Skip to main content

Training Camp

Browns mailbag: Do any late-round picks have a shot at starting?

On Tuesday, we unveiled an article detailing absolutely everything you could possibly want to know about Browns training camp.

There's one piece of advice we'd like to put special emphasis upon before tackling this week's questions.



Sunscreen. Sunscreen. Sunscreen.

On to the questions!

Are there any late-round draft picks that have a real shot at starting? I.E. Ibraheim Campbell, Randall Telfer, Malcolm Johnson. -- Joshua T., Steeler Country, Pa.

This is a good question because of this regime's track record of playing the best players, no matter how they arrived on the roster. Think of all the playing time and starts Isaiah Crowell, K'Waun Williams and Taylor Gabriel received after making the team as undrafted rookie free agents last season.

Starting with Campbell, the Browns have seven players who were selected on Day 3 of the 2015 NFL Draft. Two of them, Telfer and cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, are currently listed on the active/non-football injury list. Telfer could return at some point this season while Ekpre-Olomu's status for 2015 is less certain.

So that leaves us with five.

Campbell, a fourth-round pick, is expected to play both strong and free safety but is looking up at a depth chart that features two Pro Bowlers, Tashaun Gipson and Donte Whitner, and one of the team's brightest spots of OTAs, Jordan Poyer.

Vince Mayle, also a fourth-round pick, was not able to catch passes during OTAs and mini-camp because of a broken thumb. He's expected to be back at full strength as he competes for a spot in a wide receiving corps that includes Dwayne Bowe, Brian Hartline, Andrew Hawkins, Taylor Gabriel, Travis Benjamin and more.

Gaines faces an even tougher situation in the secondary as he vies for playing time at cornerback. This group is as deep as it's ever been and has hopes of establishing itself as the NFL's best.

Johnson is an interesting one to ponder. He's the only player on the Browns' 90-man roster listed as a fullback. Does that mean he's the starter by default? It's too early to tell, but he was certainly active throughout OTAs and mini-camp in a variety of roles. There was purpose behind this sixth-round pick who could fill the Marcel Reece-type role in John DeFilippo's offensive scheme.

Hayes Pullard, a seventh-round pick, is playing at one of the Browns' deepest positions. As Browns coach Mike Pettine mentioned Monday, the Browns have what he considers to be three starters -- Karlos Dansby, Craig Robertson and Christian Kirksey -- manning two spots at inside linebacker.

What is your best Browns memory? -- Jack C., Lakewood

This one's easy.

I was 8 years old and at my friend's house down the street. We probably played some backyard football early in the day before watching the Browns take on the Steelers for a late-October showdown in 1993.

Eric Metcalf's 91-yard punt return gave the Browns a 14-0 lead in the second quarter. Back-to-back Barry Foster touchdowns tied it up going into halftime. With the Steelers leading 23-21, Metcalf did it again, returning a punt 75 yards to score what would be the game-winning touchdown.

This was football at its best along Lake Erie.

I've seen some blogs leaving Jordan Poyer off the 53-man roster in their early predictions. What are your thoughts? Poyer barely make it or is he a valuable piece? Thanks! -- Tony C., Astoria, Oregon

It's too early to make predictions on the 53-man roster, but Poyer should be in good shape if he continues to play the way he did at OTAs and mini-camp. He made the most of a big opportunity, as he filled the void left by Gipson, who did not participate in OTAs, and picked up valuable first-team repetitions. Pettine, defensive coordinator Jim O'Neil, secondary coach Jeff Hafley and Poyer's teammates all heaped on the praise whenever they were asked about him.

"He has really taken advantage of the reps that he's been given, and he's done a great job," O'Neil said. "His pre-snap communication has been outstanding. He's improved in man coverage. I know he'll tackle. He's been a guy who has really stepped it up this offseason, and I'm excited about all those guys."

How will Alex Mack transition to the OL after his terrible injury? -- Daniel K., Midlothian, Va.

Mack was in good enough shape to be a full participant at OTAs, but the Browns understandably exercised caution with their Pro Bowl center. Pettine told us last week that Mack would be good to go for training camp but, like Joe Thomas, could receive some occasional days of rest. When Mack's out, John Greco or Cameron Erving are capable of filling the void on the practice field.

"When you see (Mack) and Bitonio and Joe Thomas next to each other -- and that's not a slight on Greco or Cam or even Mitchell (Schwartz) -- to see those three guys potential Pro Bowl type players out there, that's a heck of a starting point," Pettine said. "The anchor of our offense, you feel like you're in great hands with those guys out there."

What will be the deciding factor on who becomes the first string running back for week 1? -- Lucas S., North Olmsted

Pettine agreed the running back room might be the most competitive throughout training camp. And it goes beyond Terrance West, Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson. Pettine made a point in both his interview with and with local reporters to emphasize how much he and the coaching staff like the promise of Glenn Winston and Shaun Draughn.

In a meeting with reporters in June, DeFilippo said he likes to go with the player who has the "hot hand." That means we could see a lot of back-and-forth with who's running with the first-team offense throughout training camp. It's a competition that promises to go all the way into the build-up to the season opener.

One thing to watch with West and Crowell is their improvement in pass protection and their ability to make plays out of the backfield as pass-catchers. That could go a long way toward determining a Day 1 starter.

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content