More than Meets the Eye

The allocation of a few players to NFL Europe is a small off-season transaction, which generally slips by with little fanfare. With the keen eyesight of his kind, however, The Owl senses some larger stories which might be emerging. The most recent addition to Bernie's Insiders offers his thoughts on the selection of Browns players sent to NFL Europe.

Maybe it's significant and maybe it isn't, but a team satisfied with its place kicker usually doesn't sign an extra leg for training camp until after the college draft.

The Browns chose a different route Wednesday by signing Jay Taylor, a kicker who spent the 2002 training camp wearing brown and orange. Taylor demonstrated a strong leg, but he had difficulty kicking the ball between the uprights.

Taylor is one of four players being assigned to NFL Europe; he has not been assigned a team. The other players are wide receiver Dimitrius Breedlove, headed to the Barcelona Dragons, tight end Chad Mustard, bound for the Rhein Fire and defensive back Kalvin Pearson, headed for the Frankfurt Galaxy.

More on the those three later. Taylor is intriguing.

As the season wore on, Phil Dawson's kickoffs got shorter and shorter. Coach Butch Davis talked about "K-Balls," balls used strictly for kicking, and the cold weather as contributors for Dawson's short kicks. Those excuses go only so far.

Look at the playoff game against the Steelers Jan. 5 in Pittsburgh as an example. The Steelers' Jeff Reed opened the game with a kick to the end zone for a touchback. Kicking in the same direction in the second quarter, Dawson kicked to the Steelers' 11 and the Steelers 30. When Reed kicked against the wind in the second period the ball was fielded on the Cleveland 25.

Dawson's kicks rarely made it inside the 10 the second half of the season. Davis was asked once whether he would consider adding a kickoff specialist and he said he did not like the idea of using a roster spot for that job. Dawson is accurate on field goals, although that also fell off last season. He made 22 of 28 (78.5 percent) of his field goal tries. He was 22 of 25 in 2001. He connected on attempts of 52 and 50 in 2002, something he didn't do his his first three seasons.

Dawson is good enough and competitor enough to fend off a challenge from a capable opponent. But the news the Browns have his challenger under contract is a message the coaches want to see more from him.

Here is how The Owl sees the other players headed for Europe working out:

Can Chad Mustard catch the ball? And if he can, is he fast enough to get open and run away from tacklers? Can he block?

These are questions the Browns want answered. No one will know until Mustard gets a chance to catch up with his development as a tight end. He is listed as an offensive lineman on the Browns practice squad.

We keep hearing how important the tight end is in the scheme offensive coordinator Bruce Arians runs. The Browns do not have a great tight end. Mark Campbell, Steve Heiden and Aaron Shea are more like backups. None is a complete player.

Davis believes Darnell Sanders will be that player. Sanders did not get much opportunity to show that ability in games.

The Owl wonders why the Browns sent wide receiver Dimitrius Breedlove and not Frisman Jackson to the Barcelona Dragons.

Jackson could use the playing time in Europe if he is part of the future in Butch Davis' mind.

Jackson was better than Breedlove in training camp last summer. Breedlove was inconsistent catching the football. Jackson had better hands.

One attribute Breedlove has cannot be taught. He is fast. A second training camp could be all he needs if he gets enough P.T. in Barcelona.

Kalvin Pearson is the only player headed to Europe that played for the Browns last season. He played in five games and then lost his position when strong safety Robert Griffith broke his shoulder.

The injury meant the Browns needed a safety. Luckily for them, Michael Jameson, a 2001 draft choice, was on the practice squad. Davis activated Jameson and put Pearson on the practice squad. Pearson stayed on the practice squad the rest of the season.

The OBR Top Stories