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Training Camp

7 biggest storylines at Cleveland Browns training camp

In less than 24 hours, the Cleveland Browns begin their five-month journey that is the 2015 football season.

These storylines promise to make the biggest headlines during the first month at training camp. 

1)     *Josh McCown expected to lead a revamped Cleveland offense*

Don't tell the Cleveland coaching staff it can't be effective – and win – with McCown behind center. A rejuvenated Mike Pettine has been coaching on the offensive side of the ball and developing the playbook and strategies alongside first-year offensive coordinator John DeFilippo. Expect a heavy dose of ground control football behind three hungry running backs and also a wider variety of matchup passing plays with McCown standing tall behind one of the NFL's best offensive lines.

2)     *How improved is the defensive line? *

The players are new in the room and so is the attitude. Former Miami Dolphin Randy Starks has upped the intensity for this unit in practice. Danny Shelton's commitment to improving and passion for football are contagious. The coaching staff has high hopes for third-round pick Xavier Cooper, who could emerge as a rotational force this season. Add this on top of a healthy Phil Taylor, Desmond Bryant, and John Hughes and that allows defensive coordinator Jim O'Neil to start cooking.

3)     *Duke Johnson, Vince Mayle, Terrelle Pryor and other new offensive weapons*

There's no sugarcoating it: The Browns' offense last season lacked a lethal punch when it came to explosive plays down the field. There was only so much Andrew Hawkins and Taylor Gabriel could do. Armed with new philosophies on offense, which include increased throwing to running backs and much more vertical passing, the Browns have a new cast of characters full of veterans and youngsters who appear capable of doing the heavy lifting on offense.


4)     *Will rookie offensive lineman Cameron Erving win a starting spot?*

There are two routes this situation will likely go in training camp. One, Erving outplays John Greco at the right guard position and is in the lineup Week 1 against the Jets. Or two, Greco and Erving are in a dead heat, the coaching staff opts to start Erving on the bench but the versatile lineman from Florida State will be coached up and ready to enter the lineup at any position when an injury strikes.

5)     *Who will emerge next to Paul Kruger as another pass rushing force?*

This might be the most underrated storyline in camp. With a banged-up Barkevious Mingo and Jabaal Sheard, the Browns were not hitting the quarterback enough in 2014. A second-round pick was spent on a pure pass rusher in Nate Orchard, who had a whopping 18.5 sacks last season at Utah. Scott Solomon is seen more as an edge-setter in the run game on early downs, but his relentless attitude in practice caught his teammates' attention and more experience could mean more pass-rushing opportunities. Don't write off Mingo yet, either. When he's healthy, he can regularly beat offensive linemen and live in the backfield. For Cleveland's 2013 first-round pick, it'll be about consistently finishing plays. 

6)     *Sophomore sensations?*

Cleveland knew it would need contributions from its later-round and undrafted rookies in 2014; it just didn't know how abundant the impact would be. Left guard Joel Bitonio is already regarded as fringe Pro Bowler. Wide receiver Taylor Gabriel has been studying tape of smaller receivers Antonio Brown and Steve Smith and is a dark horse candidate to lead the Browns in receiving yards. There's a reason running back Isaiah Crowell is selling #FeedTheCrow t-shirts – his eight touchdowns last year weren't a fluke. Then there's cornerback K'Waun Williams and linebacker Christian Kirksey on defense, both of whom are considered luxury pieces in a unit gunning for the top-five in the NFL.

7)     *How much will Johnny Manziel, Justin Gilbert, Isaiah Crowell and Terrance West improve in their 2nd year?*

Three of the Browns' most talented rookies were inactive for games last year because of off-the-field issues. It should be noted West led the Browns in rushing last year (673 yards) and has been working out with several other NFL players during his summer vacation in Baltimore. Crowell will have to prove his fumbling problem is behind him. Manziel stayed out of the headlines during his break except for some workouts with Monday Night Football announcer and former NFL head coach Jon Gruden – something Pettine strongly endorsed. Pettine also did not 100 percent close the door on Manziel starting. And then there's Gilbert, who clearly made a splash in OTAs – but can that consistency translate in pads and live-game settings at a jam-packed cornerback position? Time will tell.

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