Parking spots are easier to come by these days at the Browns facility in Berea.
It's been six days since players were last seen on the practice fields, and we're in store for at least another 30 or so before training camp gets us rolling toward the season.
For now, we've still got a jam-packed mailbox to organize.
After the Browns drafted Duke Johnson, I read some experts comparing him to LeSean McCoy and Giovani Bernard. Which of those you think Duke is more like? -- Matheus S., Porto Alegre, Brazil
Bernard's name came up last week and Johnson appeared to welcome the comparison. Future NFL Hall of Fame running back LaDanian Tomlinson made that exact same comparison, too, during his pre-draft analysis on the NFL Network. And when you break down their measurables and numbers from the Combine, you start to understand why.
Bernard is 5-foot-9 and 208 pounds. Johnson is 5-foot-9 and 210 pounds. Bernard ran the 40-yard dash in 4.53 seconds. Johnson did his in 4.54. Both players are undersized but are tough enough to pick up yards between the tackles. And both can definitely make you pay as a receiver out of the backfield, as Bernard racked up 43 receptions for 349 yards in his second season with the Bengals while Johnson had 38 for 421 -- in three fewer games -- during his final season at Miami.
What makes me lean more toward Bernard and less toward McCoy, though, is the situation in which Johnson finds himself. He's not being asked to carry the ball 15-20 times per game like he did with the Hurricanes and like McCoy is expected to do with the Bills this season. Bernard is behind one of the top running backs in the NFL, Jeremy Hill, while Johnson is working alongside Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell, who are both coming off promising rookie seasons. Johnson provides the change-of-pace option Cleveland lacked last season. The one potential difference between Johnson and Bernard? Johnson appears poised to be in the mix on kick returns while Bernard did not do that last season for the Bengals.
Can Johnson eventually handle the kind of workload McCoy has over the past six seasons? Sure. But the Browns don't need that for Johnson to consider his rookie season a success.
Thanks for helping me keep up with the Browns from 1,800 miles away. My question concerns how offensive lineman Michael Bowie looked at OTAs and mini-camp. Has he healed from his shoulder injury and is he seen as an option at RG or RT? -- Charles C., Sheridan, Wyoming
Bowie worked almost exclusively behind Mitchell Schwartz at right tackle. In a recent interview, Bowie told me he was back to 100 percent and has felt that way for a few weeks, though it took him some time throughout OTAs to feel comfortable with his shoulder. He didn't sound like he'd spend much time relaxing by the beach during this break, as he plans to return to Berea early and hoped to show up to training camp a bit leaner. Training camp should provide him with an opportunity to show off his physicality, which is difficult without pads at OTAs and mini-camp.
Loved the pick of Danny Shelton, reminds me of the pick of my favorite, Joe Haden, whose Combine showing was not so good. He's a Pro Bowler and Shelton's a future Pro Bowler. Go Browns!!!! -- Tim W., Hampton, Virginia
What a player did at the Combine stops mattering the moment he's selected. The Browns weren't concerned with Shelton's 40-yard dash time because they watched all of his game film and saw just how fast he moves on the field. Shelton was comfortable enough to joke about his 40 time at his introductory press conference and the Browns were thrilled to land him where they did in the draft. That chapter is long in the past for both parties.
The Browns seemed to have added depth at just about every position, except special teams. Spencer Lanning was let go, as was Billy Cundiff and Garrett Hartley. It just hasn't been the same since Phil Dawson left. With three losses last year by three points or less, what is the state of the kicking/punting situation and should we be concerned? -- Ben D., Rancho Cucamonga, California
It's hard to add "depth" to the specialists room because the numbers game of maintaining a 90-man roster won't allow it. It was considered a luxury for the Browns to have two long snappers for as long as they did throughout the offseason, and the group currently includes two players at a kicking spot that will only have one when the roster drops to 53.
That said, the group certainly has a different look and feel to it, as the Browns now boast three-time Pro Bowler Andy Lee at punter, Charley Hughlett at long snapper and rookies Carey Spear and Travis Coons at kicker. Special teams coordinator Chris Tabor indicated Spear and Coons were not only competing against each other, but also "other kickers from other teams," so the situation is certainly fluid.
The serious part of the kicking competition starts during training camp, when, as Browns coach Mike Pettine described, "the lights are on in a preseason game and there's some pressure there and all the kicks that get charted with a live rush."
Apparently Cleveland has some real good wideouts and good running backs. How many of each group will be carried on the roster? I've been a diehard fan since 1957 and I feel the Browns will go deep into the playoffs this year. -- Jerry C., Birmingham, Alabama
There's going to be tough decisions for both of those position groups, especially if they're all healthy by the end of the preseason. Browns coaches have indicated they're not going to hold themselves to concrete numbers for each position group. Within reason, they're going to put the best 53 players on the roster. That's why it wouldn't be a surprise to see a position such as defensive back have one more player than it did last season simply because the group is so deep.
With that in mind, the Browns went with three running backs and five wide receivers when they brought the roster down to 53 players before the 2014 season. It wasn't unusual for those groups to fluctuate by one or two throughout the year, so I'd expect something similar this year.