Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 7/17/12

Browns training camp preview

TRAINING CAMP GOALS

1. The coaches want Brandon Weeden to get all the time he needs with the starters to make sure they are in sync when the season opens. Weeden has not been named the starter yet, but it would be the biggest story of training camp if the 22nd pick in the draft this year does not end up starting. Weeden played five years of minor league baseball with the Yankees, Dodgers and Royals, so he is not overwhelmed about being a pro athlete. Neither he nor the Browns are concerned he will be 28 in his first NFL training camp. He is, though, still a rookie. How quickly Weeden adjusts to NFL defenses after playing in the Big 12 will be the key factor in how much the Browns improve on their 4-12 record in 2011.

2. Improving the offensive line is critical to any jump the Browns make in the AFC North. Rookie Mitchell Schwartz will be the starting right tackle from the first day of training camp. Getting him plenty of practice against the pass rush is essential in keeping Weeden vertical. Right tackle was a major problem for the Browns last season, though the problems cannot all be pinned on Tony Pashos. He tried to play with a foot injury that required surgery after the season ended. He would likely have missed all of 2012 so the Browns released him. Schwartz isn't the only player being counted on to fortify the line. Left guard Jason Pinkston and right guard Shawn Lauvao are second-year starters and should be able to build on what they did last year.

PLAYER TO WATCH

Coach Pat Shurmur says second-year tight end Jordan Cameron made one of the biggest leaps from last year, based on his conditioning in the offseason. Cameron then continued to show that improvement on the field during OTAs and minicamp. Incumbent starting tight end Benjamin Watson fought through three concussions last season. The last one landed him on injured reserve for the final three games. Cameron is quicker than Watson. More because of a numbers game than anything else, Cameron was inactive in eight games last year. He caught five passes in the final three games when Watson was on injured reserve. He will have to show his blocking has improved as much as his route running and hands to unseat Watson, but he will get plenty of opportunities to do that in training camp.

ON THE HOT SEAT

Wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi is entering his fourth season as a starter. He has seven career touchdown catches and never caught more than 36 passes in one season. He was a second-round draft pick in 2009, the same year the Browns drafted Ohio State wide receiver Brian Robiskie in the second round. They gave up on Robiskie last year. They are not at that point with Massaquoi, but he will have to produce if he expects to re-sign with the Browns next year. The Browns selected Baylor wide receiver Josh Gordon in the supplemental draft by investing a second-round pick in 2013. General manager Tom Heckert says Gordon can eventually start. That should be a signal to Massaquoi, who has to get tougher to be a No. 1 receiver.

NOTES, QUOTES

Gordon selected in supplemental draft

--The Browns put in a bid of a second-round pick in the supplemental draft Thursday and were awarded Baylor/Utah wide receiver Josh Gordon. By doing so, the Browns will not have their second-round pick in the 2013 draft.

"He's a big kid," general manager Tom Heckert said. "He's a little over 6-3 and he is 225. He can run and he has huge hands and long arms. He is an impressive looking kid. There were some concerns about him, so I drilled him pretty hard when I was with him. He didn't back down and he told me everything that I thought I needed to hear from him."

Gordon was suspended by Baylor in 2011 following a marijuana arrest. He transferred to Utah and sat out the season. He caught 42 passes for 714 yards and seven touchdowns for Baylor in 2010.

--Gordon is the first player taken by the Browns in the supplemental draft since they were awarded quarterback Bernie Kosar with a first-round pick in 1985.

--Rookies took a break from their normal routine on June 20 when they worked with 250 youngsters at the conclusion of a three-day youth football camp in Cleveland Browns Stadium. The participants, ranging in age between 7 and 12, learned fundamentals such as blocking, kicking and passing.

--Case McCoy, brother of embattled Browns quarterback Colt McCoy, got scammed by a fake ESPN twitter account announcing the Browns traded Colt McCoy to the Eagles.

Case McCoy tweeted: "Good luck Brandon (Weeden). Fan of you, but my brother's pulling the lucky straw on this one. Cleveland is only going downhill!" He followed that by tweeting "That is, if these rumors are true."

The younger McCoy might be wishing he talked to Colt before going the social media route. When he discovered McCoy is still a Browns quarterback -- for now -- he felt compelled to tweet again. "Fake ESPN accounts are nuts. Got me fired up over nothing! Still kinda meant what I said."

The Browns say Colt McCoy is not on the trading block "right now," but haven't ruled out trading him at some point.

--Jim Brown is willing to listen if Mike Holmgren wants to talk, the Browns' all-time great running back told Cleveland.com

Brown has treated the Browns frostily for two years, ever since Holmgren eliminated his job as executive advisor to Randy Lerner. The job paid a reported $500,000 a year.

