Cleveland Browns OTA's: Latest Player Reports and Analysis
Finally we have some real news to talk about in the NFL. No longer is the news cycle drowning in speculation and off-the-field news. Now we can actually talk about what is happening on the football field. And the Cleveland Browns have about as much buzz around their team as anyone in the league.
With the addition of a superstar level name in Johnny Manziel, the reported pending suspension of Josh Gordon and lavished spending in free agency, the Browns have drawn attention from all across the nation.
The Browns have done their best to limit the Manziel circus, but no matter what they do, his name just seems to creep its way into the news. Oh by the way, he is also fighting for a starting quarterback spot.
We will not even get to players, like Donte Whitner, who seem to always make waves. The Browns are now chock-full of dominant personalities and will presumably remain in the spotlight, for better or worse, for the foreseeable future.
Let’s take a look at the buzz and news from OTA’s surrounding some of the Browns most interesting players.
There are two different things to analyze whenever you talk about rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel. You have to discuss how he is competing for the starting job, but you also have to keep an eye on the celebrity gossip sites.
On the field, Manziel is still learning the system and currently taking snaps with the third-team offense. This should not last long as by all accounts, he looks much better than current second-string quarterback Tyler Thigpen. But how far behind Brian Hoyer is Manziel? General manager Ray Farmer told this to 92.3 The Fan in Cleveland:
I would tell you that (Hoyer is better than Manziel) probably by a substantial margin. I would say that because here's a guy that's a five- or six-year veteran who has been in the league, that knows the defenses, that reads it quicker, that understands it. (Hoyer) has an advanced calculus degree. Johnny is good at math, but I don't know if he's in the advanced calculus stages.
(Experience in the league) means a lot. It means more than people think.
Off the field, Manziel continues to be surrounded by madness.
People seem to be up in arms because Manziel was in Las Vegas attending a UFC event over the weekend. He was spotted partying at an after-hours club. For the life of me, I cannot understand why this is a problem for some people but apparently it was.
Browns head coach Mike Pettine has done everything in his power to try and remind everyone that Brian Hoyer is the starting quarterback for the Browns. This sentiment has been echoed throughout the entire organization.
There is a mutual respect between the quarterbacks, but there is also no denying that this is a real competition.
”I was thinking about sending him a birthday card,” Hoyer quipped to the Associated Press. “No, I totally get it...I don’t think we’re in there not being friendly. But when you’re gunning for the same job there is a little bit of an edge to it.”
Hoyer, who is returning from season-ending knee surgery, has been practicing in all drills except 11-on-11s. The team said he has not been cleared to play under center just yet and wants to keep the traffic of battling linemen from around his surgically repaired knee.
It will not be long before he is cleared, however, and I have a feeling that will coincide with the move to make Manziel the second quarterback on the depth chart. Once those two moves happen, the real competition begins.
Despite reports that wide receiver Josh Gordon is facing a season long suspension for once again violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy, he has been participating in OTA’s.
"Until we're told otherwise, it's business as usual," Pettine according to Pat McManamon of ESPN.com after the first day of OTA’s.
So Gordon will continue to practice and show the new coaching staff what they could be missing for at least a portion of the season. Reports are that he has been his usual stellar self so far in OTA’s.
The Browns have to hope and pray Josh Gordon is not out for the year. He is catching EVERYTHING.— Aditi Kinkhabwala (@AKinkhabwala) May 21, 2014
The question becomes how long will he actually be suspended? Former Browns receiver Greg Little told SiriusXM NFL Radio that the failed test was “wasn’t in (Gordon’s) control” but refused to elaborate.
This has many speculating that Gordon may have in fact missed a test instead of actually failing one. This could possibly help his case to have a reduced suspension to 10, eight or possibly even six games.
When the Browns did not draft a receiver, they immediately turned to free agency. They brought in veterans Earl Bennett and Miles Austin shortly after the draft.
Austin battled hamstring injuries all of last season, and the Browns are apparently bringing him along slowly. While he has been in attendance for OTA’s, he has worked with trainers by himself to the side and not participated in team drills.
Austin is a very important piece to the Browns offense and needs to be 100 percent healthy when the season starts. He has the most realistic shot at snagging the primary receiver role while Gordon is out.
He also made a gesture that has already endeared him to Browns fans everywhere. Austin, who has worn 19 as his number since his second year in the NFL, reached out to former Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar and made sure that it was OK that he uses the Browns legend’s number.
Kosar gave his blessing and then the two apparently went out for dinner to talk football.
Had a Great Time at Dinner with A Class Person Miles pic.twitter.com/FSszZXGCus
— Bernie Kosar (@BernieKosarQB) May 23, 2014
Austin bought himself some good faith with the Browns fans.
Linebacker Paul Kruger was the gem of all the Browns free-agent signings last season. Unfortunately for him, when a new coaching staff and new general manager are put in place, that does not matter.
Kruger has found himself taking some reps with the second team, and it seems as though the Browns are looking to work in all the linebackers with the first unit, according to Chris Pokorny of SB Nation.
"Linebacker: OLB Paul Kruger was seeing work on both the first- and second-team defense, but then later switched with OLB Jabaal Sheard. ILB Zac Diles was splitting first-team reps with ILB Karlos Dansby."
Kruger will still find himself a starter on the defense but will not be an every down guy in Pettine’s defense this season. He will have to share reps with Jabaal Sheard. It is less of an indictment on Kruger and more of a testament to the need for depth at his position in this particular defense.