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Browns Mailbag: How has Nick Harris, rest of O-Line looked in camp?

Staff writer Anthony Poisal answers your questions every week


Week 1 is just around the corner.

In 32 days, the Browns will be in Charlotte to officially kick off the regular season, and in two days, they'll open the preseason down in Jacksonville. They've crossed off 11 of 17 total training camp practices, giving us a good glimpse at how certain areas of the roster will look when the real season begins.

We're providing a few updates on that front here and answering questions about the O-Line, Demetric Felton, Josh Dobbs and two promising young players on the defense.

How is the offensive line looking in camp? Not only for the returning starters, but for new center and the backups at each position? - Victor Von D., Columbus, OH

Everything has looked smooth so far with Nick Harris, who's set to replace longtime center JC Tretter in the interior and will be the only new starter on the O-Line this year. He's entering his third NFL season and spent much of this offseason in Berea working with the training staff to add weight to prepare for his biggest season yet.

"I tried really hard this offseason to take care of my body composition, put on some weight and put on some muscle," he said earlier in training camp. "Going through these practices, I've realized I feel a little bit different, a little bit heavier. It feels good."

Harris, who's 6-foot-1, has long known he’s slightly smaller than most offensive linemen. His technique, however, has been sound since his college career at Washington and allows him to keep control against blockers. The added weight should certainly help him win even more battles.

Head coach Kevin Stefanski and offensive line coach Bill Callahan each praised Harris for the commitment he showed during the offseason to change his body, become a smarter player and be fully prepared to embrace his first opportunity to become a full-season starter. It's worth noting, too, that Harris has taken plenty of practice reps with the other O-Line starters since Tretter was given a consistent amount of rest days throughout the regular season.

"When he came in, and all the college players have a limited base, and then when they get here, they're blown away at how much they have to do and how much goes on," Callahan said. "To see him grow, not only physically — because he's done a great job in the offseason in the weight room — but mentally picking up the system, learning how to communicate calls, hitting players in the right spots.

"What's impressive is his dialogue off the field and the questions that he asks. They're excellent. They're really thought out and meaningful, and they're applicable. I would say his development mentally has really grown more so than his physical development."

As for the backups, there's not a whole lot of new info to report — keep in mind that most of the practices in training camp so far have been without pads — but we should have a much better look at how strong the depth is Friday after the first preseason game. Each of the backups will likely play for most of, if not the entire game.

Check out photos of players and coaches working throughout camp

Is Demetric Felton going to be a WR and Special Teams this year, and no longer RB? - John R., Columbus

All signs so far point to Felton playing mostly as a receiver in his second NFL season, which isn't a surprise given the crowdedness of the RB room and the injuries that have hit the WRs since training camp began.

The Browns have the arguably the most talented and deepest RB room in the league with Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt, D'Ernest Johnson and rookie fifth-rounder Jerome Ford. At wide receiver, the Browns are looking to fill any possible spaces on the depth chart around Amari Cooper, Donovan Peoples-Jones, Anthony Schwartz and David Bell. Cooper, Shcwartz and Bell have all missed practices since camp began, and Felton has been next in line for reps.

"He's a very versatile football player," Stefanski said. "He's a football player, first and foremost. There's an opportunity right now for him to get some receiver reps. We can bounce him back into that running back room at any point. Really, he's smart enough where he can do both within a given practice so when you do have injuries at either position, he is a bonus player who can go into either room, if you will."

With news that WR/KR/PR Jakeem Grant will miss the season with a Achilles injury suffered in Tuesday's practice, it'll be worth monitoring to see if Felton moves into a returner role as well. He averaged 7.1 yards in 32 punt returns and 19.1 yards in nine kick returns last year.

How has Josh Dobbs looked in training camp as he has played well in the preseason with other teams? - Rob M., Fairmont WV

Dobbs has been competing with Josh Rosen in the third-string QB role and has looked fine. Here's what Stefanski said Saturday about his performance so far:

"I thought he has done a great job. I have really enjoyed how he has handled himself and how he has done in the meeting room. I think he is on top of everything. He has had some really good moments out there on the practice field. You always have moments that you wish you could have back, like any quarterback, but I think he is doing a nice job."

Dobbs will take plenty of snaps for the Browns during the preseason games. In 10 career preseason games, he's thrown for 816 yards with five touchdowns and five interceptions.

Which is the bigger steal? Getting JOK in the 2nd of last year's draft or getting Perrion Winfrey in the 4th this year? - Rick G., Akron, OH

It's a bit early to call Winfrey a "steal" considering he's a rookie who has yet to play his first game, although he certainly has that potential — especially if he's able to carve a significant role on the D-Line this year.

For that reason, we'll go with Owusu-Koramoah. He could be in for a breakout season after he finished second on the defense with 76 tackles last season, and he did that even though he wasn't an every-down player for the full year and missed three games.

The Browns have plans to use him even more in Year 2, which makes it very feasible that he increases his production from last season in tackles, sacks (1.5) and tackles for a loss (three).

"You always want to activate your playmakers," defensive coordinator Joe Woods said. "At the same time, you have to make sure you are doing the right thing for the entire defense. We will always have ways to blitz him and ways to put him in certain positions in coverage. We will do a little bit more of that this year. That is just natural for any rookie going into his second year, but we definitely want to take advantage of his talents."

Winfrey has been used on the second team so far in camp but has made nice strides since he arrived in Cleveland earlier this spring. He could step into a gradually bigger role in the rotation as the year progresses.

"Perrion, as you know, full of life, full of energy and full of personality," Stefanski said. "I do think he understands that this is his job. He is a professional. He is a young player so we are going to bring him along like we do with young players and mentor him both from the coaches and the veterans on this team, but I do think he gets the seriousness of this and that he has to work on his craft."

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