What I’m Taking Away From the Browns Offseason Training Activities (OTAs):
1) – It’s much easier to lose a starting job now than it is to earn one
Even if a player performs flawlessly throughout the OTAs in May and June, the athlete still has to continue to excel in July and August to assure his position on the field. However, should a member of the Browns falter (i.e. missed assignments, underperforming or forgetting tasks on a given play, etc.) the coaches will make note of it and the player will likely carry that burden with them until he proves he can consistently correct his mistakes. An example of this from OTAs has been the play of Colt McCoy, whom (according to reporters) has not performed exceptionally. Can he still become the starting quarterback in 2012? Possibly, but he will have to play near perfectly from here on out to do so – assuming he is still on the roster in September.
2) – Judging the players’ physical portions/abilities should done with a grain of salt
This holds true especially for running backs and linemen (both offensive and defensive). A majority of their play relies on playing physically to defeat their competitors during the play to achieve individual success, which likely leads a good play by the Browns. All running backs on the roster (from Trent Richardson to Chris Ogbonnaya) know how to run hard and hit the necessary spot during a running play. For these athletes and offensive lineman, it is easy to block air and opponents in shorts; likewise defensive lineman have to push and try to get around players without pads. All of these groups should perform pretty well in OTAs, so the real judging of these physical abilities should occur in training camp.
3) – The importance in this offseason for the Browns is evident
It’s no secret that there is pressure on the organization to improve as a whole and win more games – starting now. From the owner, to the general manager and president, the perception is that they have not been as present at activities as they could be. The fact that both Randy Lerner and Mike Holmgren both attended the voluntary workouts and focused intently on the team, (when that is not likely the case with other NFL teams) speaks volumes. The 2012 season has begun and everyone wants the Browns to get better from day one; this should (at the worst) quell some of the concerns and fears of fans that believe that the front office does not care about the team. The only issue that could arise is the possibility of micro managing which would be viewed as unproductive and may lead to Browns players second-guessing themselves regularly. Fortunately, I believe Holmgren and Lerner know where the fine line is and will be engaged but not overbearing.
4) – Many non-skilled positions focus on mental aspects and learning
This is a very important period for younger players (especially rookies) who are looking towards getting some playing time and contributing on offense or defense. Learning the playbook and what to do on every single scenario definitely boosts a player’s opportunity to be on the field. Although this does not guarantee success, it is definitely a prerequisite; (as mentioned previously) these learned techniques and tasks in May and June must be combined with speed and strength in July and August for a player to be active on Sundays in the fall.
5) – This is a glorified passing scrimmage
The major focus during the OTAs for fans and reporters centers mainly around quarterbacks, receivers, defensive backs, and to a lesser extent linebackers (these groups are primarily featured in the passing game). The coaching staff is hoping these practices demonstrate communication and timing between quarterbacks and receivers – especially among the projected starting units. On the defensive side, the team looks for members of the Browns’ to have the necessary speed and ability to be in the right place at the right time (while not being able to jam receivers). It will be very exciting to see Brandon Weeden anticipate Greg Little’s break on a ten-yard out route and hit him in stride, but until he can continually do it over the next few months, these sessions carry little weight. Additionally, Sheldon Brown could break up multiple passes in OTAs but whether he slows down and gets beaten by the younger wide outs or not (when the pads come on) remains to be seen.
I’m not diminishing the offseason training activities – they are valuable sessions in the offseason and a good starting point – but the team must build upon these practices if they want to get that spike in their record. The bottom line for the fans is that OTAs give us a little taste of football in late spring, but the main course is still waiting in the wings (which many of us will be looking forward to discuss and debate).