Most Intriguing Rookie Storylines at Cleveland Browns OTAs
As soon as rookies step into the facility they are no longer an exciting storyline from draft night. They are now a potential danger to returning players who play the same position as them.
For the Cleveland Browns it seems that all but one drafted rookie should push for a starting spot.
That does not mean that they will all be starters when the season begins. It also does not mean that they will be the only interesting storylines between now and Week 1.
Fans can often lose sight of the fact that there is so much more to a player than just what he can do on the field. Sometimes what happens on the field is more interesting; sometimes it is not.
Each player’s own path to the NFL reads like a book. Here are five of the most interesting storylines surrounding Cleveland rookies as training camp approaches.
Manziel vs. Hoyer
Not only is this the most interesting story line for all the rookies but it will dominate all Browns news this offseason. Who will win the quarterback battle between Brian Hoyer and Johnny Manziel.
Manziel is currently taking snaps with the third team, and Hoyer has not been allowed to go under center because of he is still recovering from knee surgery. The competition will not truly begin until they are both full go and Manziel gets second-team reps. This should happen by the start of training camp.
It is truly an interesting battle that should come down to the wire. On one hand you have Hoyer, who despite just four career starts has been named the man to beat. Having watched Hoyer throughout last season’s training camp I can tell you he is not the best practice quarterback. He is the type of guy you need to see in game situations to understand exactly what he can do.
That should leave the door open for Manziel. If he can step up and shine in practice then most likely the starting position will be determined by who plays best in the preseason.
Head coach Mike Pettine admitted last week that things are already heated in the quarterback room.
"We don't want guys who are going to be warm and fuzzy," Pettine said. "They're fighting for a job. It's somebody you're going to be working with. It's a unique situation where you're competitive, you want that job. It's not going to be this warm and fuzzy (thing). That to me is how you want your quarterback to be."
Manziel vs. the Media
Did we really expect anything different? It took all of one week for the media to berate Johnny Manziel for partying in Las Vegas over the Memorial Day holiday weekend.
Manziel was all over TMZ and every other news site in the world for partying at the pool with New England Patriots tight end and notorious socialite Rob Gronkowski and about a dozen bikini clad co-eds.
He then went to a club in Vegas and decided the crowd looked a little hot and thirsty. Since Manziel is such a giving guy he thought he would share his champagne with everyone:
ICYMI: Johnny Manziel -- CHAMPAGNE RAINSTORM ... In Vegas Nightclub http://t.co/3JT92hzLg1
— TMZ (@TMZ) May 26, 2014
This led to media and fans attacking Manziel for partying over the weekend instead of spending it in a hotel in Cleveland nose deep in the playbook. The reality of the situation is that this is who Johnny Manziel is. He plays hard and parties even harder.
That is fine as long as he is good, and at Texas A&M, he was. If that continues at the NFL level, no one will have any issue with the things that he does. If he is not good, however, the media will eat him alive. That means he will be fighting stories like these and questions from reporters until he actually takes the field in a meaningful game.
Johnny had a message to all the haters though:
Johnny Manziel -- BACK OFF, HATERS ... I Can Party & Study at the Same Damn Time! http://t.co/JrJAOP7XEL
— TMZ (@TMZ) May 27, 2014
Is Terrance West a starter?
The quarterback position is not the only spot where there will be heated competition. The running back spot could be up for grabs as well.
The Browns signed free agent Ben Tate to a two-year deal in the offseason which many thought guaranteed him the starting role. That was until the team traded up to select Terrance West in the third round.
West put up eye-popping numbers at Towson University. Among his biggest proponents was NFL Network’s Charlie Casserly who thinks West will not only challenge but win the starting spot out of camp.
"This is my favorite player for the round they got him in," Casserly said on NFL Network. "2,500 yards last year and a natural in the zone-running scheme that Kyle Shanahan runs. Here's my prediction: This guy is going to beat out Ben Tate to be the starting running back this year."
He will have some more competition than just Tate, however, as the team also signed Isaiah Crowell as an undrafted free agent. Crowell very well could have been mid-round pick if it were not for off-field issues throughout his collegiate career.
Joel Bitonio’s Transition to Guard
In a much less flashy storyline, second-round selection Joel Bitonio will try and transition to guard so he can snag a starting gig. He played left tackle at Nevada in college but is slightly undersized and projects as a guard in the NFL.
The reason teams like the Browns were so high on Bitonio was the fact that he plays so nasty. He has the mean streak that general managers look for in their guards. That attitude has been missing from the guard position in Cleveland for quite some time.
The Browns will give him every opportunity to win a starting guard job but he needs to prove that he can first play that position at the next level. He has to prove he can do this as a career. As Bitonio told the media:
In college, you think, 'Oh, I've got to go to school. I've got to do stuff'...This is your job now. This is your profession. You're a professional football player, and I think that was the goal for all of us that got drafted or got signed here. Going through the day, you think, 'Man, this is what I have to do. It's not too bad. I could play football every day.'
Can Pierre Desir beat the odds again?
The best off the field storyline this offseason is definitely Pierre Desir. He was drafted in the seventh round by the Browns and had ESPN cameras following him at the time. It was a very emotional experience for the cornerback.
Desir’s family came to America from Haiti when he was very young. He grew up playing soccer, and by the time he realized he was naturally gifted at American football, his girlfriend became pregnant.
At just 16 years old Desir had to work, go to school, play football and raise a child. He planned on going to a big-time college but his ACT score was slightly too low.
Desir chose to play for Washburn College, but the burden of being so far from home and his child was too much so he decided to transfer closer to home. Washburn declined to let him transfer, and it seemed as though any hopes of playing in the NFL were gone.
Who sits out a year at that level and still makes the pros?
Desir did just that and now has a real shot at making the Browns roster. He is the kind of big, physical corner that head coach Mike Pettine likes. It will probably come down to him and last year’s third-round selection Leon McFadden for the final cornerback spot.
If history has taught us anything it is not to bet against Desir.