Skip to main content


Top 5 storylines from Browns offseason workout program revisited

With most Browns away from Berea after last week's conclusion to the offseason workout program, the final touches are being made on Cleveland's renovated training facility.

It will be shining and sparkling when players return in late July for training camp, a symbolic moment for this team's new era under Hue Jackson.

"I know our guys are working hard to become the best team that we can," Jackson said Thursday. "I couldn't have asked for a better group or for a better opportunity for myself. The guys have done extremely well."

When minicamp began Tuesday, we identified five storylines to follow throughout the three-day stretch. Little has changed and won't until the pads go on at training camp, but plenty was said about the state of them.

Here's what we learned.

1. Young WRs big opportunity to impress

Three of the Browns' four rookie wide receivers -- fifth-rounder Jordan Payton was not present because of his coursework at UCLA -- got their first taste of an NFL minicamp over a productive three days in Berea. First-rounder Corey Coleman showed he was back in football shape and flashed the kind of potential Cleveland coveted when it selected him with the 15th overall pick.

"He's really shown why we drafted him in the first round," Jackson said. "He is a tremendous talent. If he keeps working like he is and stays as humble and he has great desire to be a great football player, I think that's going to happen for him. He's still got to earn it. He's got to work for it. He's got to go fight for it to go get it. I think he will."

Also of note, Terrelle Pryor impressed with his level of comfort at the position one year after converting from quarterback. Taylor Gabriel, a third-year veteran, was sidelined with an injury.

Six of the team's 11 receivers are eyeing their first NFL catch in the upcoming season. The competition has only begun to make the 53-man roster.

"If they continue to make the improvements that they've made since they've been here, we're looking forward to a group of very energetic and very capable players," senior offensive assistant/wide receivers coach Al Saunders said. "These guys work hard. They've had great careers in college, and those that have been here for a year have made marked improvement on a daily basis."

2. Who's at tight end?

Pro Bowl tight end Gary Barnidge was sidelined for all three practices as he began his recovery from sports hernia surgery. He's expected to be ready for training camp and expressed confidence in it during a Tuesday press conference.

As for the players behind him, Jackson was reluctant to identify one as standing out ahead of the rest when it pertains to filling the No. 2 spot alongside Barnidge. E.J. Bibbs and Connor Hamlett appeared to get plenty of work with members of Cleveland's starting offensive line.

Last year, the Browns kept four tight ends and a fullback when they pared the roster down to 53.

"I think we have some candidates," Jackson said. "It's hard – I think you all kind of mentioned this earlier – to really say who is until you put the pads on. Until we line up across a guy and you need to defeat somebody with your hat and hands and do it when the other guy is trying to get around you and really go through you will you really know."

The Browns took to the field to finish the three-day veterans' minicamp.

3. Is there an E.J. Bibbs in this year's under-the-radar rookies?

Perhaps nowhere does "too early to tell" fit more than here. Cleveland has a player or two that fits this label at nearly every position, but there's much, much work ahead before a projection can be made about any of them making the final roster.

During interviews with assistant coaches Thursday, a couple of these undrafted rookies were mentioned and praised.

Inside linebackers coach Johnny Holland has liked what he's seen from Dominique Alexander, an undrafted rookie out of Oklahoma.

"We are very pleased to have him," Holland said. "We like his athletic ability. He's a smart kid and an instinctive player who can make plays. We are very impressed with our inside linebacker group. There is a lot of competition there."

Offensive line coach Hal Hunter said center Mike Matthews, undrafted out of Texas A&M, will get a better opportunity to impress at training camp.

"He's a tough kid. He's a smart kid, a competitive kid, comes from a good stock. Football is important to him," Hunter said. "I'll be anxious to see him put the pads on and let him go."

4. Wide open Browns secondary

With Joe Haden on the sidelines, Justin Gilbert and a number of other Browns cornerbacks received plenty of opportunities to impress throughout the offseason program.

Gilbert's progress has been a popular storyline, and he ended on a high note. He'll need to carry that momentum into training camp in order to have a more expanded role in Cleveland's secondary.

"He has goals and I have goals. What we are going to do is do everything we can in our power to get him to reach his goals," Browns secondary coach Louie Cioffi said. "He has been tremendous. He has done everything that we have asked. He has been attentive in meetings. He has been very productive on the field. He's been amenable to the techniques that we have asked him to play, and he's been successful in that area. Hopefully, that will continue. I don't see any reason why he can't be a very good corner in this league."

Cioffi expressed confidence in the two young players eyeing roles at safety, where Cleveland lost both of its starters from last season.

"I was fortunate enough to coach (Ibraheim) Campbell at the Senior Bowl when he was a rookie so we have some history together," Cioffi said. "I've also been around (Jordan) Poyer during my last stop here (in 2013). They've both been in our system before. They've done everything that we have asked them up to this point. I think it is going to be a very good competition moving into camp."

5. The quarterbacks

The Browns ended their offseason program with no more clarity at quarterback than they had at the beginning -- at least from an external perspective -- and Jackson wasn't bothered one bit by it.

"I haven't even come close to letting my mind go there," Jackson said. "I'm just trying to help our football team improve and that position improve as much as I can. That is what really is important."

Robert Griffin III saw plenty of work throughout OTAs and minicamp with center Cameron Erving and the team's projected starters on the offensive line. Jackson said the former Redskins quarterback has "gotten better" over the past few months but has a "big hill to climb" like to the rest of his teammates heading into the season.

Jackson said "it's a ways away" before he decides on a starter from a group that also includes Josh McCown, Austin Davis, Connor Shaw and rookie Cody Kessler.

"I feel good about where we are," Jackson said, "and I feel good about the process that we've been in for those guys."

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