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Player Spotlight: Browns Family Day, Part 1

I attended Browns Family Day at Infocision Stadium in Akron, Ohio. The offense, defense, and special teams were hard at work...and so was I, taking notes. In this first part, I discuss my observations of the wide receivers.

I had a good day at Family Day in Akron. So did WR Miles Austin.
I had a good day at Family Day in Akron. So did WR Miles Austin.
Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Miles Austin: Was the most consistent and impressive WR on the day. Repeatedly displayed crisp route running that gained him tremendous separation on slants and posts versus each of the first team corners (Haden, Skrine, and Trufant). Did not demonstrate explosiveness and this showed in an inability to separate deep downfield. Appeared to be fearless in traffic and to possess reliable hands. Miles Austin projects as a #2 possession receiver primarily serving as a dependable target over the middle to move the chains.

  • No separation deep down the sideline, corner was able to stick with him and break up the play
  • Very nice separation on post: sold vertical route then cut inside
  • Good separation on short hitch route and on a slant: disguised his routes well

Anthony Armstrong: In terms of getting open when facing man coverage, he was the second most consistent and effective receiver I scouted on the day behind Miles Austin (it should be noted that I did not closely observe Andrew Hawkins at this scrimmage, as my attention was on Anthony Armstrong and Miles Austin at the time). Armstrong showed the ability to separate at all levels of the field and against the team's best corners. Based on this event, I project him to have a significant role in the offense this season as the fourth WR behind Josh Gordon, Miles Austin, and Andrew Hawkins. His explosiveness and quick cuts make him a respectable underneath target and he complements this well with dangerous deep speed. On the other hand, though he looked good in his routes, Joe Haden still got the upper hand on him with his closing speed and balls skills, breaking up at least two passes intended for Armstrong.

  • Crisp routes in warmups with sharp cuts
  • Decent separation against CB Aaron Berry in WR v. CB 1-on-1's
  • Decent separation on shallow drag route across middle
  • Good separation on short flag route vs Haden but slipped at end.
  • Okay separation on deep sideline comeback but Haden broke up play

Taylor Gabriel: Had an uneven day. Flashed potential to get open versus NFL-caliber corners but did not do so consistently (was well-covered on majority of plays). In these "flashes", he displayed sharp cuts and explosive acceleration to separate from defenders' man coverage at both the underneath and intermediate levels. Taylor Gabriel must improve his consistency and refine his route-running, but even at this event his athletic ability set him apart from most of his competition as a second-team WR. That and his ability to contribute as a punt returner could help him secure a spot on the back end of the roster.

  • WR v. CB 1-on-1's: crisp hitch route getting good separation in the short area
  • Blanketed by Gilbert on a slant route
  • 4th-and-Goal on the 1: four WR bunch, Gabriel lined up in the middle and behind the other three, WR screen to Gabriel for 5 yard loss with defender getting to him right after the ball did
  • Beat CB Pierre Desir on double move down sideline for a would-be easy touchdown but Connor Shawpass tipped at the line for an incompletion
  • Burned CB Justin Gilbert in endzone on a drive route but QB Johnny Manziel overthrew him. Pass was just off his fingertips and tailing away making it a potentially catchable, but very difficult, ball. Considering he was wide open I have to fault the QB on this one.
  • Received first team punt return reps and showed some ability to be a threat with the ball in his hands.

Marlon Moore: Did not look like a player that can make the roster, at least not based on his performance at this scrimmage. Had a lot of trouble getting open versus man coverage and dropped the ball at least twice when uncovered. Had one really nice contested grab against CB Leon McFadden: was blanketed the whole way and hauled in the pass while receiving strong contact. Marlon Moore's skill set and role are quite similar to that of Nate Burleson (tough, gritty possession receiver that doesn't get much separation and will have to make a living hauling in contested catches and serving as an outlet receiver when left uncovered; primary targets likely to be on slants, hitches, flags, and other short-to-intermediate routes) but he has not displayed the same level of consistency. Served as gunner with first team punt coverage unit, which could only help his chances.

