Once Maligned "Opportunity Period" Paying Dividends

Richard BairdContributor IIDecember 13, 2009

CLEVELAND - DECEMBER 10: Evan Moore #89 and Mohamed Massaquoi #11 of the Cleveland Browns celebrate after a catch against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns Stadium on December 10, 2009 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

After James Davis was injured so early during an extended practice session that Eric Mangini terms the "opportunity period," many reporters and fans expressed outrage that players were spending extra time after practice to work.

Mangini has cited the extra practice as a "well supervised" period in which players, especially rookies have a chance to work in drills. Mangini cites this period as a Belicheck practice method that also takes place in New England, Cleveland, Denver, and Kansas City.

The past few weeks, especially last week, Cleveland has shown that the extra work in the opportunity period is paying off.

After the San Diego game on Dec. 6, reporters and fans alike wanted to know who Evan Moore was and where he came from. Evan Moore was a practice squad member and was promoted to the active squad before the game started.

When Moore was asked about his performance, he attributed his extra work after practice with Brady Quinn as the reason for his success and Quinn's trust in him. Suddenly the Browns have a tight end that helps stretch defenses over the middle and has the ability to convert huge third downs.

In Thursday's victory over the Steelers, the Browns recorded eight sacks. Four of those sacks were recorded by players that are certainly participating in the "opportunity period." Marcus Benard and Brian Schaefering, two players recently promoted from the practice squad, combined for 3.5 sacks.

Kaluka Maiava, the rookie linebacker out of USC has started at middle linebacker after the slew of injuries, contributed another half-sack on a great second-effort play after he was knocked down.

Chris Jennings, a player the Browns signed from the Montreal Alouettes , yes that's the CFL, scored the Browns first ground touchdown by a running back since the Buffalo game...last November. He carried the ball 20 times for 73 yards against the top run defense in the league and a team the Browns have struggled to run against for years.

With the infusion of youth on the Browns roster, and 11 draft picks in the April draft, expect to see more of the practice opportunity period, especially if Mangini stays.

Would it be great to see James Davis playing this season for the Browns? Definitely. But if the Browns use the extra drills to discover several young players and help rookies develop faster, the injury risks are worth it.