Cleveland Browns Training Camp: Storylines to Watch
Saturday marks the beginning of perhaps the most anticipated training camp since the Cleveland Browns returned in 1999. It has all the necessary elements to make for must-watch drama. There is a quarterback competition, star players and tons of unknowns.
In a city like Cleveland, everyone is anticipating training camp even when the future doesn’t seem all that bright. So it only stands to reason this year people can’t wait for football drills to kick off in Berea, OH.
Even the excitement surrounding LeBron James’ return to Northeast Ohio could only temper the excitement for a brief instant. So as every eye in Cleveland and many around the world start to focus on the Browns, what will be the storylines?
Here are five early training camp storylines to watch.
Manziel and Hoyer
In case you have been living at the bottom of the ocean since the NFL draft, there is a little bit of a quarterback competition people are looking forward to in Cleveland. Johnny Manziel and Brian Hoyer will duke it out for the right to travel to Pittsburgh in Week 1. Not exactly a prize most people would want to win.
For these two, however, it is the ultimate goal. Hoyer is a Cleveland kid who has been disrespected and overlooked his entire career. It would mean the world for him to win the job and start the season against the rival of his boyhood team.
Manziel on the other hand is looking to continue his ascent through the ranks of football. Starting in the NFL is just the next step in his journey.
One of the key determining factors in this competition will be the health of Hoyer. Mary Kay Cabot of The Cleveland Plain Dealer said she expects him to be 100 percent healthy for the season opener. She also said she caught up with Hoyer, and he expects to practice without any restrictions.
That is good news for him because if he misses any time at all, it could be Johnny Football starting the first game of his NFL career in Pittsburgh.
How Will They Handle the Manziel Circus
The Browns will do everything in their power to make you and the rest of the country believe nothing of note is actually happening in training camp. They will try and convince the world no one really needs to pay any attention to Johnny Manziel and his pursuit of a starting job. Good luck.
The Manziel tornado already swallowed up one public relations director in Cleveland. While he resigned with no mention of Manziel or having been forced out, he did so after a bevy of unflattering stories about Manziel and even one about head coach Mike Pettine.
A new PR director is in place, according to Nate Ulrich of The Akron Beacon Journal, and John-Baptiste has his work cut out for him. Formerly of the New York Giants, Baptiste is well respected around the NFL and thought of as one of the best in the business.
Even the best might have a problem controlling the madness that surrounds a Manziel-fueled training camp.
Gordon’s Impending Suspension
Here we are nearing the end of July and there has still not been a ruling passed down or any official word. So what are the Browns to do?
They ran Gordon with the first-team offense in OTAs and will most likely continue to do so until an official word has been spoken. This does put the Browns in a precarious situation, however. The likelihood of Gordon being suspended seems very high, so they have to at least think of a backup plan.
The training camp roster is riddled with guys coming off of injury, journeyman receivers or completely unproven commodities. The Browns will need to see who fits where and have little to no chance of doing so as long as Gordon is eating up reps.
The sooner the suspension comes down, the better it will be for the Browns. No one wants to see him go, but everyone wants to know how long it will be.
Mike Pettine’s first training camp
Perhaps the most underrated storyline heading into training camp will be the fact head coach Mike Pettine has never ran one of these before. Sure, every season there are at least a few first-time head coaches but it is always an interesting concept.
How will Pettine conduct his camp? Will it be fast-paced? Will it be strict with Eric Mangini-style punishments for mistakes? How much time will he spend on red-zone drills or two-minute drills? These are all questions Pettine probably thinks he has answered but will not know until the daily routine is established.
The tone for a season is set in training camp, and a team can galvanize or rupture before it ever even puts on a game jersey. Pettine will have to prove he was worth the hire this offseason, and his first step is conducting a successful camp.
Justin Gilbert’s Possible Holdout
Long gone are the years when draft picks held out over money and arrived at camp late. The recently negotiated collective bargaining agreement introduced slotted pay for draft picks, and those headaches disappeared.
That was until players started haggling over offset money language. This means the team is not responsible for the guaranteed money owed if it cuts a pick and he signs somewhere else. This is why rookie cornerback and eighth overall pick Justin Gilbert might miss the beginning of camp.
Gilbert told Fox Sports Ohio on June 27 he had no idea if he is going to sign before camp started. It is looking more and more like he will not. Gilbert is one of just two draft picks who have not yet signed their rookie contracts.
It is imperative he does not miss any camp because the Browns are relying on him to grab the second starting cornerback slot. It he gives any leeway at all to Buster Skrine, then Skrine may not give it back.