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.