One of the most important periods of the offseason calendar has arrived in Cleveland.
Mandatory minicamp is set to begin Tuesday at CrossCountry Mortgage Campus, where a full roster will convene for the first time since the end of the 2021 season. The group will conduct only one practice in Berea, however, before visiting the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Wednesday and FirstEnergy Stadium on Thursday. Practices will be held at each location, too.
It should be a fun, productive end to the offseason program. Here are five things to watch throughout the week:
1. New offensive wrinkles
Eventually, we'll have a better look at how the Browns' offense will evolve with a quarterback room that includes Deshaun Watson, Jacoby Brissett and Joshua Dobbs.
The mobility and arm strength of Watson likely will lead to a few changes in the playbook, which has mostly been oriented toward play-action passes and the wide-zone blocking scheme under Head Coach Kevin Stefanski. Both traits could still be a big part of the offense, but the Browns have emphasized throughout the offseason that they want to mold the playbook to fit Watson's strengths.
"With a quarterback change, a wideout change, a tight end change, you're always going to highlight the things they do well and have done well throughout their career," Petzing said Wednesday. "If you're not doing that, you're not doing justice to your player. So we're looking at what (Watson) has done and where he's had success and the people around him and what may complement their strengths. It's going to be a big part of what we want to do in the offseason and training camp."
For the last two years, the Browns have led the league in usage of 13 personnel (3 TEs, 1 RB). Will that change with Austin Hooper no longer on the roster? The Browns also experimented with several pre-snap motion plays throughout organized team activities. Will that be a bigger part of the playbook moving forward?
We could have a better grasp on those answers after minicamp.
Check out photos of players and coaches during a visit to the Cleveland Cavaliers facility on June 9, 2022.
2. Where the rookies play
The Browns might not need multiple rookies to become instant starters in 2022, but they will be counting on a few guys for important depth.
On offense, David Bell is a candidate to become a starter if he shows consistency in the slot, and he could also be an intriguing option for an outside role opposite Amari Cooper. Jerome Ford will look to carve a spot in a running back room that has only added to the depth it already had last year in Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt, D'Ernest Johnson and Demetric Felton Jr.
On defense, DE Alex Wright and DT Perrion Winfrey will vie for spots in the defensive line rotation, and Martin Emerson Jr. will compete in a cornerback room that is one of the deepest positions on the roster.
Players won't be wearing pads in minicamp, so most of the position battles won't really start until training camp, but it will be interesting to see where the Browns slot some of their top rookies and who, if any, will receive looks in first-team roles.
3. Closer look at Cade
One rookie is already set to be an instant starter.
Cade York, the fourth-round draft pick from LSU, is the lone kicker on the roster and entrenched as the primary kicker for 2022. The Browns have sent York to FirstEnergy Stadium a few times to practice kicks, and he drilled a field goal from nearly 60 yards to conclude his kicking session last Wednesday during OTAs at CrossCountry Mortgage Campus.
We'll likely see a couple more kicking sessions in minicamp, offering York a chance to provide even more proof as to why the Browns have high confidence in him.
"To me, the sky's the limit," special teams coordinator Mike Priefer said. "He can be really, really good. I'm excited about him. He's the right guy. He's the right guy for our stadium, for our city and for the division that we play in."
4. The defensive tackle rotation
Two starting spots are up for grabs in the defensive interior. Taven Bryan and Jordan Elliott received a lot of the first-team reps in OTAs, but it wouldn't be surprising to possibly see the Browns rotate others — Winfrey, Tommy Togiai and Sheldon Day — at those spots before the season begins.
The Browns are confident two players from that bunch can emerge as starters. We'll see in minicamp if the Browns have any other combinations in mind for first-team snaps.
5. Receiver competition behind Amari
Cooper will undoubtedly be the top, featured receiver for the offense. Behind him, Anthony Schwartz, Donovan Peoples-Jones, Jakeem Grant Sr., Bell and other receivers will fight for spots.
Because players aren't wearing pads, minicamp practices are mostly geared toward working on the pass game, so it'll still be a good time to evaluate the receiver competition. The Browns are expecting Schwartz and Peoples-Jones to take a big step as they enter their second and third seasons, respectively.
"The guys that we have, I'm excited about," pass game coordinator/wide receivers coach Chad O'Shea said. "I think moving forward, it's a group of guys that we can win with in the pass game … It's a good combination of guys who have played and guys that are trying to get out on the field for the first time, but I'm excited about the group that we're coaching."