With the start of training camp about a month away, Browns head coach Eric Mangini has made one thing clear through offseason training activities and minicamp—he is the man in charge in Berea.
When Mangini first accepted the head coaching job in Cleveland, he wanted to infuse a “team-first” attitude with his new team. He kept true to his word by trading an unhappy tight end in Kellen Winslow to Tampa Bay.
He then “won” personal disputes with disgruntled players Shaun Rogers and Josh Cribbs, sending them the message that “no one player is bigger than the team.”
Kicker Phil Dawson, the only player left from the original 1999 expansion team, was reportedly holding out of OTA because he wanted a new contract.
Instead of reprimanding Dawson, Mangini brushed off his absence when asked about it by the media and said, “the guys here are making the most of their opportunity.”
The quarterback battle between Brady Quinn and Derek Anderson has been difficult to evaluate due to the various combinations that Mangini has put together with the offensive line and skill-position players.
Both quarterbacks have struggled as Quinn and Anderson have been trying to adapt to a new offensive scheme. Mangini has also shuffled offensive linemen between first and second string.
Guard Rex Hadnot and center Hank Fraley have been seen working with the first team, replacing guard Eric Steinbach and center Alex Mack.
Mangini would like Steinbach to add some weight in order to make it through the grind of the NFL season, especially in a division that features defensive lineman like Casey Hampton (Steelers) and Haloti Ngata (Ravens).
I would expect that a Pro Bowl-caliber player like Steinbach and a first-round pick in Mack will be starting on opening day.
Wide receiver Braylon Edwards missed the team's mandatory minicamp due to an “undisclosed injury,” but it is not believed to be serious. Edwards’ absence has opened the door for rookies Brian Robiskie and Mohamed Massaquoi and veterans Mike Furrey and David Patten.
Reports have indicated that Robiskie has “looked sharp in practices”, and Massaquoi has “been drawing praise from Mangini with his abilities.” The battles for the two and three spots behind Edwards could be very interesting come late July.
Third-year cornerbacks Eric Wright and Brandon McDonald have reportedly impressed Mangini and the Browns’ staff as well. Mangini defended both players when asked about their history of getting beat on deep passes.
Mangini said, “everybody gets beat deep, but you have to have a short memory and go back and go again or you’ll get beat again.”
With another year of experience from both Wright and McDonald, along with the addition of Rod Hood, a weakness of the team last year could become a strength this season.
If there is one thing that jumps out at the average Browns fan, it’s that Mangini is creating a competitive atmosphere by having every player battle for their starting position.
He’s going to find the best 11 players to start on offense and the best 11 to start on defense, regardless of where the player was drafted or years of NFL experience.
After four years of Romeo Crennel’s country club-type atmosphere, Camp Mangini will be a welcoming mind-set in Berea this summer.