  • Not crisp in warmups, rounded cuts and "rolled" through breaks
  • Was the first down the field as gunner on first team punt coverage but struggled to locate and down the ball, allowing it to bounce into the end zone for a touchback.
  • Dropped at least two passes, one was a slant where he was wide open after his cut, another was in the back of the endzone (in response, a fan near me shouted, "He's Greg Little!")
  • Not able to shake Haden in tight on-man coverage
  • Could not separate from McFadden but still made a tough contested catch on flag route

Jonathan Krause: Looked like a practice squad candidate but not a legitimate contender for a roster spot. One major positive: had no trouble with drops or contested catches. Unfortunately, he had tremendous difficulty getting open. Unproven second-year CB Leon McFadden had little trouble covering Krause on several plays. Jonathan Krause has the upside of a possession receiver, displaying consistent hands, toughness, and determination but lacking both the refined route-running technique and the explosiveness that could help him gain separation from coverage. With time he could improve his technique and savvy; landing a spot on a practice squad could give him an opportunity to hone those skills and develop into a possession receiver and core special teams contributor.

  • First overall rep in WR v. CB 1-on-1's was Krause against Joe Haden. Haden stuck to him like flypaper through a double move down the sideline, then broke on the ball to break up the pass. Fans cheered, I shook my head because this was clearly an unfair matchup intended for fan entertainment.
  • He also got a crack at Justin Gilbert in 1-on-1's, who easily stuck in his hip pocket and gave him nothing to work with.
  • Then came Leon McFadden, who had his number today, blanketing him on at least four plays in 11-on-11.
  • Had a nice play where he used his body to shield the ball away from Gilbert to complete the catch along the right sideline. This play was mostly made by a Manziel scramble and good ball placement, but Krause did a good job of staying focused on completing the catch in the face of impending contact.
  • Second team fielding punts, looked comfortable but not like an explosive, "take it to the house" return man
Nate Burleson: Was consistent though underwhelming in many regards. Showed little ability to separate and was consistently blanketed by man coverage. He still was targeted somewhat often and, on the plus side, looked unfazed by contact and was able to catch balls with defenders draped all over him. At this stage in his career, I believe that's what Nate Burleson is: a possession receiver who struggles to get open and will have to make his mark through sheer will and determination. He demonstrated an ability to consistently do that on Family Day. At best he projects as our fourth receiver, which could be a reasonably important role, but the coaching staff will have a tough decision to make between keeping him or a youngster with greater upside.

Andrew Hawkins: Did not have a big day: didn't receive many targets and only flashed a couple times. My attention was on other players, so I did not take notice of how he fared when he was not targeted. He had a couple short receptions including a terribly predictable WR screen from a four WR bunch set, which, unsurprisingly, was stopped for a short loss. I'm not worried about Andrew Hawkins, he's shown enough of his dynamic athletic ability and tireless work ethic to convince me that this showing was not par for the course and that he'll be a huge part of our passing game this year, operating from both the slot and outside.

Willie Snead: He's a rookie...that already looks like he knows what he's doing! However, he, like Burleson, isn't a dynamic athlete, a deep threat, or dangerous with the ball in his hands. I did not focus on Snead at this time (I was too busy watching Armstrong, Burleson, Johnson, and Gabriel in the first half and then other positions in the second) but I will note that his reps were spread out between the first, second, and third team offenses, so he's clearly getting some consideration. As for the couple of receptions Willie Snead made on Family Day, they came on plays where he was left uncovered, so I'm not going to read too much into them other than to confirm that he appears to be in the mix with Gabriel, Burleson, and Johnson in the battle for the final one or two WR spots.

Charles Johnson: Was very underwhelming, did not flash, and did not look like a player who will contribute. He was easily the most disappointing player of the day for me, because my expectations hopes were that he would show me something either encouraging or at least interesting. He did not do so at this event. I'm not ready to jump to any conclusions about him as of yet, but it's safe to say that I'm not buying into all the offseason Charles Johnson hype either.

In case you were wondering... who this new "Tim A. Miller" guy is, I'm Bumblyjack, a 5-year member and roughly a 3-year regular commenter here at Dawgs By Nature. I've recently been brought aboard as a new staff writer and I finally made up my mind about switching to my real name. I live in Akron, Ohio and I'm an Ashland University alumnus. As you can see, I have a strong interest in and passion for scouting pro players and draft prospects. Anyways, I'd just like to say thanks to Chris, Jon, the other writers, the SB Nation staff, and the Dawgs By Nature community for giving me this opportunity and I'd like to encourage you guys to give me whatever feedback you may have about my articles. Take care guys, I'm excited to be here, and I'll see you in the comments section as well as in Player Spotlight: Family Day Part 2.