Cleveland Browns: 5 Under-the-Radar Players to Watch in Training Camp
The Cleveland Browns and their new coaching staff will open training camp in Wednesday in Berea, Ohio, looking to find a formula to improve on their 5-11 season a year ago.
Developing Brandon Weeden after a solid rookie season in which he threw for 3,385 yards will be one of the main focuses of camp. The team should also have an improved defense, led by free-agent acquisition Paul Kruger, cornerback Joe Haden and first-round draft choice Barkevious Mingo.
But the Browns also have many young, relatively unknown players who will contribute to the team this year. Here is a look at five players who will shine both in camp and preseason games.
Miguel Maysonet, Running Back
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Because he played at Stony Brook during his college career, many people probably aren't familiar with Miguel Maysonet. But how many people had heard of Florida Atlantic's Alfred Morris prior to him breaking out with the Washington Redskins?
Last season, Maysonet ran for just short of 2,000 yards on the ground with an impressive 7.4 yards-per-carry average. He has plenty of tools to succeed at the next level.
Despite being just 5'9", Maysonet is a powerful runner who has great vision between the tackles. He displays very good speed and is proficient at breaking tackles.
The Browns threw 80 of their 328 pass completions in 2012 to running backs, so Maysonet will have to show he can catch the ball out of the backfield in order to move up the depth chart. He will be behind no less than five running backs when camp opens.
If nothing else, Maysonet may have some value as a kick returner. At Stony Brook, he averaged 23 yards on 18 career returns. With Josh Cribbs gone, a good returner is needed for the Browns.
Gary Barnidge, Tight End
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Many fans of the Browns are likely gushing over the potential of Jordan Cameron in Rob Chudzinki's new offense, but don't forget about Gary Barnidge.
Barnidge is very familiar with what Chudzinski likes to do as he followed him over from Carolina. He has just 18 career receptions, but it is his ability as a blocker that will make a difference for the Browns.
The tight end position will be crucial to what the Browns do on offense under Chudzinski, and they may often line up in two-tight end sets. With Barnidge being able to block effectively and his ability to catch the ball, he could prove to be a safety net for Weeden.
Brandon Bogotay, Kicker
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The Browns will have a very interesting duel in camp this summer to determine who will be the team's kicker, now that Phil Dawson is handling those duties for the San Francisco 49ers.
Twenty-four-year-old Brandon Bogotay will take on veteran journeyman Shayne Graham, and he'll have a good chance of winning the competition.
Bogotay was the backup to Blair Walsh at the University of Georgia. Walsh was voted to the Pro Bowl last year after his rookie season with the Minnesota Vikings. Bogotay has a very strong leg and has the chance to be the kicker of the future in Cleveland.
Graham has played for 12 other NFL teams aside from the Browns, and his 85.4 percent career field-goal percentage is good for seventh in NFL history.
Jamoris Slaughter, Safety
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When the Browns released Usama Young in April, a door immediately opened at the safety position.
Sixth-round draft choice Jamoris Slaughter out of Notre Dame could easily slide into the free safety spot due to his versatility. Slaughter is a strong player who has some coverage skills, and at Notre Dame, he exhibited the ability to help defend the run.
In Cleveland, it will be Tashaun Gipson who will be his main competition at the free safety spot. As an undrafted rookie last season, Gipson had 33 tackles and an interception.
Slaughter can contribute immediately on special teams, but if he shows good coverage skills in camp, he could easily be the starting safety opposite T.J. Ward for the season opener.
Dion Lewis, Running Back
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As long as he is healthy, Trent Richardson will get the majority of the carries at running back for the Browns this season. Still, he'll need a player who can spell him effectively when he needs a breather.
Dion Lewis was obtained in a trade with the Philadelphia Eagles in April for linebacker Emmanuel Acho. He is a quick runner who follows his blocks well and can run between the tackles very effectively. He could be a very good complement to the power running of Richardson.
Montario Hardesty will likely be listed ahead of Lewis on the depth chart when camp opens, but both players will have their opportunity to be the main backup to Richardson.