AFC North: Cleveland Browns
A team that wants to rely on running the ball to win does not need to be shuttling running backs on and off the roster.
That's the situation the Cleveland Browns are in right now, though, as the team added two backs to make up for injuries to four.
It's early and preseason has yet to start, so the situation is hardly crippling. However, it is a concern as the team will be without three of its top four (or five) backs for the foreseeable future.
The Browns aren't exactly forthcoming on injuries, so they aren't revealing details on how long Terrance West, Duke Johnson, Glenn Winston and Luke Lundy are expected to be out. There was hope, though, that West might be back for Tuesday's practice.
The concern with missed time is a lost opportunity to learn the new offense and system, and potential lost conditioning. The effects can linger -- especially for a rookie like Johnson who has a hamstring issue, an injury that also can linger. Over and over in past years, the Browns have seen rookies go through holdouts or be injured in camp and take significant time to recover and get back to their normal level. How the situation affects Johnson will play out.
Johnson was slated to be the team's quick-footed change-of-pace back this season. His open-field skills and ability to make people miss had coaches gushing with high hopes in offseason work. A lingering hamstring injury would be especially troubling for a back who relies on agility and quickness like Johnson.
Pettine would only say that Johnson "could be a little bit" before he returns. "A little bit" for a coach reluctant to discuss injuries could be a week or two. The vague reference to "a little bit" was followed by Pettine saying the team was confident it would get West back soon.
West led the Browns in carries and rushing last season (171 for 673), but admitted this offseason he acted immaturely at times and needed to be more of a pro. He and Isaiah Crowell will probably compete for the bulk of the "regular" carries. Pettine was hopeful West could return Tuesday, but then the Browns signed two backs.
Winston played five games on special teams last season after being claimed off waivers from San Francisco. The team brought him back for 2015, but his on-field performance has never matched the off-field praise Winston has received from coaches. Pettine said Winston showed up for camp with "a ding." He has yet to work on the field.
Lundy, an undrafted rookie, left practice on Sunday with a concussion.
Flanders is a 5-9 guy in his first season out of Sam Houston State. Parmele is in his fourth season. He has played for three teams, including the Ravens.
Health is a concern for every team in preseason and training camp. Sometimes injuries hit certain position groups harder than others. While not crippling, nagging injuries can be nagging to a team.
The Browns have to be hoping that this spate of nagging problems is nothing more than a short-term hurdle.
BEREA, Ohio -- Mike Pettine likes to hold a brief competition at the end of each day’s practice, offense versus defense.
A year ago, the winner wore orange jerseys the following day -- and had the bragging rights that go with winning.
This season, the “winners” get a different kind of jersey -- one designed by Pettine.
Pettine originally wanted camouflage, but was told by the league that the jerseys had to reflect the team’s colors. So Pettine and the team came up with a Browns-style camouflage.
— PatMcManamon (@PatMcManamon) August 2, 2015
— PatMcManamon (@PatMcManamon) August 2, 2015
Prodded about the look at his post-practice media gathering, Pettine fired right back.
“I’ve seen how some of you in this group dress, so I don’t know if I’m going to be very open to fashion advice,” Pettine said. “You know who you are, too.”
The jerseys are practice only and are not available for retail.
BEREA, Ohio -- The Cleveland Browns' first day of work in full pads led to three players finding the sidelines.
Defensive lineman Billy Winn was carted off with a knee injury. Winn appeared to hurt the knee during the inside run drill, which is not supposed to result in any players going to the ground.
Coach Mike Pettine deferred comment until Winn was examined, but Winn posted what seemed like positive news on Twitter Saturday afternoon:
Rookie running back Duke Johnson watched a good portion of practice with his left leg wrapped. Johnson said he felt something in his hamstring, so trainers had him watch as a precaution.
Running back Terrance West also left with what appeared to be a calf issue.
Pettine did not comment on the running back injuries, but owner Jimmy Haslam said the backs "may be out a little bit."
Highlight: It was Joe Haden day, as the Browns cornerback made several plays for the secondary. Haden's day included a lovely near interception of a Josh McCown deep throw to Taylor Gabriel. Haden didn't hang on, which led him to kick the ball. But that was about the only thing he didn't do right.
This and that: It was predictable. One day after the offense had a good practice with several impressive completions, the defense bounced back and controlled the first day with full pads.
