Sunday, July 27, 2014

Too early to judge

Calm down, everyone.

OK, maybe not everyone. But those of you who live and die with everything being done and accomplished at the Browns’ training camp, here’s a caveat – relax.

Do not read anything into what you see because what you see and what the coaching staff sees are quite likely diametrically the opposite. Videotape is the great equalizer.

Don’t judge a player for every dropped pass. Or every fumble. Or every blocking mistake committed by an offensive lineman. Or every dropped interception or blown coverage. Or just about anything that doesn’t work.

This is what training camp for. It is not for determining who wins or loses a particular battle early on. It’s for taking those mistakes, which come in bunches in the first week or two, and minimizing them, if not totally eliminating them.

The battles will be won mostly in the four exhibition games, those games where the opposition won’t be a teammate, where pads are worn, where the speed of the game ramps up.

Football, as most sports, is a game where mistakes inevitably are made. The teams that keep those mistakes at a minimum usually wind up with winning records. It’s the great separator.

Individual battles are not won on a daily basis. In the next week or two, Brian Hoyer will have his good days and his bad days. Same with Johnny Manziel. Be careful not to read anything into those performances.

It is foolish to take these ups and downs and determine who leads the competition for the starting job under center. Coaches look for consistency from all players and that is what will determine who wins jobs.

Don’t get too excited (or dispirited if you’re a Hoyer fan) if Manziel hooks up with, say, Miles Austin on a bomb. Conversely, Manziel’s boosters shouldn’t get too hopeful because a stupid interception is only a play away.

When making the final determination of who starts at quarterback, coaches consider many factors, including game management, throwing to the correct receiver, making certain blocking assignments are properly communicated, making the proper defensive reads, commanding the huddle and getting the ball out in time.

If you’re a true Browns fan, you are rooting for both quarterbacks. The better they are, the more difficult the decision becomes for the coaches. And that’s not bad. What you root for is for the coaches to make the wisest choice.

If both players perform well, it’s a win-win situation for the coaches and the team. If neither performs well, then the problems begin. I don’t see that happening, though.

By the time the regular season begins on Sept. 7, the coaches will know which quarterback gives them the best chance to win. If it’s Hoyer, you can bet the experience Manziel receives adequately prepares him to provide proper relief if necessary.

As for the other positional battles, do not judge based on what you see on a particular day. That could change in a hurry as different packages on both sides of the ball are installed on a daily basis.  The veterans adjust quicker.

The early stages of training camp are mostly about challenging the players and installing the new systems. Throw different situations at them and see how they react. For the first couple of weeks at least, no need to jump to conclusions.

It’s way too early to handicap. Save that for at least another few weeks.

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