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7 players we’ll be watching at Browns veteran minicamp

Posted Jun 11, 2018

Cleveland’s players report Monday, hit the field Tuesday

It’s report day for members of Cleveland’s 90-man roster, though it won’t feel much like the first day of school.

The vast majority of the Browns’ roster has been in Berea throughout offseason workouts and OTAs, so it will serve as a mere formality Monday when they report for the team’s three-day, veteran minicamp.

It’s been a productive couple of months for the new-look Browns, and this portion of the offseason will conclude with the busiest three days yet. We’ll be on the field for all three of the practices, and these are the players we’ll be monitoring closest.

OL Austin Corbett -- Since the Browns tabbed him with the first pick in the second round, the former Nevada star has been working as left tackle with the second-team offense behind Shon Coleman while also getting a taste of left guard. In turn, offensive line staple Joel Bitonio, who has played every snap of his NFL career at left guard, has gotten a few snaps at left tackle as well. Though it would be a relative surprise to see Bitonio moved out of his usual position, it’s clear everything is on the table as the Browns look to craft their best possible offensive line. And the second-round rookie is certainly in the middle of this process.

WR Corey Coleman -- This is a big season for the third-year wide receiver, and he’ll be surrounded by the most talent he’s ever experienced in Cleveland. With Josh Gordon and Jarvis Landry lined up in various positions, Coleman has typically worked as the third receiver with the group. His potential remains sky high and certainly could be realized within the confines of this wide receivers room. The most important part of these past few months, though? Coleman has remained healthy. “I think the biggest thing for Corey is that he has been out here every day. He has been dependable. He has been dependable and accountable,” Browns coach Hue Jackson said. “He is working at it each and every day. For Corey, this is Year 3, and I think that he wants to take the next step in his development. He is working.”

LB Mychal Kendricks -- It’s unclear just how much Kendricks will be doing this week, but we’ll be watching regardless. Kendricks is learning his new playbook and methodically working back into the swing of things after undergoing offseason ankle surgery. If he’s active, he’ll likely begin at the middle linebacker spot behind Pro Bowler Joe Schobert. For our observations with Kendricks, it’s less about him competing for a starting spot and more about how he’ll be incorporated by defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. The Browns look poised to go from relying heavily on three linebackers to a system where they mix and match four.

DB Jabrill Peppers -- The second-year safety is playing much closer to the ball than he did during his rookie season in a move that is one of the biggest reasons why optimism abounds in Cleveland’s new-look secondary. Peppers lined up at strong safety in last year’s season finale and made a handful of big plays, including his first career interception. The March acquisition of former Green Bay cornerback Damarious Randall has allowed Peppers, a linebacker at Michigan, to play in a spot that’s a little more inside his comfort zone. Peppers remains active on special teams, too, where he’s competing to maintain his job as the Browns’ kick and punt returner.

DE Chris Smith -- One of Cleveland’s more under-the-radar acquisitions figures to play a key role along the defensive line. The versatile former Bengal can not only provide stress on quarterbacks from the edge but also from the middle, where he’s thrived as an interior pass rusher. The Browns have a number of talented, prototypical defensive tackles that will see plenty of snaps. Smith, though, gives the Browns some major options in nickel and dime situations. Don’t be surprised to see him on the field at the same time as both Myles Garrett and Emmanuel Ogbah.

QB Tyrod Taylor -- Perhaps the single biggest acquisition of Cleveland’s busy offseason, Taylor has made an immediate impression on his new teammates with his work ethic and leadership. He’s the Browns starting quarterback, and his presence has brought a long-missed sense of stability to this portion of the offseason. Taylor was an effective quarterback in Buffalo over the past three seasons, thriving with a mix of accurate passing, smart decision-making and mobility. He’s followed through with those traits on the practice field, and the Browns offense, which has been revamped with a handful of new playmakers, looks like a brand new unit because of it.

DB Denzel Ward -- The No. 4 pick in the 2018 NFL Draft hasn’t wasted any time proving he belongs. The former Ohio State star needed just a couple of weeks to move from the second-team defense to the first after showing he was up to the task with the elevated speed and talent level of the NFL. It’s one small step toward giving the Browns the lockdown cornerback they’ve lacked in recent years, but Ward has many more to make before he’s ready for the bright lights and big-time matchups he’ll face starting September with Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown. He’ll get three more opportunities this week to soak it all up before it’s time for summer break.

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