Organized Team Activities – What’s the Latest?
Despite being bombarded in the local and national news for who is not at voluntary practice, the Cleveland Browns actually held team activities over the past few weeks. This is last time the guys will be together until training camp starts in late July. There were headlines coming out for multiple position groups, which could make for interesting competitions this summer. Let’s look further into what is going on in Berea.
Elephant in the Room
Odell Beckham Jr. has not been a participant in every OTA practice – just to put it out there for the millionth time. Would I like to see him there every day? Yes, of course – I want to see camaraderie within the wide receiver room as well as between that group and the quarterbacks. However, I know he will be a solid (putting it mildly) player this regular season and hopefully postseason. Making the most of his time at practices is all I am looking for at this point by OBJ.
Duke Johnson has also a been a no-show for the Browns’ practices. His situation has been different, as he (with help from his agent) is looking forward to moving on to a situation where he is more predominantly featured in the team’s offense. I don’t really know what I would say to Johnson and his representatives other than the team does not appear to want to trade you and you will have a role in this offense (at least for the first half of the season). Duke has a right to not show up, but I expect Kitchens will make sure he and all the running backs get a ton of work during training camp.
In a not surprising move, Genard Avery has been spending time at both outside linebacker as well as defensive end. I would love for him to be this team’s Swiss Army Knife, as he would provide depth to a group featuring Myles Garrett and Olivier Vernon and could be another great pass rusher on third downs. Meanwhile, keeping him at linebacker at times will limit the Browns having to employ either a rookie for a career backup as a starter.
Speaking of rookies, Sione Takitaki and Mack Wilson have been working with the second units at the Mike (middle) and Will (weak side) linebacker spots, respectively. This is how things should work in the NFL; for so long the Browns had no talent and depth so rookies came in and had to be the “guy” immediately. Can one or both jump into the starting roles this season? Of course, but I would rather them prove it day in and day out on the field first.
Adarius Taylor is the veteran who has been getting first team reps at the Sam (strong side) linebacker spot. I would be a little surprised if he holds on to that job for the season (at least full-time) but a part-time role would not be a bad move by the club. I am very eager to see what he, Avery, Takitaki, and Wison do in camp this summer and how the linebacker position group shakes out.
Waiting in the Wings
Highlights have been prominently displayed featuring good plays made by wide receiver Rashard Higgins. The fourth year target for Baker Mayfield had a slow start to his career, but came on strong to end the 2018 campaign. Couple that with the fact he will likely see opponent’s fourth best defensive back at any given time, and Higgins has a real shot to make some plays for this offense. I would be surprised to see him eclipse Antonio Callaway as the team’s third wide out, but knowing (and owning) his role can help himself (via future contract possibilities) in addition to the team.
The Browns’ coaching staff are really liking what Kareem Hunt has been doing on and off the field since becoming a member of the team. Staying healthy, making wise decisions off the field, and maintaining an appetite for football that can wait until November are three vital traits that Hunt will need this offseason. I hope he slides right in and looks like the 2017 version of the guy running the ball, but many things need to go right in the next five months prior to that occurring.