"That's what you want to see," quarterback Josh McCown said. "If you're an offense, you don't necessarily want to go out and beat the defense very single day. Then we're in for a long year. If we can have some back and forth, then that’s a good thing."
McCown and the crowd reacted loudly to a lovely Johnny Manziel throw to fullback Malcolm Johnson down the seam. Manziel missed some throws, but that was as good a pass as he’s thrown in camp. "Just a good quarterback play," McCown said.
Dwayne Bowe said Friday that McCown was on his way to being a top-five quarterback in the NFL. McCown’s comment: "Whatever makes us win games, that’s all I care about." ... Practice ended the day when a long pass from McCown sailed through Bowe’s hands.
Roster move: LB Darius Eubanks was activated off the non-football injury list.
Camp tidbit: Thomas was given his regular day off, and in a bit of a surprise Andrew McDonald got the first-team reps at left tackle (Cameron Erving got second-team reps). McDonald has been with practice squads in Miami and Carolina and spent part of 2014 with Seattle and the Colts.
"He's another guy, very quiet, doesn't say a lot but he just goes out and works," Pettine said. "He's had a really productive offseason for us, and we were very quietly optimistic about him coming into camp and very anxious to see how he'll be with pads on."
From Pettine on a brief scuffle during team drills: "We want to be good teammates and that certainly falls outside of that. To me that's very quickly forgetting that you're a part of a team when you're looking to settle an individual score."
From Haslam: "We are clearly putting together a team that is not totally reliant on great play out of the quarterback. We think we are going to be very competitive this year. Despite what everybody reads and says, we haven't given up on Johnny [Manziel]. We think he has potential to be a good football player. Having the potential to do it and doing it are two different things. I think we have said numerous times that you are not going to win consistently in this league without a good quarterback. We are trying to make that happen."
Sunday: The last practice before a players' day off starts at 9:30 a.m. ET and continues through noon.
BEREA, Ohio -- Jimmy Haslam turned down the hot seat on Saturday.
Seven words from the Cleveland Browns owner put an early end to Cleveland's annual January sport. Haslam stood solid behind GM Ray Farmer and coach Mike Pettine when he insisted: "We're not going to blow things up" no matter how the 2015 season goes.
This unexpected dose of continuity is welcome for a city and team that has seen nothing but tumult, change, and losing since 1999.
The seven words also show that Haslam has a healthy dose of reality.
The team's owner has to recognize that uncertainty about the quarterback position as well as lack of playmakers on offense combines with an NFC West-added schedule to make 2015 appear, at present, as a formidable challenge for a Browns team that has lost nine, 12, 11, 12, 11, 11 and 12 games the last seven seasons.
Haslam stood by Farmer during a tumultuous offseason that saw the GM suspended four games and the team fined $250,000 for Farmer’s in-game texts. In addition, the two first-round picks from 2014 -- Johnny Manziel and Justin Gilbert -- tried to find themselves personally and professionally, $6.25 million was guaranteed to a quarterback who went 1-10 as a starter last season and star receiver Josh Gordon was suspended for the year.
Farmer continues to guide the personnel ship, Pettine the on-field activities, and both do it while holding hands and singing "You are my sunshine, my only sunshine ..." to each other at least once per day.
The professed harmony with which the Browns start the 2015 season is noteworthy. Now it extends to the future, as Haslam says he has the guys he wants. Promises made in August are sometimes harder to keep in January, but Haslam sure sounded firm. If he ever gives the public "vote of confidence" though ...
This kind of statement is big news in Cleveland. The Browns, after all, have had seven head coaches (and one interim) since 1999, and five since 2009. Their longest tenured coach since ’99 was Romeo Crennel, who got four years. The previous three coach before Pettine received either two seasons (Eric Mangini, Pat Shurmur) or one (Rob Chudzinski).
In comparison, the Steelers have had three coaches since 1969.
In the division, Mike Tomlin enters his ninth season with the Steelers, Marvin Lewis his 13th in Cincinnati and John Harbaugh his eighth in Baltimore.
The other things those three coaches and teams have that the Browns lack?
Recent playoff appearances and solid starting quarterbacks.
Those two elements bring true long-term continuity.
BEREA, Ohio -- If Mike Pettine’s mantra for the 2015 season is “words into action,” his team has some lofty words to bring to life.
