Still Doubting Eric Mangini? A Look at Browns Mini-Camp May Sway Hesitation
This comes as no surprise. Mangini had been fired by the New York Jets less than a week before he met with Lerner to discuss the Browns coaching vacancy.
His Jets started the 2008 season 8-3, but went 1-4 to close out the year and missed the playoffs. Many NFL analysts felt Mangini was better served as a defensive coordinator, at least for the next couple years.
Lerner felt otherwise, but after he brought Mangini to Cleveland, the skepticism began to surge throughout the Browns fanbase.
Mangini didn't help matters in his first few months with the team. He alienated Shaun Rogers, stirred up trade rumors involving some of Cleveland's big-name players, and said about five or six words a month to the media regarding these or any other Browns issues.
However, with the draft over with and voluntary mini-camps in full swing, the mood seems to be shifting. A noticeable change is in the air at Browns headquarters.
As of now, its a change for the better.
Under former coach Romeo Crennel, Browns players usually enjoyed their summers the same way fourth graders do, leisurely running around outside with all their friends.
This routine has come to an abrupt halt. Word out of mini-camp is Eric Mangini has this team tightly organized, as players are no longer standing around wastefully.
If a player doesn't know where they're supposed to be, he's sure to get an earful. It seems there certainly won't be much of a casual atmosphere this time around.
This sentiment was further solidified when Joe Thomas was forced to run a lap for going offsides while running a play.
Thomas getting handed a practice punishment is significant for two reasons. First, it means nobody is getting treated like a king under Mangini's watch.
Consider this: Newcomer Brian Robiskie was forced to run a lap during rookie mini-camp for dropping a pass. While its one thing to make a rookie pay for mistakes, its another to make your Pro Bowl left tackle hit the bricks for jumping early.
With these moves, Mangini is sending a message to his team: I don't care what you've done or how good you are, if you make a mistake, you're going to pay for it.
Secondly, singling out Joe Thomas for going offsides shows Mangini is trying to attack one of Cleveland's biggest issues—pre-snap penalties.
The Browns have been near the top of the league for many years now when it comes to pre-snap penalties. Countless Cleveland drives have been stalled, extended, or all out killed thanks to somebody jumping the gun and turning a 3rd-and-10 into a 3rd-and-15.
While we won't know how these new practice techniques will translate on the field just yet, the fact is Mangini wants to make his team smarter, and this is one way to reach that goal.
Another positive sign from the "Mangenius" is his willingness to move outside linebacker Kamerion Wimbley around in attempts to make him more effective.
Wimbley's ineffectiveness is no secret to any Browns fan. Part of the reason for this was the former Cleveland regime being a bit too stubborn with him, refusing to move the former rookie standout in hopes he'd develop pass rushing moves.
Last week in mini-camp, Mangini and defensive coordinator Rob Ryan gave Wimbley a couple plays on the left side of the line (he normally lines up on the right side), and also gave indications that this may happen again.
This is a creative approach in the Kamerion Wimbley saga, as it seems this coaching staff will be attempting to help him find his potential instead of waiting for it to show up.
In addition to this, Mangini is also starting to look pretty smart in drafting Ohio State wideout Brian Robiskie.
Several Cleveland media sources are claiming Robiskie is as polished as advertised and has looked very impressive in camp. He caught two redzone touchdowns from Brady Quinn in one day, one of which was a diving catch in the corner of the endzone.
This has lead some to believe Robiskie has a good chance at filling the hole at No. 2 receiver.
One of the most intriguing aspects of the Mangini era is how the players are reacting to this new coaching style.
Here's a couple quotes from last week regarding some players' opinions on the new coach:
Wideout Braylon Edwards was asked how he felt about some of the offseason moves Mangini has made, to which he responded, "Coach Mangini is the head guy. He's made decisions based on what he thinks is going to get us back on the right track and moving forward in the 2009 season. I'll stick by him right now. That's my coach and that's who I'm going to play for and who I support."
When the media attempted to get a juicy answer from Brady Quinn regarding the upcoming quarterback competition, he simply said, "I just take my directions from coach Mangini. Whatever he says, goes."
Despite players attempting to defend Romeo Crennel before his inevitable firing, rarely did anyone on the Browns imply such authority with their former coach.
Crennel was obviously viewed as their leader, but there weren't too many quotes which painted him as "the man in charge."
The point is Mangini was given a team full of players who couldn't find the definition of discipline if they were paid extra for it. Now, even Braylon Edwards, a player who was actually able to find an I in team last year, is referring to Mangini as the man with the power.
Will these improvements result in more wins in 2009? Probably not. As I mentioned in my 2009 expectations article, an 8-8 record is realistically the best this year's team could do.
However, working to make the Browns a smart, well-disciplined team was the main goal on Eric Mangini's to-do list.
A week into voluntary mini-camp, it looks like he's already making some positive strides.
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