Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Good start
First impressions mean a lot. In life. In business. On a football field.

Make a good first impression and the rest kind of falls into place.

That’s why Browns fans are so sanguine after the club’s rookie minicamp last weekend in Berea. Just about everyone, based on reports, came way feeling awfully good about the 2012 season.

And why shouldn’t they.

Brandon Weeden threw the football as no quarterback has done for the Browns since the departure of Derek Anderson. Throws were sharp, traveled long distances and found their targets with a large degree of consistency.

Trent Richardson looked every bit the part of the new face of the franchise, unanimously impressing the assembled media and club personnel with his startling physical characteristics. Looks like a rookie-of-the-year in the making.

Mitchell Schwartz arrived as advertised. Big. Strong. Ready for the National Football League. Impressive young man. 

James-Michael Johnson did not look like a middle-round draft choice, placing his versatility on display by playing all three linebacker spots with equal comfort. Haven’t seen that since can’t remember when.

Travis Benjamin did not disappoint with three different speeds: Fast, faster and whoa, did you see that? Brings to the team a dimension it has missed since can’t remember when.

John Hughes said all the right things after learning Phil Taylor is done for the season and he might have a solid shot at starting. Prefers to let his actions do most of his talking. Gotta like that.

Brad Smelley, almost a draft afterthought, does not look like a late seventh-round pick. Probably because he comes from a college program at Alabama that prepares its players well for the NFL.

Billy Winn showed why many believe he was better than the sixth-round pick the Browns used to get him. He will provide a strong challenge for Hughes for the void at defensive tackle.

Then there are Josh Cooper and Bert Reed, a couple of wide receivers who are total opposites except for the fact they were signed as undrafted free agents. Cooper, Weeden’s second-favorite target at Oklahoma State, is a possession guy. Reed  is a burner. Both impressed in the minicamp.

And if there’s one area that definitely needs improvement, it’s wide receiver. That’s why both of these young men have a good shot at being on the receiving end of more than a few of Weeden’s passes this season.

Right now, just about everyone looks good. That’s because they strutted their stuff in shorts and a helmet. The same accolades are echoed in other NFL rookie minicamps. Expect more of the same when the veterans join the rookies in OTAs and the bigger minicamp.

We’ll know a whole lot more about these kids when the rest of the uniform is put on in summer training camp and the hitting commences. But for now, let’s enjoy what we see in anticipation of what’s to come.

Let’s see if Weeden can snap off those throws with arms and hands in his face and would-be sackers hanging on to him; if Richardson, with that almost-perfect mesamorph body of his, can shrug off tacklers as nothing more than nuisances; if the rail-thin Benjamin can actually get off the line of scrimmage; if Schwartz is quick enough to handle quicker defensive ends; if Johnson, Hughes and Winn can bring the attitude the Cleveland defense badly needs.

Let’s see whether Smelley and Cooper and Reed and someone who leaps up from out of nowhere and becomes the big surprise of training camp can make a difference once the full equipment is on.

That’s what makes this time of the year so fascinating. The unanswered questions. The unknown. All of which spawns optimism.

And why not? The Browns are tied for first place in the AFC North.


  1. Hey Rich,
    It's easy to get caught up in being hopeful. I sure am. As the angst over the Browns controversial draft fades, the good minicamp reports take center stage. Of course, it's good to remember that, at best, half of these guys will provide good production. Even Pittsburgh drafted Limus Sweed in the 1st round. But if only half provide good production, I'll be happy - so long as this half includes Weeden, TRich, and Schwartz. These guys HAVE to be cornerstones of an improving offense or H & H will and should be fired.

    One of the best things about Weeden is that he walked right in and said he wants to win a Super Bowl. How about that? The Browns and Super Bowl in the same sentence. That's what you want your QB to say and to shoot for. No question.

    Thanks! Always enjoy your columns!

    Paul from Seattle

    1. Hey Paul, Sweed was a second round pick 53rd overall.. But Colbert also drafted Mike Wallace 3rd round 84th overall, Antonio Brown 6th round 195th overall,Emmanuel Sanders 3rd round 82nd overall... so far I haven`t seen H&H draft anyone close to these 3.
      I understand you are trying to give them the benefit of the doubt but I don`t see either of them as being great at finding WR`s... We`ll see

  2. Hi Paul,

    Thanks for the kind words. That said . . .

    Frankly, I don't remember the Super Bowl remarks made by Weeden. I do remember how confident he talked with regard to becoming the Browns' starting quarterback in the season opener.

    Talk is cheap. As Marty Schottenheimer once said: Deeds . . . not words.

    As for the Steelers drafting Limas Sweed, bad misses like that happen every so often. With the Steelers, Ravens and the Bengals the last couple of years, that is more the exception than the rule.

    The Browns, on the other hand, have many more misses than those other AFC North teams. Perhaps that's why they have taken up what seems to be permanent residence in the division basement.

    Maybe that'll change this season. Let's see what these guys do when the games that mean something are here.

    1. Ah ha... I see what you did here,lol