Browns Training Camp Will Be Full of Competition

Eric HardingContributor IMay 19, 2009

CLEVELAND - NOVEMBER 23:  Quarterback Brady Quinn #10 of the Cleveland Browns looks down the field during the game against the Houston Texans at Cleveland Browns Stadium on November 23, 2008 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

There are several position battles to be sorted out during Browns training camp in July. None are more important than quarterback where three players look to fill two spots.

However, wide receiver opposite Braylon Edwards and outside linebacker are two positions coach Eric Mangini also needs to bring clarity to.

1. Quarterback

You can’t even mention the phrase “position battle” in Cleveland without it implying one main thing—the quarterbacks.

Aside from Charlie Frye being awarded the starting quarterback job in 2006 prematurely, the Browns have had quarterback competitions every season since Tim Couch’s early years (Coin flip anyone?).

Unless either Derek Anderson or Brady Quinn is traded before training camp begins (which is highly unlikely), the Browns will be headed down the same road in 2009.

2. Backup quarterback

The quarterback position battle goes deeper than just who will be the starter.
The Browns acquired Brett Ratliff from the New York Jets in a draft-day trade, but the question is, for what role?

It’s still unknown if Ratliff was brought in to help Quinn and Anderson understand the offense better, or if Browns management believes he could actually step in if called upon.

If Ratcliff proves he can be an adequate backup and the Browns receive the right offer, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the loser of the starting battle between Anderson and Quinn get traded.

3. Center

Moving on to the offensive line, it still isn’t certain that veteran Hank Fraley won’t be the starting center when the Browns host the Minnesota Vikings in the opener.

Although he’s a natural center, first round draft pick Alex Mack has the versatility to play guard if necessary. Look for Mack to replace either Fraley at center or right guard candidates Floyd Womack and Rex Hadnot, depending on who has the best camp.

4. Running back

Jerome Harrison will certainly push veteran Jamal Lewis as the starting running back, but both are expected to contribute heavily depending on the situation.

Fans have been clamoring for Harrison to get more carries for a couple years now, and after showing signs in 2008, they may finally get their wish.

Although there have been grumblings in New York that Mangini under-utilized running back Leon Washington last season, Washington had more than twice as many carries and ran for nearly twice as many yards as Harrison last season.

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Noah Herron and sixth round draft pick James Davis will also be in the mix to get some playing time.

5. No. 2 wide receiver

The Browns have a long list of No. 2 wide receiver candidates opposite Braylon Edwards, so besides quarterback, this could be the most compelling position battle of the summer.

Donte Stallworth still has legal issues to resolve, and it appears the team is ready to move on without him no matter how it turns out.

Although it’s still uncertain how the Browns plan to use veterans David Patten and Mike Furrey, rookies Brian Robiskie and Mohammad Massaquoi appear to be the front-runners to start at wide receiver.

There’s also Lance Leggett and Paul Hubbard—two young players who spent 2008 on the practice squad, who will also be in the mix to contribute.

6. Outside linebacker

On the defensive side, the most intriguing battle is second year outside linebacker Alex Hall and rookie David Veikune battling for playing time against veteran David Bowens.

Bowens was signed as a free agent from the Jets (who else) and probably has the edge on earning the starting job. But Hall emerged as a pass rush specialist during passing situations last season, and Veikune is a solid prospect hand selected by General Manager George Kokinis to play outside in the 3-4.

Hall finished third on the team in sacks last season, but the key stat is he played in less than 20 percent of the team’s snaps. Also, Veikune has been compared a lot to Patriots' linebacker Teddy Brushci, meaning he may play some inside linebacker as well.

7. Backup corner

There’s also a competition for the third, fourth, and fifth cornerback spots.

The Browns signed Hank Poteat from the Jets and Corey Ivy from the Baltimore Ravens to add depth to the defensive backfield and to play mainly during nickel and dime situations, but rookie corners Don Carey and Coye Francies will push them for playing time.

Carey definitely has athletic ability, and his intelligence appears to be intriguing to Mangini. He has also played some safety in the past.

As a sixth rounder, teams usually want someone who won’t have mental lapses and can learn the playbook quickly, in addition to having natural talent.

Francies is described as a very physical corner with good instincts and tons of upside. He also has some kick return ability, and that’s something NFL teams always covet.

Usually sixth round draft picks have just a slim chance to make the team, but in this case, each may have a chance to contribute this season.

8. Inside linebacker

Second year player Beau Bell missed a good portion of 2008 with injuries and failed to make any type of impact as a rookie, but he will battle veteran Eric Barton for playing time inside during running downs.

As for passing situations, Leon Williams saw a lot of time in nickel packages under the old regime, but Kokinis drafted Kaluka Maiava out of USC to fill that same role.

It will be interesting to see if Bell and Williams even make the team this season, never mind compete for starting jobs.


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