Browns have expectations
By MIKE MCCLAIN Tribune Chronicle
To refer to the months from the end of a NFL
season to the opening of training camp as the
offseason is a misnomer.
Try telling players that quarterback schools,
minicamps and three months of weight training are
fun and games. Offseason? No way. Life in the NFL
is a fulltime job for athletes that are serious
about finding the winning edge.
As Browns coach Butch Davis put the finishing
touches on a minicamp that officially ended
offseason workouts last week, his mood was
generally upbeat. While his critics point to the
release of several key veterans and a draft class
that includes a couple of "reaches" on defense as
concerns, Davis believes he's charting a course
that will field a consistent winner.
While minicamps are far from exact sciences in
determining the value of players, trends can be
spotted. A few began to take shape as the players
headed home for six weeks away from football:
If last week's practices are an indication, Kelly
Holcomb has a legitimate shot to unseat Tim Couch
at quarterback. Holcomb appeared to throw the
ball with more authority. Davis said both players
have performed well and that Couch has an edge
because of his incumbent status, but that could
Gerard Warren backed up his promise to keep
himself in better shape. The third-year defensive
tackle looks fit and trim and appears to have
more energy than he did as he slumbered through
last season as an overweight underachiever.
Keep an eye on defensive tackle Alvin McKinley.
The coaches were intrigued by McKinley's
quickness last season. He had an outstanding
offseason in the weight room and practiced as
well as any tackle during minicamp.
Davis won't say it, but releasing Dave Wohlabaugh
wasn't a big loss. Wohlabaugh is among the bottom
tier of centers in the league. Hard-working,
first-round pick Jeff Faine will be an upgrade
from the start.
An argument could be made that the Browns have
potentially one of the best receiving and running
back corps in the league. Andre Davis needs to
continue to improve and Dennis Northcutt needs to
stay healthy among the receivers. If rookie Lee
Suggs can bounce back from shoulder surgery and
avoid knee problems, he'll look good on the depth
chart behind William Green and Jamel White.
Second-round pick Chaun Thompson is intriguing to
watch with his blend of power and outstanding
speed at linebacker. However, Thompson has raw
skills. Don't expect big things from him at the
Davis should be concerned about the secondary,
especially on the corners. Daylon McCutcheon is
good but injury prone. Anthony Henry slipped last
year after a brilliant rookie season, and Lewis
Sanders struggled in 2002 after missing the
previous season because of surgery. Here's a
scary thought: the Browns face Colts receiver
Marvin Harrison in week one and 49ers receiver
Terrell Owens the next week.
The defensive players will love playing for
coordinator Dave Campo. If the Browns are going
to give up plenty of yards on the ground, at
least they'll do it in an aggressive manner.
During a practice last week, Campo was heard
yelling, "I don't care how you do it; just get to
If you're looking for one young player to watch
on defense and offense, guard Qasim Mitchell and
outside linebacker Ben Taylor are good choices.
Mitchell weighs about 370 without much body fat.
He's still learning after sitting out his rookie
season with a punctured lung, but much is
expected of him. Taylor, who's working with the
first unit on the weak side and also in the
nickel package, has excellent instincts.