Offseason team activities (OTAs) start this week for the Browns, meaning it'll be the first time we'll here reports coming out of Berea regarding the performance of certain players this season. OTAs certainly aren't as "newsworthy" as mini-camp or training camp, but it still means that a good portion of our players will be united again in preparation for the 2008-2009 NFL season. The practices are all voluntary, but skipping them can rub teammates the wrong way, especially for young players.
I stressed adding some key defensive players prior to the draft, but the rookie I'll actually be most interested in hearing about to this point is tight end Martin Rucker. With Kellen Winslow and Steve Heiden each nursing injuries, this is Rucker's chance to show what he's made of (note: look for a "Getting to Know" post on Rucker on Sunday).
Like the past couple of years, I'll collaborate any bits of information from beat writers who are allowed to attend the OTAs, and then I'll summarize them here on Dawgs By Nature with what little analysis can be provided at this stage of the season.
In a recent post by Tony Grossi from the Cleveland Plain Dealer, he stated the following issues he was interested in:
• How will the defense change under new coordinator Mel Tucker?
• How quickly will new linemen Corey Williams and Shaun Rogers adjust to the Browns' defense?
• Will Winslow attend even if he is unable to participate or will he remain in San Diego?
• How will receiver Donte Stallworth fit in with the offense?
• What about the Derek Anderson-Brady Quinn debate? Should every pass from each be scrutinized or should the media wait for training camp to do that?
The only bullet points that would potentially draw serious attention involve the tight ends: does Rucker start off well (already mentioned), and will there be any updates regarding Winslow's status heading into June and July? The rest of the points -- such as the defensive looks under Tucker and the Quinn-Anderson debate -- really shouldn't be much of a concern. Until training camp comes, trying to analyze those situations would be nothing more than drawing up theories out of a hat.
Even when you get to training camp, the reports are seldom accurate. The Browns were pegged be national media sources as having one of the worst quarterback situations in the league in July of 2007. In July of 2008, we have one of the best quarterback situations in the league, and yet the top three quarterbacks on our roster were also on our roster at that time.
One final note that will be interesting in the next couple of weeks: how quickly will the Browns sign all of their draft picks. We don't have to pay our picks too much money, so you can't imagine holdouts being part of a discussion down the road. Getting all the picks signed quickly not only helps the rookies, but it helps the other players on the team settle into their roles a little quicker (i.e. a first round inside linebacker may have held out, thus giving Andra Davis an early lead in a position battle by default).