition and responsibilities of the offense and defense. Herron has been carrying the ball at every opportunity the past two days.
As Harrison remains sidelined due to an undisclosed issue, Davis did return to the practice field after missing a couple sessions due to a dental procedure. In the session on Thursday, which was light on aggressive contact, Davis did run the ball in drills and appears poised to play in Green Bay this Saturday.
While it's still early in camp, the push coming from the interior of the Browns offensive line has been nonexistent. Center Hank Fraley works his tail off, but he cannot compete with the likes of Shaun Rogers and be successful. The majority of the damage is coming over the C and LG spots in the interior rushing game -- some of the success of the defense does ride on the shoulders of ILB Eric Barton and D'Qwell Jackson.
Unless the Browns can find an alternative or improve the up-the-gut presence in the running game, this area may struggle. Due to the speed, quickness and one-cut abilities of Harrison and Davis, they have been far more successful running inside than the veteran Lewis, who does not possess the type of quickness the other two younger backs have.
Surprisingly, the Browns have been much more successful running off tackle, as Lewis, Harrison and Davis have tasted success.
- WR's Braylon Edwards and Lance Leggett returned to the practice field and lined up with their respective units. Edwards appeared fine physically, though he dropped a couple balls that could have been caught. Much of the same occurred with Leggett, he looks fine physically, but dropped a pass as well in team drills.
Rookies Mohamed Massaquoi and Brian Robiskie were solid in camp drills and will receive significant opportunities in the pre-season opener. While not listed as a starter on head coach Eric Mangini's depth chart, Massaquoi continues to get reps with the starting offense, as does Mike Furrey, opposite Edwards.
At present, Massaquoi and Furrey appear to be the favorites to start with Edwards, if the team comes out in the three-receiver set. Furrey has been tremendous in camp, catching everything thrown his way without dropping a single pass. Looking much like he did while a member of the Detroit Lions in the 2006 and 2007 seasons, healthy and hungry Mike Furrey would provide the Browns with a viable, experience WR in the slot -- an area which this team struggled a season ago.
- Dustin Fry started training camp as the Browns third center. While his depth chart status remains status-quo, his practice habits have been improving. Getting reps against the Shaun Rogers, Williams and Smith's of the game will either improve a player or send them packing quickly. In the case of Fry, he has gained reps at LG due to the injury to Rex Hadnot and has not disappointed. Surprisingly, Fry has been on the lead end of numerous successful sweeps -- so much for the young man not being capable of playing outside the box. Fry may get caught in the numbers game in camp, but he is showing to be workmanlike, physical and a heady player.
- With starting OLB David Bowens consistently sitting out one of three sessions, Alex Hall and Titus Brown have made themselves the beneficiaries of Bowens' absence. Brown has been getting an increasing number of reps with the first team defense and has fared well. Early in camp, Brown would be singled out when making a mistake -- those moments appear few and far between now. The emergence of Brown and Marcus Benard provide youth and quickness to a defense which was slow afoot last season. Also, the pressure to move rookie LB David Veikune solely to the OLB spot has been slowed, as Veikune could be a destructive force coming from the inside or outside in this scheme.
- While Wright and Brandon McDonald receive the majority of fanfare and reps as the starting CB's, there is an interesting battle brewing behind the perceived starters. Veterans Rod Hood and Corey Ivy were expected to be the number-three and four CB's, or the nickel and dime CB's. Early in camp this was the case, but rookie Coye Francies is showing he belongs with the big-boys. Not short on confidence or ability, Francies displays solid footwork, fluid hip transition and the ability to position and run down a ball in flight. Remember, Francies is a rookie, but does not look like one on the practice field.
- Speaking of scheme, Ryan's defense is taking on many looks previously unseen in a Cleveland defense. Yes, the 4-6 is part of the package, but what is interesting are the situation substitutions made by the staff and how the linemen and linebackers are paired in the scheme.
Multiple 3, 4 and 5 player looks along the line will not be an uncommon sight in this defense. What makes this defense intriguing is the speed and quickness some players possess in attacking the line of scrimmage and where they are coming from.
Don't anticipate seeing much of the new scheme specialties on the tube in the pre-season opener against the Green Bay Packers. The installs are a work in progress and the intensity and expectation level increases with each passing drill in training camp. Without spilling too many beans at this time, due to the Browns organization requesting the media not disclose "specialty" type plays, etc -- this defense will be intriguing once these new approaches are put in motion.
- As the defense may have some intriguing looks, a handful of players have been far less than appealing in training camp this far.
LB's Beau Bell, Leon Williams, Bo Rudd and Blake Costanzo appear to be well off the pace in camp sessions, or nondescript at best. Bell has slow in recognition, Williams doesn't play to his athletic ability, while Rudd and Costanzo are the type of workmanlike players that find roles on special teams. It's too early to throw them to the wolves, but they are struggling to keep up the pace.
Veteran offensive linemen George Foster and Fred Weary, along with Kurt Quarterman, struggle in drills nearly on a daily basis. Foster's footwork consistently gets him in trouble, while Weary is slow presently, but this may be attributed to him just entering training camp. Quarterman on the other-hand is slow out of the set and too slow afoot.
In watching the defensive backs, Nick Sorensen does not stand out as being a viable candidate in a depth role at safety. But, what Sorensen does do is come up with loose balls -- but he is seemingly a step slow in coverage but he is improving due to the work of defensive backs coach Jerome Henderson. Sorensen is a tough call, but he excels on special teams, an area in which this team works on daily and extensively.