Dwayne Bowe, signed as a free agent in the offseason, told the media that Josh McCown is showing “all the potential of being a top five quarterback in the NFL.”
Bowe added that second-year player Taylor Gabriel “is going to be a top receiver in the NFL.” Perhaps Bowe sees a young Antonio Brown developing.
Free safety Tashaun Gipson said the team’s secondary is “the best, bar none.”
These are lofty words, especially for a team that hasn’t been over .500 since 2007. But with his mantra, Pettine does not seem to mind the words. He’s backed his players more than once, saying they are a prideful group.
What he wants them to do is put words into action.
Or not just talk the talk. He wants them to walk the walk.
Highlight: McCown put several passes right on receivers during an excellent day of work. One deep sideline route to Bowe was thrown perfectly -- and Bowe helped with a veteran left-arm pushoff of K’Waun Williams before making the catch. McCown later dropped two deep crossing routes right over the underneath coverage and in front of the deep help. Receivers made the catches in stride, and in one instance just before going out of bounds. It would have been tough to place a ball better. It would not be at all surprising if the defense had a good day Saturday; often that's how it works in camp when one side of the ball has a productive practice.
Roster move: The team activated WR Marlon Moore off the non-football injury list. Moore will make a strong case to make the team. He is a very valuable member of the special teams group.
Camp tidbit: Rookie receiver Vince Mayle has taken part in his first two full practices with the team since he was drafted in the fourth round. Mayle was sidelined in the spring and summer after surgery to repair a broken thumb. “The first day wasn’t what I would have liked it to be,” Mayle said, “but I am willing to improve off of that. The second day was better. I was more confident in myself and playing like I was in college.”
From the coach, on McCown’s day of work: “That’s the one thing that has jumped out is his accuracy, not just on the underneath stuff but those intermediate to deeper throws. I talk about having to watch the film and being able to evaluate, but I don’t have to watch the film to know he threw some pretty good balls in practice today. It’s good to see. Hopefully, that will carry over when we’re in pads.” -- Mike Pettine
From the GM, on his relationship with the coach: “Great. The guy doesn’t invite you to his summer home if he is mad at you or there is a problem. I think Mike said it best when he said we were both singing from the same hymnal. The reality is that me and Mike don’t have any issues. I can’t tell you when I have ever been in a knockdown, drag-out argument with the man ever. Do we agree on every player? No. Can we sit down and have a conversation? Yes. I like Pett. I think he likes me.” -- Ray Farmer.
Saturday: The Browns return to the practice field in Berea for another workout at 9:30 a.m. This will be the first in full pads and will include an added session on inside run, but will not include any live tackling.
BEREA, Ohio — Subdued.
That’s the best way to describe the opening day of Cleveland Browns training camp.
This camp-without-buzz opened to fans lining the sidelines and chanting some players’ names when they emerged from the team’s facility.
But there was no outward cheering for Johnny Manziel -- though there was great appreciation for him spending a fair amount of time after practice signing autographs. There was no lack of energy, but there was no great excitement at plays, and no great chatter on or off the field.
As first practices go it was functional, but abbreviated as coach Mike Pettine limited the scheduled 2½ hours of work to two hours to help ease players into things (That timeframe brought on-air groans of jealousy from ex-NFL defensive back Jerod Cherry of ESPN-Cleveland radio WKNR; Cherry played in the two-a-day era.)
Pettine dubbed it a good start, but even he might admit that most coaches would say they had a good start after Day 1 of camp.
Something was missing.
There was little buzz and a clear lack of a vibe. There was no spark, and little excitement. The biggest outburst from the fans came when Terrelle Pryor finished a short catch by running to the end zone as the defensive back more or less stopped. Pryor did the right thing, and it was a good play. But the biggest moment of excitement came from a quarterback turned receiver who admitted he is facing a tough task.
Lack of buzz and attention might not be a bad thing. Pettine’s theme this season is “words Into action,” so perhaps the team is simply being more businesslike.
And perhaps the buzz from drafting Manziel has simply dissipated following his disappointing rookie season and subdued offseason.
One year ago, national media and TV trucks flocked to Berea for the opening of camp. In 2015, the only flocks were seagulls closer to Lake Erie.
It’s not like the opening of camp should bring bells, whistles and fireworks. This one just seemed unusually quiet, more like a practice during minicamp or in the middle of October than the exciting start of a new season.
