Browns tight end Jordan Cameron
With some of the Cleveland Browns’ rookies – including quarterback Johnny Manziel – taking part in the annual NFLPA Rookie Premiere event in Los Angeles this weekend, it’s a good time to examine the progress some of the team’s veteran players have shown during OTAs.
Here’s a rundown:
Jordan Cameron: This really shouldn’t be a surprise, given his breakout season in 2013, but Cameron has managed to steal much of the pass-catching show during OTAs. And that’s even while Josh Gordon has looked like, well, the same Josh Gordon that established himself as arguably the best receiver in the NFL last season. Cameron is clearly loving the very tight-end friendly offense of Kyle Shanahan that allows him to often find wide-open spaces in the secondary – especially on deep routes. And the frequent play-fake/bootleg action of the quarterbacks only enhances Cameron’s ability to separate from defenders. The coaching focus with him has been on doing a better job of reading and understanding defenses, and so far Cameron seems to be responding well.
Buster Skrine: Don’t try to tell him to step aside while first-round draft pick Justin Gilbert takes his place as the starting cornerback opposite Joe Haden. The rest of us might be doing that in the media, but all Skrine has done is look like he belongs on the field as much as possible. He is holding up consistently well in coverage, making plays on the ball, and showing the customary aggressiveness that has defined his past three seasons with the Browns. Skrine is a fierce competitor who uses criticism and doubts directed his way as motivational fuel. Meanwhile, Gilbert seems a bit tentative as he learns how to make the transition to the NFL.
Paul Kruger: The outside linebacker arrived for OTAs looking leaner than he did last season, after joining the Browns as a free agent from Baltimore. As a result, he is showing greater quickness, especially as a pass-rusher. One area of Kruger’s game that the new Browns’ coaching staff is addressing is his tendency to come off the ball slowly, waiting to see how the opposing offensive tackle sets up to block him before making a counter move, rather than simply driving straight ahead with maximum power and explosiveness. Kruger also seems to be performing with a greater sense of urgency after a disappointing 2013 season when he had only 4.5 sacks.
Barkevious Mingo: Although coach Mike Pettine has spoken about the need for the second-year outside linebacker to add some weight, the reality is that Mingo is a smallish player for his position. And he’s likely to remain that way. Nevertheless, the Browns’ coaches seem to be doing a good job of getting the most out of Mingo’s tremendous quickness and athleticism, especially in pass coverage. Mingo has shown noticeably better awareness when it comes to mirroring receivers and tracking the ball. His ability to defend deep passes is a must for Pettine’s blitz-heavy scheme that will leave holes vacated by members of the secondary rushing the quarterback.
Phil Taylor: The big tackle just continues to be a mauler in the middle of the Browns’ defense, often stopping running plays before they can even start. The new defensive scheme is a perfect fit for someone with his considerable size, strength, and athleticism.
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