Prior to April 1, Cleveland Browns coach Rob Chudzinski knew only what he saw on tape about his players. Ten weeks, 10 organized team activities sessions and two weeks of minicamp later, and the head coach sees far more than what he saw on film.
Chudzinski sees genuine desire and a hunger from his charges, and left them with the message, “that we want to stay on the course that we are on.”
“What I know now is that these guys want to win,” Chudzinski said following the final minicamp practice on Thursday. “They are hungry; they are willing to work, and they are willing to do the things that we need them to do to put them in the best position to win. I love the attitude in the locker room. I think the guys have bought in and really are on the same page with what we want.
“We want to come back and guys need to make gains. Think about the things that they want to do and get done and come back hungry when we start training camp. That’s something I’m excited about already, to see our fans out here on the field and be out here for training camp with them, hooting and hollering. I am excited about that.”
During the 10 weeks of offseason workouts and meetings with players, Browns offensive coordinator Norv Turner and defensive coordinator Ray Horton installed their respective systems.
By the end of the OTAs, the Browns entered their second minicamp of the offseason without needing to install anything new. They focused strictly on running plays that were already installed during the OTA sessions.
“I’m really pleased with the progress we’ve made,” Chudzinski said. “Going out and starting with (strength and conditioning coach) Brad Roll in the strength room and from a conditioning standpoint, we’ve had some big gains from some guys in there. He’s done a great job with them.
“(It was about) us getting to know them and to see them for the first time on the field and evaluate them as much as you can in this section of time, and them getting to know us and understand the system and what we’re expecting from them as members of the Cleveland Browns, how we practice, how we prepare and what we want from a culture standpoint.”
Although he was happy with his players’ progress, Chudzinski knows the team is not yet where he wants it to be to kick off the 2013 regular season against the Miami Dolphins on Sunday, Sept. 8 at FirstEnergy Stadium.
“The thing we want to do with training camp that we really haven’t done or have been able to do out here is be able to see the physical part of football,” Chudzinski said. “Seeing the toughness and pushing through some of those things. Guys getting a chance to really compete physically, that will be the theme, and that will be what we are trying to do along with bring guys along from an execution standpoint.
“We’re on the right track. We’ve got a lot of work to do; we’ve still got a long ways to go. There will be bumps in the road, as we know, but we’ll continue along that course and stay on course.”
DEVELOPMENT AT WIDE RECEIVER
During the offseason workouts, Chudzinski has seen a marked improvement from his corps of wide receivers, whom he said “realize they have to be in great shape” to play within Turner’s system.
“They have understood and are more detailed in their routes, which is something in this system from a timing standpoint that is very critical,” Chudzinski said. “You have seen that growth from that group as well. You look at a guy like
“Everybody has their turn, and again, this is very skewed and geared towards the offense and the skill guys. When pads come on and guys are going over the middle and there is press coverage and some of those other things, that is the next step that they have to take.”
LEADING THE DEFENSE
For the second time in his career, inside linebacker D’Qwell Jackson is making an adjustment to a 3-4 defense. When the Browns drafted him out of the University of Maryland in 2006, Jackson adjusted quickly and posted 100-tackle seasons in each of his first three years. He also led the league in tackles with 188 total stops in 2008.
He has quickly made an impression on his new head coach.
“D’Qwell has been great,” Chudzinski said. “You guys know from a leadership and character standpoint what he brings to the table, but he has been right at home, adjusting back playing the 3-4. Obviously, he has had that time before in a 3-4, so it has been no problem. It looks like he has been there his whole career.”