Is it the result of an offseason when people predicted little or nothing from the Browns in 2015? An offseason that resulted in the suspension of the team's best receiver and the first-round quarterback from a year ago relegated to backing up a 36-year-old who has never played a full season of 16 games?
That’s a valid view, even if it is the glass-half-empty take.
The half-full view says a start without buzz is, in some ways, refreshing.
The Browns have talked a good game for years, then gone out and laid the proverbial egg during the season. They did some talking before this season, but Pettine started camp by putting his foot down about actions meaning more than words.
This led to a functional, but subdued first day.
The next real gauge will be Saturday, when players don pads.
Johnny Manziel spent part of his downtime vacationing in Cape Cod.
The story was first reported by Charlie Campbell of WalterFootball.com and confirmed by a source with knowledge of the situation.
Gruden is an analyst for ESPN’s Monday Night Football, and part of his pre-draft work includes working with quarterbacks on the show Gruden's QB Camp.
Manziel's decision to work with Gruden is another step toward putting a disastrous rookie season behind him. He was ineffective in two starts and a distraction off the field. Shortly after the season, Manziel spent 10 weeks at a treatment facility. He has moved his residence and been much less of a public presence on social media.
Manziel admitted his public persona overtook him last season. He even said he'd eliminate his signature money sign that helped make him "Johnny Football" in college.
Browns quarterbacks are to report to camp on Monday, with the first full-team practice open to the media and public set for Thursday.
What does Gruden think of Manziel?
"I want Manziel,” Gruden said in a conference call prior to the draft last season.
The Cleveland Browns open training camp on July 30 at the team's facility in Berea, Ohio. Here's a closer look at the Browns' camp, which wraps up on Aug. 24:
Top storyline: Josh McCown settled in to the quarterback position during a three-day minicamp in June, and the team has made every effort since to say that Johnny Manziel is a backup. That is a positive approach. The Browns need to stabilize the team's most important position by bringing McCown along in his knowledge of the system and in his role as the team's leader. They also must keep him healthy. The nonsense that has been past quarterback competitions needs to be eliminated, and the Browns have taken good steps in doing their best to do so. The competition last season almost swallowed Brian Hoyer and Manziel. McCown is 36 and is coming off a season in which he lost 10 of 11 games as Tampa Bay's starter. There are significant questions about his ability to improve on the Browns' seven-win season of a year ago. The team can do what it can to help him in camp by focusing on his growth in the system.
Position battles to watch: Cam Erving, the team's second first-round pick, will start training camp at right guard. Erving will be given the chance to play several positions up front, including right tackle, right guard and center. The right side seems to be his most likely landing spot if he takes a starting spot; Erving will be competing with Mitchell Schwartz at tackle and John Greco at guard. At running back, Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell will fight to be the starter, though rookie Duke Johnson figures to get plenty of time and touches. The starting back will be the primary back, though. Offensive coordinator John DeFilippo said he believes in going with the hot hand.
Veterans to watch: Dwayne Bowe was guaranteed $9 million by the Browns after a season in which he did not score a touchdown in Kansas City. Bowe has talked big since signing, but his production has dropped the past three seasons. If Bowe does not bounce back to the form he showed in 2010 and 2011, if he is on the back nine of his career, the Browns will have given a lot of money to a guy who will turn 31 in September. Cornerback Tramon Williams is in a similar spot. The Browns guaranteed him $10 million and gave him a three-year deal, numbers that were too rich and too long for his former team, Green Bay. At 32, Williams also has to show he has something left and can start opposite Joe Haden.
Rookies to watch: Danny Shelton and Erving will be the focus because they were the first-round picks. But running back Duke Johnson and receiver Vince Mayle could help greatly if they come through in camp. Johnson has quickness and pass-catching ability that was absent from the team's offense last season. He was most impressive in offseason work. Mayle missed most of the offseason work after having surgery to repair a broken thumb. He's a big, strong wideout who could bring a different element to the receiving corps.
Bubble watch: There are not a lot of veterans in trouble, mainly because the Browns started the rebuilding process after last season with a paucity of depth. Thus, anyone added should make the team. The one position group where there is a glut of talent, though, is the defensive line. The Browns added two linemen in the draft who should make the team and contribute in Danny Shelton and Xavier Cooper, and they signed Randy Starks as a free agent and gave John Hughes a contract extension. That puts a guy like Billy Winn in jeopardy -- not because he hasn't contributed, but because of the numbers at the position.
