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Browns Mailbag

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Browns Mailbag: Which members of the rookie class have stood out the most?

Staff Writer Kelsey Russo answers your questions

Mailbag 6.4.24

The Browns wrapped up their third and final week of organized team activities before veteran minicamp kicks off on June 11.

OTAs have allowed the Browns to hold voluntary practices with 7-on-7, 9-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills, as well as a chance to have meetings with those players present at CrossCountry Mortgage Campus. The next portion of the offseason program will see the return of the remainder of veteran players for a three-day minicamp before training camp begins in late July.

So, as the offseason continues, we opened the mailbag and answered a few of your questions.

Which members of this year's rookie class stand out the most as candidates to potentially earn meaningful playing time this coming season? – Nick D., Surprise, Arizona

There will be a clearer picture of this as the offseason continues and training camp is underway, but through the first three weeks of OTAs, the name that sticks out to me is DT Mike Hall Jr. The Browns brought back several veteran defensive linemen during free agency, but with how defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz rotates through defensive linemen, Hall could earn a shot at playing time.

G Zak Zinter, who is returning from a season-ending injury during his final season at Michigan, has an uphill battle in front of him with veteran and Pro-Bowlers G Joel Bitonio and Wyatt Teller on the offensive line. However, he knows that is his situation, willing to take the time to learn from the veterans on the offensive line and be prepared for any opportunity.

With the new kickoff rule, are the Browns going to need more linebackers and quick defensive tackle players, and less defensive backs for special teams? – Kenneth P., Dorset, Ohio

As the Browns work through the nuances of the new kickoff rule, assistant head coach and special teams coordinator Bubba Ventrone said they are in a "trial-and-error" process. During phase two, they drilled a number of different components of the new rule – on-air, drops, get-offs, tracking the ball, catching the ball and fly-foot with the returners. Then during OTAs, they have been able to work on the spacing and timing of the play, as well as how the play looks on both sides.

Ventrone said they have also repped a number of skill players with different body types for both return and coverage.

"We've repped pretty much all of our skill players back there – receivers, even some of the tight ends," Ventrone said. "We've repped a good bit of the running backs. Everyone has really gotten more ball-handling than we've had in the past. And I think on the flip side of it, on the coverage aspect of it, you are going to see more defensive players, and I think that you're going to see some bigger body types on that unit."

As the Browns continue through OTAs and into veteran minicamp, then later into training camp and preseason, they will have a clearer picture of the type of players they need to accommodate the new kickoff rules.

We're all wondering, how is Nick Chubb doing? – Christopher H., Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio

Nick Chubb spoke with the media for the first time since his injury last season following the Browns' OTA practice on June 5. While he did not participate in the practice, he was on the sidelines with his teammates throughout the workout.

Chubb did not have a set timeline for his return to the field and said that he is taking each day as it comes in terms of his recovery.

"I'm getting better every day," Chubb said. "Taking it day by day, getting better. Just right now, trying to get stronger," Chubb said. "I like where I'm at. I'm where I need to be. I would say that the biggest thing for me is getting better every day."

Check out the full story here from his media availability.

With arguably the best wide-out room in the league, how do you feel two QB's with experience scrambling will be able to capitalize this year? – Wes J., Jacksonville, Florida

It provides an interesting opportunity for them to capitalize and create offensive plays even in pressure. If QB Deshaun Watson or Jameis Winston scramble to avoid an impending rush or escape pressure and can locate one of the open receivers downfield, they have a chance to extend the play.

They can also scramble even when not under pressure to extend the play and give the receivers more time to find that space and separation. The longer defensive backs have to defend against the receivers on a given play, the more difficult it becomes, and the receivers can create an advantage. With the talent of their receiving corps in Amari Cooper, Jerry Jeudy, Elijah Moore and their younger players, they can use that to their advantage to create separation, find space downfield and make plays.