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Cleveland Browns’ OTAs enter second week with key storylines

Posted May 28, 2014

Senior Editor Vic Carucci identifies five key topics to follow in the Browns’ second week of OTAs.

Rookie running back Terrance West

Here are five key storylines for the Browns’ second week of OTAs:

Johnny Manziels progress: He began last week as the No. 3 quarterback behind Brian Hoyer and Tyler Thigpen. By the end of the week, Manziel looked as if he had done well enough to merit moving ahead of Thigpen, who struggled. The two most impressive parts of Manziel’s game so far are his ability to sell play fakes and the speed and athleticism he displays when he rolls out. There have been plays where he sells the fake so convincingly, the defense bites on it hard and leaves him a wide open half of the field to either throw or run. And when he throws, he can count on having at least one wide open receiver.

Justin Gilberts progress: He is a tremendous athlete whose size and long arms should make him a natural to crack the starting lineup right away. But first, Gilbert’s mind needs to catch up with his body. He still seems to be thinking more than reacting. He has to trust what he knows and allow his physical skills to take over. The Browns are allowing him to ease his way into the process and giving him the best opportunity to gain confidence as a backup before making him a starter.

Billy Winn: He has been an absolute beast in workouts – or, at least, as much of a beast as anyone can be in non-contact sessions. Winn clearly seems determined to make a big splash in his third NFL season. He seems totally at home in the Browns’ new defensive scheme, which takes full advantage of his quickness and explosiveness. Winn also appears to have more bulk and strength that allow him to win most of his one-on-one battles at the line.

Competition at running back: The Browns’ non-existent running game of 2013 received a significant boost when the team signed Ben Tate as a free agent. Since then, however, it seemingly has moved to an even higher level. Tate has looked solid in workouts, but rookie Terrance West has easily been one of the more impressive performers through the offseason. He shows tremendous acceleration, good change-of-direction skills and superb vision. West glides more than runs, which is impressive for a thick-bodied athlete.

Competition at wide receiver: New faces are going to see plenty of playing time at wide receiver, and it has nothing to do with the reported uncertainty concerning Josh Gordon in the No. 1 spot. The Browns have a couple of pretty good candidates from which to choose for the No. 2 position and it’s conceivable there will be a lot of rotation. So far, one free-agent signee, Anthony Armstrong, looks as if he could be the front-runner at No. 2 and is showing skills that would make him a solid No. 1, if needed. He demonstrates good speed and athleticism, which he is able to maximize with the savvy he has as a 31-year-old veteran. Earl Bennett, another free-agent acquisition, is a polished route runner and figures to be at least a decent complementary player. Miles Austin, yet another free-agent signee, is still trying to get himself into good enough shape to practice, so we’ll reserve judgment on him until he hits the field.

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