While the NFL summer months generally toss the spotlight on the incoming rookie class and second-year players hoping for big sophomore seasons, there are five veteran Browns players hoping to use OTAs, minicamp and training camp as a springboard for success in 2015.
DL Billy Winn
One year ago during OTAs, Winn was regularly stealing the show as a disruptive force during practices. A grocery list of nagging injuries during the 2014 season slowed down Winn a bit, but he still managed to appear in 13 games, starting five of them, while registering 31 tackles and an interception. The competition in the defensive line room is much steeper now, though. Three new faces – Randy Starks, Danny Shelton and Xavier Cooper – are looking to carve out their roles with a renewed focus on stopping the run.
WR Dwayne Bowe
Is Bowe still a receiver capable of hauling in 70 receptions and 1,000 yards like he did for several seasons with the Chiefs? The Browns are banking on Bowe to replace Miles Austin as the club's go-to target in clutch situations. And in the new Cleveland offense tailored to players' strengths, the club is eager to see the 30-year-old Bowe away from Andy Reid's short passing system in Kansas City – where he was often a decoy to setup screen passes to running backs.
LB Barkevious Mingo
We still haven't seen the real Barkevious Mingo. As a rookie in 2013, the LSU product galloped out of the gates with a sack in his first three games, but admitted there were times where the NFL game was moving too fast. And last season, Mingo played the entire season essentially with one shoulder and still proved to be effective in disrupting quarterbacks (ask Andrew Luck). Now that Mingo understands the Browns defense – better yet, opposing offenses – there's belief Cleveland could get the full package in 2015 from 2013's No. 6 overall pick.
OL John Greco
The ninth-year veteran has welcomed first-round pick Cameron Erving with open arms, but he's fully aware he'll have to compete to retain his spot at right guard. By this point of his career, the Toledo product is used to it and embraces it.
"People are like, 'oh, you're benched,' or, 'oh, you're gone.' It just creates competition. I have to play hard no matter what," Greco said. "I have to essentially act like there's a first-rounder every year. You can't just become satisfied."
WR Travis Benjamin
The 25-year-old has several things going for him entering the summer: He led the Browns in touchdown receptions a year ago and special teams coordinator Chris Tabor gave him and his punt returning skills a vote of confidence in a recent press conference.
"I expect him to be great," Tabor said.
This offseason, the wide receiver room got much more crowded with Bowe, Brian Hartline and fourth-round pick Vince Mayle. Benjamin's performance this summer could dictate how large his role is when September arrives.