During a press conference, Holmgren said he would welcome Brown back "with open arms" and said, "How the Browns view Jim Brown hasn't changed and will never change." He did not say, however, that Brown can have his old job back.

"I've always been attracted to anyone who has the class to reach out," Brown said. "I am a Cleveland Brown, but it is always up to those in control to decide what they want to do."

--Without going into detail, running back Trent Richardson, selected by the Browns with the third overall pick in the draft, said his contract is "about done," but he is waiting on first pick Andrew Luck and second pick Robert Griffin III to sign their contracts.

"We're just waiting on the big boys," he said.

--Backup defensive tackle Kiante Tripp was in jail in Atlanta on Tuesday on a felony burglary charge, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported.

"We are aware of the incident involving Kiante Tripp," Browns general manager Tom Heckert said in a statement. "We are currently gathering information related to it, and will not have any further comment at this time."

Tripp, 24, was arrested along with two others Sunday afternoon at an apartment in a suburb of Atlanta. Investigators told WAGA-TV in Atlanta that Tripp and the other two men were looking for a man and money that allegedly was stolen from them. They reportedly had guns when the alleged burglary occurred.

Tripp was signed to the Browns' practice squad last October and promoted to the active roster in November. He got into three games in 2011.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I can't wait to get started and acclimated to a new city as well as the team. I want to be able to contribute to the offense in any way I can, and I am ready to come in and work hard to make that happen." -- Wide receiver Josh Gordon after being taken by the Browns in the supplemental draft.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

MEDICAL WATCH: No updates.

UNIT BY UNIT ANALYSIS

QUARTERBACKS: Starter -- Brandon Weeden. Backups -- Colt McCoy, Seneca Wallace, Thaddeus Lewis.

It is only a matter of time until Weeden is declared the starter -- probably before the preseason opener Aug. 10 in Detroit. The coaches like Weeden's arm strength and velocity and say he is learning the offense well. He would be the 11th starting quarterback in 14 openers if he takes the first snap against the Eagles on Sept. 9. They would love to have a starter they could rely on for eight or 10 years. The backup position will be unwieldy until McCoy or Wallace is traded. McCoy seems to be the odd man out.

RUNNING BACKS: Starters -- Trent Richardson, FB Owen Marecic. Backups -- Montario Hardesty, Brandon Jacobs, Chris Ogbonnaya, FB Brad Smelley, FB Eddie Williams.

The Browns are counting on Richardson to carry the load in the backfield and produce quickly. Last year they scored an NFL-low four rushing touchdowns. Lack of a running game stifled the offense and made McCoy an easy target for pass rushers. Richardson scored 21 rushing touchdowns at Alabama last year, one more than the entire Browns offense scored. The battle to be Richardson's caddy should be a good one. Hardesty is finally healthy after two injury-plagued seasons and Jackson is 100 percent after missing all of 2011 with a toe injury. Smelley catches the ball well, but if the Browns keep only one fullback the edge will go to Marecic.

TIGHT ENDS: Starter -- Benjamin Watson. Backups -- Jordan Cameron, Evan Moore, Alex Smith, Dan Gronkowski.

This is a critical position for the Browns and the West Coast offense. Watson has experience on his side as he enters his ninth season, but second-year pro Cameron is closing the gap and will certainly take some playing time away from Watson if he doesn't flat out win the starting job. The key player for the Browns among tight ends is Moore. He is a tall red-zone target at 6-6, but scored only four touchdowns in 2011. The Browns want more from him this year and are hopeful Weeden can connect with him. Statistics -- 14 catches last year -- do not reflect Smith's value. He has a fiery attitude that is contagious.

WIDE RECEIVERS: Starters -- Mohamed Massaquoi, Greg Little. Backups -- Joshua Cribbs, Jordan Norwood, Josh Gordon, Travis Benjamin, Carlton Mitchell, Josh Cooper, Rod Windsor, Bert Reed, Jermaine Saffold.

For years, media and fans have contended the receiving corps lacks talent and a true No. 1. Coaches disagree. They believe Weeden will make the receivers better because he is a better passer than McCoy. Little lost 15 pounds so he can move more quickly. Team president Mike Holmgren says Massaquoi has shaken off the concussion he suffered on a vicious hit by James Harrison two years ago. Gordon, selected in the supplemental draft, Benjamin, Norwood and Cribbs will battle to be the third receiver. Cribbs is the best of the bunch, but Norwood finished strong last year and Benjamin can fly. He has to show he can run precise routes and can catch the ball consistently before he can get on the field. Little caught 61 passes last year but caught only two touchdown passes. As a group, the wide receivers scored nine touchdowns in 2011. That number has to improve for the Browns to make a leap in the AFC North. Gordon will have to get up to speed quickly in training camp, but has outstanding ability.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN: Starters -- LT Joe Thomas, LG Jason Pinkston, C Alex Mack, RG Shawn Lauvao, RT Mitchell Schwartz. Backups -- G/T Ryan Miller, T Oniel Cousins, G/C John Greco, G Jeff Shugarts, T Jake Anderson.

