Notes and Quotes
- Coverage from the Cleveland Browns' linebackers looks as if it is going to be much improved in 2014. On one play in 11-on-11's, Barkevious Mingo nearly intercepted a pass from Johnny Manziel, 25-yards down the field. Mingo is covering a ton of ground and seems more comfortable in reacting to pass situations during OTAs. Still, defensive coordinator Jim O'Neil is in awe over Mingo as a blitzer. "He has elite pass-rush ability," O'Neil said.
- Buster Skrine is another player benefitting from maturing as a professional. Deflecting passes, reacting properly to audibles; you name it, Skrine was doing it on Wednesday. O'Neil has been pleased with Skrine's willingness to learn more of the inside slot cornerback position in the classroom. "We kid with the receivers: you can't run by Buster Skrine," said O'Neil.
- "I think it will be a competitive situation," O'Neil said about whether Skrine or first-round draft pick Justin Gilbert will start at the outside cornerback spot. "I think we've done a great job of building depth at that position. That will be on [Gilbert]. He's going to get every opportunity to win, but I don't think that the guys who are playing the position will give it to him."
- Speaking of Gilbert, special teams coordinator Chris Tabor brought up a good point: the Vikings used Cordarrelle Patterson, a first-round pick in 2013, as their key return man last season. Patterson took back two punts for touchdowns. The Seahawks are talking about using one of the best safeties in the NFL, Earl Thomas, as their punt returner. Do not rule out Gilbert returning kicks for the Browns to start the 2014 season. Tabor said Travis Benjamin, Buster Skrine and Earl Bennett are other players in the mix to field punts and kicks.
- Johnny Manziel took first-team reps Wednesday in 11-on-11 drills. Hold your horses. Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan said this was planned, mainly to help keep Brian Hoyer, who is recovering from ACL surgery, away from any incidental contact. All the quarterbacks have been rotating to get different looks from the defense. In fact, Shanahan said he hasn't even started assessing the quarterback competition, because this OTA period is just so new to fairly judge Manziel.
- But boy, there were some throws that should have Browns fans giddy about the future of this team. In particular during a red-zone set, Manziel bootlegged hard towards the right sideline and found a streaking Jordan Cameron, all the way in the left side of the end zone. Of course there were some mistakes from Manziel. Coach Pettine would like to see him get in and out of the huddle with more speed. But each practice Manziel's playmaking ability starts to sparkle.
- Hoyer wasn't kidding last week when he said he liked Andrew Hawkins. On several occasions during the red zone drills, Hoyer found Hawkins open on slant patterns in the middle of the field. The two were also paired up in a one-on-one deep throwing drill against a various cornerbacks. Their timing wasn't synced on Wednesday, but you can tell, once it is, the Hoyer-Hawkins combo could gash defenses for big chunks of yardage.
- Kyle Shanahan had the best quote about the Johnny Manziel Las Vegas (non) story when he said: "I think if this was six-years ago, and there wasn't so much Twitter and pictures, people don't even notice. And a lot of straight-arrow, good quarterbacks [went to Vegas] and you guys didn't know about it. It doesn't bother me. Johnny has been working as hard as anyone I've been around."
Three Players to Watch
- Darius Eubanks – The middle linebacker took an interception to the house on Wednesday. While Karlos Dansby is away rehabbing a small injury, Eubanks is proving the Browns have more adequate depth in the middle of the defense than most outsiders would think.
- Josh Gordon – Straight up, Gordon was frying the defense. Any completion to him seemed effortless, even one where three defenders were glued to his backside. The Browns' offense can thrive without Gordon under Shanahan's direction, but it's been impressive to see the receiver still developing his repertoire of moves in the OTA sessions.
- Terrance West – There was one play that stood out to me about West on Wednesday. The running back was stuffed to the ground on a run play up the middle. Rather than hopping up and getting back in the huddle, West sprinted to the other side of the field. Was he penalizing himself? Did he want to finish the run? The exact answer isn't known, but West is proving he will work his tail off during practice.