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5 things to watch at Browns' voluntary veteran minicamp

There's an energy around Berea that players and coaches can't help but take note of lately.

The Browns on Tuesday will look to keep those good vibes flowing with the start of voluntary veteran minicamp as they continue to dive into their offseason workouts under first-year coach Hue Jackson.

As such, here's five things to keep an eye on tomorrow.

New-look OL gets first crack at 'fresh start'

Browns left guard Joel Bitonio made it clear the Browns offensive line has a chip on its shoulder after a season of highs and lows. Now, it'll get a chance to put it to use on the field as the unit begins a new chapter following the departures of center Alex Mack and right tackle Mitchell Schwartz.

"It's a fresh start for us," Bitonio said earlier this month. "We're going to have a few open positions on the line. I think there is an open competition to see what our best five guys is going to be. We have a lot of anxious guys.

The Browns return Bitonio, Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas and right guard John Greco. But Cleveland must replace key cogs in Mack and Schwartz. Two players who could see their roles expand are tackle Austin Pasztor and Cameron Erving, who was a first-round draft pick in 2015.

This week could offer us a glimpse of how things will take shape over the coming months.

LBs leading the charge to improve run defense

New Browns linebacker Demario Davis didn't mince words when asked how he might be able to help Cleveland's run defense, which struggled last season.

"As an inside backer, you have to be able to run and tackle. You have to be able to come downhill. You have to know how to fit up, where you are supposed to be, being in the right spot," Davis said.

Most of all, Davis said, "it's kind of on the linebackers to lead by example."

"You are kind of the quarterback of the defense. You have to be ready to play at a high standard. I just try to bring attitude and effort to wherever I am at, whatever the situation is," Davis continued. "I feel like if I can do my job at a high level, that is all I can be accountable for. When you are playing at a high level and doing the right things, other guys see that and they do the same."

And if shoring up the run defense indeed begins with its linebackers, then fellow LB Christian Kirksey, who's expected to have an increased role next season, could play a big role, too.

"For me, coming into my third year and being an experienced player with the Browns, it's a good feeling," Kirksey said last week. "It's kind of like one of those 'It's my turn, it's next man in.' So I'm really excited to see how I'll do, how this defense will do."

Back in February, defensive coordinator Ray Horton laid out something of a blueprint for what it'll take to get Cleveland's run defense back to where it used to be.

"It takes guys who are willing to get down in the dirt and do their job, and that means you have to come up and support," Horton said. "You come up from support. If that means you have to take on two blockers, you take on two blockers. It means that we are going to be fundamentally sound and we are going to be aggressive. Am I a miracle worker? I am not. Are we going to bust our butts to be better? Absolutely. Do I think we are going to be better? I think we are. I expect it. I am going to demand it."

How will Duke Johnson, Isaiah Crowell fit in the new Browns offense?

When asked to point out some of the Cleveland's top playmakers, associate coach Pep Hamilton turned his attention to Browns running backs Duke Johnson and Isaiah Crowell.

"Those guys have been very productive players for us and for this franchise," Hamilton said earlier this offseason. "We expect that they'll take another step as we move forward."

And with minicamp approaching, now we'll get to see where Johnson and Crowell potentially fit in Jackson's offensive system.

Johnson, the 5-foot-9, 210-pound speedster who played a big role in the Browns' pass game last season, caught 61 balls (the second-most by a rookie in franchise history) out of the backfield and averaged 5.5 yards a touch. In fact, Johnson is so versatile that he occasionally lined up as a receiver in 2015, catching his first NFL touchdown in that capacity against San Diego.

"I'm very excited to see what we can go out and do," Johnson said on Cleveland Browns Daily last week when asked about working with the new coaching staff.

And considering the success Jackson had with getting the most out of speedy Bengals RB Giovani Bernard in both the run and pass games as the offensive coordinator in Cincinnati, Johnson could find himself with an increased role next season.

"My whole role was when I was coming out of college and being drafted was creating mismatches out of the backfield and at wide receiver," Johnson said. "I think we're going to do more things like that."

Meanwhile, Crowell -- who's sort of the thunder to Johnson's lightning -- has become a steady option for the Browns, amassing 1,313 yards and 12 touchdowns in two seasons with the team.

"When I watch Crow, I just go watch the San Francisco game. I mean, 'are you kidding me?' The guy played big time," Jackson said in January of Crowell's outing against the 49ers, where he ran the ball 20 times for 145 yards and two scores.

"What I want him to understand, he's got to do that all the time. We're not looking for it some of the time. The big time backs in this league, they're able to produce all of the time. That's what my challenge would be to him. Let's take it to the next level and be that player week in and week out."

Who steps up at WR?

Jackson has made it clear he wants to bolster Cleveland's wide receiving corps.

"It's an area we need to address obviously," Jackson said while at the NFL owners' meetings in Boca Raton. "I've gone on the record saying that I like to have bigger, faster guys at the position."

The Browns, of course, can do that via the upcoming NFL Draft or through free agency.

But it's not like Cleveland doesn't have talent at the position. Brian Hartline and Andrew Hawkins are proven veterans while Darius Jennings, Marlon Moore, Terrelle Pryor and others can play various roles.

Still, minicamp should provide the Browns a look at what their current options are at the position and how they might best be able to build on strengths and address any shortcomings.

Where does Terrelle Pryor fit?

Speaking of Pryor, we might finally get a better idea of where the former Ohio State star fits on the Browns offense.

With his 6-foot-6 frame and uncanny athleticism, Pryor offers Cleveland an intriguing weapon on offense.

To be sure, Jackson said the coaching staff is still evaluating what role the one-time Buckeyes quarterback might have on the roster.

"He is a talented individual. He can do a lot of different things. We will find a way to showcase his talent and ability," Jackson said two weeks ago. "Obviously, we all know he is very gifted in a lot of different areas. We will see what we can put together to give him a chance to have success."

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