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Training Camp

Al Saunders approaches young, talented and crowded WRs room with care

Al Saunders describes his Browns wide receivers as his children and, indeed, the room is a young bunch. Only veterans Andrew Hawkins and Marlon Moore have more than four years of NFL experience, and the average age of the group is a hair older than 24.

And Saunders, who enters his first season with Cleveland as its senior offensive assistant and wide receivers coach, is trying to get the most out of the 12 as the Browns prepare for Day 10 of training camp.

"My job is to make sure they do the very best job they can and to watch their improvement. They're kind of like my kids or maybe my grandkids at my age," said Saunders, the longtime and accomplished coach who turns 70 in February.

But don't conflate youth with a lack of talent. The kids are all right.

"It's a wonderful group, our meeting room is just phenomenal and they've all developed great bonds with each other, they help each other, they enjoy working with each other," Saunders said. "And you can't teach experience, but what you can teach is fundamentals and technique and learning how to learn and effort and all those things."

Following an offseason in which Cleveland made a collaborative effort to bolster the receivers room, it also finds itself with considerable depth at the position. And, against that backdrop, there is competition for a limited number of roster spots. The Browns see that as a good thing.

"It's a fun problem to have right now. I like that. I'm glad you guys think that we do have some guys on our team now. That's a good thing," Jackson said, laughing, earlier this month. "We have a lot of different guys so that's fun, and we'll be able to pick what we think will be the best group as we move forward, but it's so early."

Take a look inside the ninth day of Browns Training Camp.

"Quite honestly, I think if you took our roster and looked at every single receiver we have, in my opinion, every one of those guys has the capability of playing in the National Football League," Saunders said.

"Now, some qualities and some needs from other teams and from our team will differ. But I think they all have the physical skills that if somebody develops those guys and gives them the opportunity to play, I think every one of those guys has the opportunity to play in the National Football League."

As the Browns prepare for the preseason opener Friday at Green Bay, they'll continue to evaluate who best fits the offense. From Hawkins to first-round draft pick Corey Coleman or Terrelle Pryor, this would appear to be a diverse, multi-talented group.

"I told them the first meeting I had with them when the year started, my goal is first of all that every single guy sitting in this room has an opportunity to enjoy a career in the National Football League in some way shape or form," Saunders said. "There's only so many seats in our boat but there are a lot of lifeboats out there around the league that they may have an opportunity to fill."

And regardless of what happens, Saunders, who said he coaches every receiver "like a first-round draft choice," will be there to help mold each and every one of them.

"They're wonderful kids," he said, "and what happens and where everybody ends up, we haven't even started to evaluate that yet because we haven't played football yet."

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