It was Day 2 of Cleveland Browns minicamp, and the word of mouth from the media is that it wasn't the greatest day for the team's wide receivers. We already mentioned this a bit in an earlier article. Is it too early to worry about it? No, it's not. No matter how many positive reports we here about our receivers, we're still going to have to wait until the season starts to figure out just how "improved" these guys are.
One of the intriguing bits that head coach Pat Shurmur talked about prior to practice, though, was the importance of getting the red-zone "fade" pass back into the playbook.
1. Getting the "Fade" Pass Back Into the Offense: From head coach Pat Shurmur, when asked about using the fade pass with Brandon Weeden and the receivers this season:
(On if the fade pass was missing from the offense in the red zone last year)- "I think we tried to throw fades early in the year and we didn’t hit on them a percentage high enough. I think the slant means a lot more if the defender has to defend the fade and of course in our offense we like to throw slants. He does have good touch on a lot of his throws and we saw yesterday I think that he made some very accurate throws way down the field so that’s really just like throwing a short go route in my opinion."
(On which receiver would be effective with fade routes)- "I think all of our receivers that play outside have the ability to be good fade runners. So you’re talking about Greg Little, you’re talking about Mo Massaquoi. We tried to do it to Evan Moore last year a couple times and for whatever reason we didn’t connect on a few that we tried early in the year. You’re trying to get some form of a matchup that’s in your favor, so typically taller guys that have got a little bit of quickness can go up and get the ball, but that doesn’t mean that guys that are not tall can’t separate and make a play as well. The guys typically that play outside should be guys that should be able to run fades."
2. Competition at Left Defensive Tackle: When asked about the defensive tackle positions, Shurmur said that Ahtyba Rubin will remain at right defensive tackle. The other players on the depth chart will compete to take Phil Taylor's spot at left defensive tackle. Shurmur stated that the rookies, John Hughes and Billy Winn, are definitely in the competition to start this season:
(On if Hughes is still a candidate to start at Phil Taylor’s spot)- "Absolutely, I think those guys are competing to be one of our defensive tackles and that’s why we drafted them."
3. Motivation to Perform: Per the Akron Beacon Journal, in a situational drill, safety T.J. Ward broke up a pass by fourth-string quarterback Thaddeius Lewis that was intended for tight end Dan Gronkowski. As a result of the defense winning the drill, the offensive unit had to get down and do pushups. At least it wasn't laps (looks around for Mangini). Speaking of a strict policy, check out Burge's column (links are below) in which he relays a rule instituted by Shurmur to prevent the media from "sitting down."
4. Detailing the Dropped Passes: In his recap, Burge gave details about who dropped passes, and under what circumstances:
Travis Benjamin had multiple drops in drills. Jordan Cameron dropped a pass in 7 on 7 drills that would have been a first down. Mohammad Massaquoi dropped a deep fade route in the end zone during QB/WR drills. Jordan Norwood had a drop during 11 on 11 drills. Greg Little caught a nice out route from Brandon Weeden but before he could take a step Joe Haden knocked the ball out of his hands. Even Trent Richardson let a screen pass go right though his hands during 11 on 11 drills. Apparently, no one is immune.
5. Close to Naming a Starter? It almost sounded like Shurmur was hinting in his pre-practice news conference that he would like to officially name a starting quarterback before training camp begins. He might as well; I mean, no one is being fooled when Brandon Weeden, a first-round rookie, is receiving the majority of first-team reps:
(On if he wants to go into training camp with the starting quarterback named)- "I think you name the starter sooner than later. Ideally, we would have a starter now. Teams that are going into this offseason with a starter, that’s the most ideal situation, but when you have a new player that you really like, that’s why you picked them, you just need to see them come in and do it before you make that move. I remember this process when we were in St. Louis and drafted Sam Bradford. Sam Bradford was playing it through, in my eyes, a lot like it’s happening here and we had A.J. Feeley that was there, a veteran quarterback. They shared reps and there were times where A.J. started the drills, there were times when Sam started the drills and then it was the beginning of training camp when we named Sam the starter. He had a pretty good year his first year."
6. Brownies: The media asked questions about whether a guy like Spencer Lanning could become a kickoff specialist for the Browns, but Shurmur was overly supportive of Phil Dawson (i.e. he was basically saying "no frickin' way)...Oniel Cousins missed practice as he dealt with a family matter...instead of having a fullback, the Browns' first-team offense featured a two tight end set of Benjamin Watson and Evan Moore...Thursday is the final day of mandatory minicamp, but there is still one more round of OTA sessions to come.
Resources for the Information Above
- News, notes, and observations from Browns practice (Ulrich, Akron Beacon Journal)
- Browns looking to revive the red-zone lob (Cabot, Plain Dealer)
- Browns' Joe Thomas sees improvement (Doerschuk, Canton Repository)
- Minicamp observations (Burge, ESPN Cleveland)
- Transcript from Shurmur's news conference
Minicamp Day 2 footage from ClevelandBrowns.com [VIDEO]