Youth Set To Be Served?

Injuries plus early-season struggles of some vets have the 2009 draft class getting ready for meaningful action as early as this week...

Discuss this article here.


BEREA—After a less than stellar opening of the 2009 season, some fans are already asking to see some of the young players in action.

No. 1 draft choice Alex Mack has moved into the starting lineup, but he's the only drafted rookie listed as the starter going into this week's game.

James Davis might be forced into action due to a hamstring injury that has Jamal Lewis' status up in the air. Lewis didn't practice Wednesday and was not out there during the portion of practice available to the media on Thursday.

"I practice each day and try to get better," Davis said.

Davis saw a little action in the season opener and had his eyes opened—in addition to injuring his shoulder.

"The speed is faster and I have to be able to play faster," he said. "I have to know before it happens what to do and I can only get better by practicing and preparing."

Another player who should be pushing for playing time is fellow sixth-round choice Coye Francies.

"It's going pretty normal for me,"  Francies said. "I'm just trying to be prepared if my name is called."

Francies has been active for the first two games, but has just one special team tackle.

Eric Mangini said Francies is showing he can play.

"He's made some contributions in the special teams and it's important for him to carve out a role in what he's doing," he said. "It's important for him to continue to make a case for him to have an extended role (on defense)."

After signing unrestricted free agents Rod Hood, Corey Ivy and Hank Poteat in the off-season, it was assumed that Francies could take his time in developing. However, the first two are gone and Poteat has been playing in the sub defenses in the nickel and dime packages, but he's reminding fans more of Terry Cousin than Frank Minnifield.

Second-round and fourth-round choice linebackers David Veikune and Kaluka Maiava are also a couple of players that might be pushing for playing time, other than on special teams. Maiava is Eric Barton's backup and Veikune is listed as the backup for D'Qwell Jackson. However, Veikune backs up the outside linebackers, as well.

"I think (Veikune) and Kaluka are getting ready to play and are getting more reps," Mangini said. "(Veikune's) got some versatility and has worked inside and outside. He needs to keep learning the defense and contributing on special teams."

The rookie linebackers have mostly been seen on special teams. Maiava has two tackles in that department.

"It's way more fluid for me," Veikune said. "The coaches make the decisions as to who's ready, but I know I'm only one play away at any time."

The two second-round wide receiver draft picks have been used sparingly. Brian Robiskie, the higher of the two, was inactive last week. Mohamed Massaquoi has one catch for 18 yards and appears to be closest to seeing more action.

"I go into every game trying to do what will put us in the most successful situations for the offense,"  Massaquoi said.

Mangini said for most of the rookies it comes down to special teams play.

"What we're really looking at is how they make a contribution in whatever they're asked to do," he said. "All of those guys who might not have a role on offense or defense, it comes down to special teams."

If play on the field doesn't turn around quickly, the Browns might want to see what they have in this year's rookie class.

What could it hurt?

Lewis Might Come Down to Game Time: RB Jamal Lewis might not be able to play against his former team on Sunday with a hamstring injury he suffered against the Broncos.

Lewis missed practice Wednesday with a hamstring and is listed as doubtful for Sunday's game with the Ravens.

"We'll see where he's at,"  Mangini said. "It's not going to be a function of the opponent, but more of how he will be able to contribute."

Mangini wouldn't rule out Lewis from playing if he doesn't practice this week.

"You try to set a protocol, with the most important thing them being healthy," he said. "Without seeing if they can play, it makes it more difficult to know if they can play."

Mangini said he thinks RB James Davis will be better suited after his stint in the season opener against the Vikings.

"I think he'll be more aware of (the change of speed)," he said. "You can talk about it and show it, but you have to experience it."

If Lewis can't go, RB Jerome Harrison should get more time, as well.

"He's healthy and he's practicing and is working his way back into the mix," Mangini said.

Other Injuries: RG Floyd Womack missed his second day of practice, as did Lewis. There's a possibility that OL Rex Hadnot could see some action this week. For the first time, he wasn't listed as out on the injury report. He was doubtful, along with Womack and Lewis.

Not Worried: Mangini said he's not concerned with players thinking this season is going to be the same as last year's 4-12 season.

"A lot of these guys weren't here last year and a lot of veteran players understand that it isn't about what happened last year," he said. "Every year, you see very radical shifts in teams. They corrected the mistakes they had and turned things around."

Favre Fare: QB Brett Favre was quoted as saying that he thought it was unfair that Mangini was fined $25,000 for his part in not listing him on the injury report last year. Mangini didn't want to get back into that discussion.

"That's closed for me."


The OBR Top Stories