Backing the line: Defensive coordinator Jim O'Neil brought doubt into the equation when he said that linebacker Barkevious Mingo had to earn playing time while Scott Solomon was a nasty piece penciled in to be a force against the run. Solomon has been in the league three seasons and started zero games. Mingo is a first-round pick, the sixth overall in 2013. He was drafted to be a pass-rusher, but now the Browns tout his coverage ability. Mingo played with a shoulder injury that needed surgery after the season, but clearly the Browns want Mingo to take a step forward in 2015. If he doesn't, his future with the team may be in doubt.
For daily updates at camp, check out the Cleveland Browns clubhouse page.
Running back (Terrance West): The Browns' leading rusher from 2015 had 673 yards, but he needs to show more maturity on and off the field.
Wide receiver (Dwayne Bowe): He was guaranteed $9 million as a free agent, even though he had zero touchdowns last season in Kansas City.
Wide receiver (Brian Hartline): He should be a dependable second receiver, though it would be nice if he had a little more speed.
Left tackle (Joe Thomas): He hasn’t missed a single down since he was taken third overall in the 2007 draft.
Left guard (Joel Bitonio): A natural from Day 1, he will be headed to many Pro Bowls.
Center (Alex Mack): How he recovers from the broken leg that sidelined him for 11 games in 2014 will be key to the line's coming together.
Right tackle (Mitchell Schwartz): Erving also will have a shot to unseat Schwartz, but the coaches seem to like Schwartz.
Defensive end (Randy Starks): The Browns feel this free-agent addition can step in immediately on the outside.
Nose tackle (Danny Shelton): He was drafted 12th overall to stop the run; if he doesn’t start, it will be a major disappointment.
Defensive end (Desmond Bryant): He is probably the most underrated player on defense; he led the entire defense the past season with 749 snaps.
Inside linebacker (Karlos Dansby): A professional, a leader and a guy who was badly missed when a knee injury sidelined him late in 2014.
Outside linebacker (Scott Solomon): Defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil raved about his run-stuffing abilities; he’ll play early downs to do just that.
Cornerback (Joe Haden): A key to the defense’s success, Haden has grown into one of the best corners in the league.
Cornerback (Tramon Williams): His signing solidified the secondary. The Browns believe -- and hope -- he has something left at age 32.
Safety (Donte Whitner): He played solid in 2014 and made the Pro Bowl as an alternate.
Safety (Tashaun Gipson): He is an aggressive safety who figures to make plenty of money after the season as a free agent; he plays the run and plays the pass.
Place-kicker (Carey Spear): Nobody should be surprised if the Browns add a veteran kicker at some point during camp.
Punter (Andy Lee): With his rockets in offseason practices, he caught attention immediately upon being traded to the Browns.
Kickoff returner (Duke Johnson): The rookie has the speed and attitude to be successful. He had two kickoff returns for touchdowns in 2012 at the University of Miami.
Punt returner (Travis Benjamin): Special teams coordinator Chris Tabor said this of Benjamin: "I expect him to be great."
With offseason workouts and minicamps in the rearview mirror and training camps just a few weeks away, we assess the Cleveland Browns' offseason moves and assign a letter grade in the video above.
Best move: When a team has a glaring need and makes a move to fill it, the team deserves credit. The Browns were the NFL’s worst team at stopping the run last season. That was true even though the Browns believe in their players and believe in their system. To address the situation, the Browns added the nose tackle they’ve lacked: Danny Shelton of Washington. Shelton missed OTAs to finish his academic work at Washington, so he’ll need to jump into things during camp. If he can plug the middle like the Browns hope, a weakness could be erased.
Riskiest move: Signing a 36-year-old quarterback and adding a new coordinator and new receivers brings huge challenges to the offense. The Browns aren’t just starting over, they are starting over with the coach who leads the offense, the guy who calls the signals and the receivers who catch his passes. History has shown the challenges involved in this, and when the quarterback is Josh McCown, a guy who lost 10 of 11 starts in 2014, the challenge seems greater. The Browns built their defense on system and players. Their offense is built on hope.
