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5 things to watch at Browns OTAs

The Browns kicked off OTAs Tuesday and will be holding practices in each of the next three weeks leading to mandatory minicamp


The offseason program took another step Tuesday as the Browns took the practice field for the start of Phase Three — the period where teams can run organized team activities and hold drills that more closely resemble a full team practice.

The Browns won't quite have a "full" team, though, because OTAs are voluntary. They won't have a full roster at CrossCountry Mortgage Campus until June 14, when the three-day period of mandatory minicamp begins, but a decent chunk of the team is still in Cleveland now to start laying groundwork for 2022.

Here's some of the things worth keeping an eye on in Berea over the next three weeks:

1. How the offense will adapt with Watson

This will be one of the big storylines discussed all the way until Week 1. Prepare to hear plenty of chatter about it throughout the next several weeks, in particular, since OTAs will present the Browns with their first chance to use Watson in a team practice setting.

The Browns could be making several changes to their offense with Watson now under center, or they could deviate very little from the play styles Head Coach Kevin Stefanski has used in his first two years in Cleveland. The Browns have said they'll wait to see Watson practice first before those decisions are official, and now they'll have the next four weeks to finally formulate those plans.

Check out photos of players and coaches working throughout the offseason

2. Bell's slot usage

Plenty of focus will be on Bell regardless of where he lines up — the third-round rookie WR has an opportunity to carve an immediate role in a receiver room with lots of spaces open behind Amari Cooper. 

The slot position could be Bell's fastest way of climbing the depth chart and taking a big target load as a rookie. The Browns figure to give Bell plenty of reps from that spot between now and training camp, and if the sure-handed receiver can make them count, he could be a top receiving option as early as Week 1.

3. Emerson's slot usage

Both slot positions on the Browns are open, and both could be captured by rookies. The defensive slot role is open, too, after they traded Troy Hill to the Rams, and the Browns' replacement for it could've been made a day before the trade when the they selected Martin Emerson Jr. with the 68th overall pick.

Emerson certainly doesn't have to start his career at the position, though. The Browns have depth at corner and could turn to Greg Newsome II, who played inside on occasion last year, or another one of the guys in the room to be the slot man. But if the Browns believe it could be Emerson, then they could give him a large share of snaps at the position in OTAs.

4. Where does Winfrey start?

The Browns' DT rotation is wide open. Both starters from last season have departed, and the Browns' two biggest additions at the position have been free-agent acquisition Taven Bryan and fourth-round pick Perrion Winfrey, whom some draft analysts believed could've been an early Day 2 pick.

No position battles will be decided in OTAs, but a good first impression from Winfrey could go a long way toward carving a big role as a rookie, whether that comes early in the season or later. He had 5.5 sacks last season at Oklahoma and could become a talented pass rusher in the interior with some more fine-tuning.

5. Other rookie standouts

Third-round rookie DE Alex Wright will be one to watch, too, as are any kicks from fourth-round K Cade York. Wright will be vying for a role in the defensive end rotation, while York is the lone kicker on the roster and will be an intriguing watch throughout all minicamp and training camp practices. 

Fifth-round RB Jerome Ford, sixth-round WR Michael Woods II and seventh-round picks DE Isaiah Thomas and C Dawson Deaton will be worth watching as well and will be competing for roles on a roster packed with talent and depth. Another name worth watching could be undrafted WR Isaiah Weston, who impressed in rookie minicamp and is at a position with some of the most openings of any spot on the roster.

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