Cleveland Browns' starting quarterback Colt McCoy
The Cleveland Browns stuck with the plan to get younger and faster in 2011. However, that decision will make the team reliant on a variety of “unproven” young players.
In order to avoid a fourth year in a row with a 5-11 record or worse, the Browns will need several key rookies to step up and make major contributions this season.
While rookie defensive tackle Phil Taylor and wide receiver Greg Little have been getting a lot of attention for what they will add to the team’s new 4-3 defense and West Coast offense, respectively, several other rookies are poised to make a notable impact this season.
Rookie Browns DE Jabaal Sheard makes a sack in college.
The Browns have rookie defensive end Jabaal Sheard penciled in as the right-side starter this season. This means that during training camp Sheard has been going up against a four-time Pro Bowler, left tackle Joe Thomas, every day in practice.
Drafted in the second round out of the University of Pittsburgh, Sheard plays with guts and attitude, which will go a long way toward being mentally prepared to take on the rigors of the AFC North.
Word out of training camp is that Sheard has only won one out of 14 one-on-one battles against Thomas. But the experience facing Thomas day-in and day-out has allowed Sheard, in his words, to “get my pass rush moves down to the best they can be.”
He reportedly has some decent inside moves and will need to develop both a speed rush and an occasional bull rush to be successful at the next level.
USC's Jordan Cameron makes a grab.
Fourth-rounder Jordan Cameron has shown some impressive athletic ability during his time in training camp thus far.
With starting tight end Benjamin Watson sitting out much of the first week of practice due to a concussion, and fellow tight end Evan Moore not entering practices until Thursday night, Cameron was able to amass a fair amount of reps during training camp.
At one point, Cameron was stealing the show at camp, going over the middle and making a nice adjustment to catch a sharp, low pass from QB Seneca Wallace during a 11-on-11 session. He later also caught a pass from starting QB Colt McCoy on a deep crossing route.
At 6’5", Cameron complements the 6’6" Moore in Cleveland’s TE unit led by veteran—and the team's reception leader last season—Ben Watson.
Some analysts are predicting three-TE offensive sets by the Browns this year, considering the team’s questionable wide receiver situation.
With his athleticism and height, Cameron could be a key contributor in that type of scheme.
The Browns will need some help at cornerback this season, and fifth-round rookie Buster Skrine (pronounced: screen) is looking to make his mark as a possible nickel option for the team.
Skrine, by all accounts, has been the fastest person on the field throughout training camp thus far, and distinguished himself with a pick-six during camp on Tuesday. He said he is shooting to be the team’s nickel corner.
At 5’10”, Skrine does not have prototypical height, but he is reported to have run a 4.2 40-yard dash and is looking to make an impact with his speed and technique.
After losing cornerback Eric Wright to the Detroit Lions, the Browns brought in Dimitri Patterson to shore up the team’s defensive back depth. But look for a couple surprises from this fifth-round sleeper in 2011.
New Cleveland Browns fullback Owen Marecic
Marecic played both linebacker and fullback for Stanford University, where coaches praised both his work ethic and pure athletic ability.
With soft hands that fit the West Coast offense the Browns are installing this year, Marecic will look to make an impact both blocking and running routes in the new scheme. In January, he was named the winner of the Paul Hornung Award for the most versatile player in college football.
He will look to bring that versatility to a position in the new Browns offense that will require every ounce of it.