Receiving (non)move: The Browns ignored the wide receiver spot in the draft last season when they knew Josh Gordon would be suspended. They ignored the receiver spot in the draft until the fourth round this season even though Gordon already had been suspended. The team added starting receivers via free agency in Dwayne Bowe and Brian Hartline and drafted a big, strong guy in Vince Mayle. But they still lack a big-play, speed guy. The receiving corps last season was a strength for 10 games, then could not sustain the production. Whether that group has improved enough to help a new quarterback will be closely watched.
Training camp outlook: The big question for the Browns as they head to training camp is the same one they’ve had as they’ve headed to training camp every season since 1999: What about the quarterback? The Browns have given the keys to McCown, and they’ve not hesitated to build him up. McCown is a tremendous individual and great to have on a team. He looked sharp in his throws and reads in minicamp. How he plays over the course of a 16-game season remains to be seen. The Browns headed to the offseason with McCown clearly ahead of Johnny Manziel -- and with continued uncertainty about the most important position on the team.
Most NFL analysts agree the Cleveland Browns need receivers.
Monday the team added Terrelle Pryor, claiming him on waivers from the Bengals. Pryor is a project, a former quarterback just cut by Cincinnati, and a guy who has never played receiver. He declared one month ago that “If I can't play quarterback I can't play football.”
There's no risk in the move. Pryor will be one of 90 working in training camp, and he'll be re-united with John DeFilippo. The Browns offensive coordinator was Pryor's quarterback coach in Oakland when he started nine games at quarterback.
DeFilippo also was instrumental in the Browns adding Josh McCown, who enters training camp as the team's starting quarterback.
Pryor will not work at quarterback. He will compete to make the team at receiver, a move he made when the Bengals released him after he spent one month with the team.
The reason for the release: According to ESPN.com Bengals reporter Coley Harvey, Pryor had dropped to fourth-team quarterback behind Josh Johnson and far behind backup AJ McCarron. Pryor also angered the Bengals by posting video of the team's minicamp on one of his social media accounts.
The Bengals ban videos and filming during their live work, and Pryor posted from the full team drills to his Twitter account. The videos were soon removed.
Some players have made the switch from quarterback to receiver successfully. Among them are Ronald Curry (of North Carolina and the Raiders) and Antwaan Randle El (of Indiana and the Steelers). Both were successful at receiver -- Randle El even threw a touchdown pass in a Super Bowl -- though were far from All-Pros. But both made the switch immediately upon joining their NFL team.
Josh Cribs played quarterback at Kent State and set records returning kicks for the Browns. Eric Mangini put him at receiver, where the results were mixed, at best (41 receptions, 518 yards, four touchdowns in 2011).
Pryor is making the move after spending three years trying to play quarterback in Oakland, and after being traded to Seattle, and then going to Kansas City and Cincinnati.
In the offseason the Browns addressed the receiver position by signing Dwayne Bowe and Brian Hartline as free agents. They drafted Vince Mayle in the fourth round. Mayle reported with a broken wrist that needed surgery. Now they've claimed Shane Wynn on waivers from Atlanta and Pryor on waivers from the Bengals.
It's the classic flyer. Take a 6-5 guy and see what he can do. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
But the addition of Pryor will do little to change the opinion of folks who believe the position is the team's biggest weakness.
NFL Nation reporter Pat McManamon assesses which rookies on the Cleveland Browns could earn a starting berth this season.
Why Danny Shelton could start: It would be disappointing if Shelton does not start at nose tackle. He was drafted 12th overall. He’s expected to start. The Browns need him to start. He is expected to be the anchor in the middle of the line and the guy who provides the foundation for a turnaround in run defense. The Browns ranked 32nd in the league last season. They have not had a big, strong guy in the middle -- a Haloti Ngata or Casey Hampton type -- for many years. Shelton was drafted to fill a role. Defensive line coach Anthony Weaver said Shelton has the potential to be included with those players. If Shelton doesn’t start it will be a major disappointment.
Why Cam Erving could start: Talent would win him a job. Erving played left tackle and center last season at Florida State. He has versatility and ability. The Browns would be fine if Erving is the versatile backup. The team likes its group of Joe Thomas, Joel Bitonio, Alex Mack, John Greco and Mitchell Schwartz. But they’d be happier if he wins the job at, say, right guard or tackle. That means he’s earned it by beating out a player they like, and the Browns' offensive line would have improved. As line coach Andy Moeller said, it's up to Erving to find a spot, and it's up to the veterans to keep him from that spot.