Improving protection for the quarterback and run blocking was a critical goal of general manager Tom Heckert in the offseason. He used the 37th pick on Schwartz to make that happen. Schwartz is the only new starter on the line, but the Browns are counting on Pinkston and Lauvao to use the experience they gained in 2011 as first-year starters to improve this season. The other two positions on the line are rock solid with Thomas at left tackle and Mack at center. Thomas has been to the Pro Bowl all five years he has been in the NFL. Mack, a first-round pick in 2009, has made every offensive snap in the first three years of his career. Cousins has started and can fill in for Schwartz. Greco is versatile and can play all three interior positions. Miller also has the versatility to play the right side and left side as a guard or tackle.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN: Starters -- LDE Jabaal Sheard, RDE Frostee Rucker, DT Scott Paxson, NT Ahtyba Rubin. Backups -- DT Phil Taylor, DT/NT John Hughes, DE Juqua Parker, DE/DT Billy Winn, DE Marcus Benard, DE Austin English, NT Brian Schaefering, DE Brian Sanford, DE Emmanuel Stephens, DT Kiante Tripp.

The Browns ranked 30th against the run last year, used the offseason to shore up the defensive line and then lost Taylor until late October with a torn pectoral muscle. The Browns hope to absorb losing Taylor with Paxson plus rookies Hughes and Winn, but it won't be the same as having Taylor lining up next to Rubin. Rucker and Parker are the only players the Browns signed in free agency. They are counting on Rucker to anchor the right side. A motorcycle accident turned 2011 into a lost season for Benard, but the 2010 sack leader is back. He will play on passing downs and along with Sheard (8.5 sacks last year) could give the Browns a formidable pass rush. Schaefering will be part of the rotation inside.

LINEBACKERS: Starters -- WLB Kaluka Maiava, MLB D'Qwell Jackson, SLB Chris Gocong. Backups -- SLB Scott Fujita, SLB/MLB James-Michael Johnson, OLB Emmanuel Acho, OLB Benjamin Jacobs, OLB Quinton Spears, MLB L.J. Fort.

Everything at linebacker begins with Jackson. He calls the plays in the huddle and will likely lead the team in tackles again if he plays all 16 games as he did last year. Fujita is suspended for the first three games for his alleged involvement in the Saints bounty program when he played for New Orleans in 2009. Gocong took over on the strong side when Fujita missed the last five games of 2011 with a broken hand. He excelled and should be even better this year with a full training camp to practice the position. Maiava will begin camp as the starting weak-side linebacker but could be pushed by Johnson. Acho and Jacobs will be primarily special teams contributors. Speed has been a problem at linebacker in the past and could be again this season. The pass rush will come from the line.

DEFENSIVE BACKS: Starters -- LCB Joe Haden, RCB Sheldon Brown, FS Eric Hagg, SS T.J. Ward. Backups -- CB Dimitri Patterson, CB Buster Skrine, S Usama Young, CB Trevin Wade, S Ray Ventrone, DB James Dockery.

Starting corners Haden and Brown combined for two interceptions last year -- both by Brown. Defensive coordinator Dick Jauron wants Haden to cover the opponent's No. 1 receiver most of the time, so Haden will definitely get his chances. Despite the lack of picks, the Browns finished with the second-ranked pass defense last year. They have good depth with Patterson as the nickel back and Skrine as the dime back. Skrine, in his second season, should earn more playing time this season. Ward is back from a foot injury that forced him to miss the last half of 2011. Young and Hagg will battle for the starting job at free safety vacated when Mike Adams signed with the Broncos. Ventrone, a key special teams player, battled a severe hamstring injury most of last year.

SPECIAL TEAMS: K Phil Dawson, P Reggie Hodges, LS Christian Yount, PR/KR Josh Cribbs

Special teams year in and year out is the Browns' most reliable unit. Dawson made 24 of 29 field-goal attempts last year and Cribbs was steady, if not spectacular. Like all kick returners he was neutered by the changed kickoff rule. The Browns experienced unforeseen problems last year. Hodges tore an Achilles tendon on his plant foot in training camp and missed the season. He is back and will be challenged in training camp by Spencer Lanning. If nothing else, Lanning will assure Hodges won't wear out in training camp. Long snapper Ryan Pontbriand, another steady performer since 2003, lost his job last year when bad snaps cost the Browns two games. Yount took his place and was fine. He will have an entire training camp to work with Dawson and Hodges, who doubles as the holder. Cribbs will be challenged by Skrine on kick returns and Benjamin on punt returns. He has been challenged before and always wins. This year should be no exception.

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