BEREA, Ohio -- Cleveland Browns offensive coordinator John DeFilippo met the media on Thursday and offered his assessment of the quarterbacks.
His main point? Josh McCown has every chance to be the team’s opening day starter against the Jets, and enters training camp as No. 1.
"I’m going to echo coach (Mike) Pettine’s words because he and I are on the exact same page about this," DeFilippo said. "I don’t see a change for right now going into training camp. I just don’t. I think Josh (McCown) is playing at a high level right now. I think Josh is doing the things we want him to do."
Johnny Manziel has not had the visible results -- witness the time with the media present when he dropped three shotgun snaps -- but DeFilippo specified a couple specific areas he’s seen Manziel grow.
Those were pocket awareness and something the offensive coordinator called "huddle management."
"I saw (Manziel) the other day for the first time get to his third progression, which was fantastic," DeFilippo said of pocket awareness.
He described a play where Manziel had to read right to left, with a post and a corner route on the right side and a deep in coming from the left. Manziel threw it to the third option, the receiver dragging across.
"That’s hard to do for a young quarterback, to work from the right side of the field all the way back coming into his vision," DeFilippo said. "You see him reset his feet and getting back to second and third progressions, which is something I didn’t see much of him last season or when he was in college."
DeFilippo offered these specifics about huddle management.
"He’s getting the play out with confidence," he said. "We do have some long play calls. That’s just the nature of NFL play calls. You are going to have some long play calls.
"He’s gone in there and he’s been like a veteran spitting it out. We’ve had very, very few issues pre-snap with him in terms of delay of games, forgetting motions, not sending a shift we wanted, motion landmarks."
What’s been lacking is what is visible, and what’s been reported: Manziel needs to improve his accuracy.
"Has he made every throw as strike-point accurate as we want?" DeFilippo said. "No, and he knows that. He needs to be a little bit more strike-point accurate than he has been.
"That will come. You want to work outside in with these guys. You want to work the big picture and then you can really hone in on what they need to do from the other parts of playing quarterback."
Offensive tackle Joe Thomas echoed the praise of McCown, saying he has been accurate and is well ahead of where past quarterbacks have been at this point of the offseason, a time when Thomas said the defense has huge advantages.
McCown did have a strong three days. He seemed to throw the ball well, to read the defense well and to take charge of changing alignments and plays at the line.
"He’s been that way the entire offseason," Thomas said.
BEREA, Ohio -- The Cleveland Browns' offense has heard its fair share of criticism this offseason, even though it is just the offseason.
While players and coaches cry for patience and say offseason practice is about learning from mistakes, the media (myself included) has not had much good to report based on the practices that have been open.
That changed on Tuesday for Josh McCown, who had what seemed to be a very good day of work. McCown was accurate and threw the ball down the field, something that hadn't been seen a lot since practices have been open.
In one set of 11-on-11 plays, he hit Andrew Hawkins on a nice throw some 30 yards downfield, then followed with a deep fade to Dwayne Bowe on the left. McCown found Brian Hartline at the sideline, and also had good throws to Taylor Gabriel and the tight ends.
McCown said it was the "most consistent we've been for a whole practice."
"I think, offensively, we came out with just a little bit more of a concerted effort to push the ball down the field," coach Mike Pettine said. "Defensively, had kind of gotten into a rhythm of sitting on a lot of routes.
"I think the offensive guys just coming out of last week's tape study felt they were probably ripe for some double moves or for some throws down the field. It was nice to see, especially on a windy day like this, that those guys executed."
This was by far the best the offense had looked in the practices open to the media.
In a later set of 11-on-11 plays, Manziel took six snaps in the shotgun, dropping three of them. Every play ended when he put the ball on the ground.
The Browns' first two centers were not practicing -- the Browns continue to take care of Alex Mack and Cameron Erving was out with an undisclosed injury -- but Manziel still had bad hands on the snaps.
Pettine said the snaps might have been low, and he would have to watch the tape.
He also addressed Manziel's psyche heading to the end of offseason work.
"It's early," he said, "but as I've said before, it's so far, so good. Time will tell. Training camp is going to be real important for him, but I think he's in a good place and headed that way."