On the final day of Cleveland Browns minicamp on Thursday, the team’s assistant coaches spoke individually with the media. This article will look at some notes from the offensive assistants, and then we’ll follow up with another article covering the defensive assistants.
Offensive Line - Bob Wylie
- On the competition at right tackle, Wylie was vague in just sticking with the fact that both Cameron Erving and Shon Coleman are “competing” well in every facet — the weight room, on the field, and in the classroom.
- He spoke on the importance of the additions on the interior of the offensive line (Kevin Zeitler, J.C. Tretter), and specifically the center position: “You don’t want them to get pushed from the inside. The center has to control everything. The center is like the quarterback before the quarterback gets into the huddle. He has to get everybody where they need to be, and when they need to be there, based off of what he sees in the coverages, based off of what he sees by linebacker alignments, defensive alignments, all of that stuff. He has to get everybody into the right spots.”
- When Joe Thomas isn’t practicing, he and Wylie bounce ideas off each other and exchange information on what they’re seeing from the other linemen. No wonder David Njoku thought he was a coach.
- An absolutely fascinating explanation from Wylie on what the whole purpose of the “card games” was for prospects back at the NFL Combine:
Wide Receivers / Senior Offensive Assistant - Al Saunders
- Saunders is disappointed that WR Corey Coleman is losing out on the opportunity to “grow in the fundamentals and skills of the position,” considering how much time he missed last year as well both in camp and at the start of the season. He says that Coleman had a terrific start to the OTA session, so he hopes that Coleman can “get his hamstring stronger, stay in shape, and be ready to go for training camp.”
- When asked if the team could benefit from having another veteran receiver, Saunders acknowledged that the only veteran guy they have is WR Kenny Britt, which is one of the reasons they pursued him this offseason. He said they do miss WR Andrew Hawkins and that he still talks to him about once a week. Saunders continued to praise Hawkins, but segued it into basically saying, “while you appreciate the veteran leadership, the team has a lot of young guys who the arrow is pointing up right now.”
- When it comes to developing young receivers, Saunders said one of the biggest things he wants are players who can work hard. If players are willing to work hard, he thinks he and the staff can make them as good as they can possibly be, and that WR Terrelle Pryor last year was a perfect example of that. Speaking of Pryor, Saunders wishes he could’ve stayed and believes Pryor is on track to be a Pro Bowler this year.
- Maybe playing defensive back at age 70 isn’t quite Saunders’ thing, as you see him below going up against WR Kenny Britt who has a Go Pro on his helmet. Regarding how Britt and Pryor are different, Saunders acknowledged that they each have their own strengths, but the biggest edge Britt has [presently] over Pryor is his physicality.
Tight Ends - Greg Seamon
- Seamon spent much of his time praising rookie TE David Njoku, noting “There are aren’t a lot of people in the country that are 250 pounds and are also seven-foot high jumpers.” He said they are throwing a lot of things at him right now because it is a demanding position where he needs to play at a high level in three aspects of the offense:
“You have blocking for the run, pass protection and then being a receiver. We are experimenting a little bit. I think that his athletic ability tells you that he can play in a lot of different areas of the field. He can be a detached guy. He can be a tight end in the traditional sense. He can be in the slot. He can be a wing. Right now, his head is probably swimming a bit because we have thrown a lot at him, but I think in the long run, we will have exposed him to everything that he can do during the season, so that should be good.”
- Similarly, Seamon also talked about second-year TE Seth DeValve and where he has gotten better this offseason:
“Most of [DeValve’s] development in the offseason was that he put on a little weight, he is noticeably stronger, he is faster and he is healthier. He continues to work hard technically. I think that his ability to run routes, catch the ball, leave his feet, catch the ball away from his body and he has a big catch radius, I think those things are showing up out here. I’m pleased with what he has done developing as a blocker from a technical and footwork standpoint. The proof will be obviously when we put the pads on, but he is ahead of where he was a year ago. I see Seth as a guy who is important to us and emerging just like Randall [Telfer] and David [Njoku].”
Quarterbacks - David Lee
- Coming over from Buffalo, Lee acknowledged that he’s had 43 years of experience coaching quarterbacks, but that he, QB Brock Osweiler, and QB DeShone Kizer are all learning a new system while QB Cody Kessler and QB Kevin Hogan have a year up on them.
“All four of those guys are smart, they study, they work and they ask great questions. If we can just continue to fundamentally get better, we have a long way to go with the lower body of Brock and DeShone; Cody has really improved here in the end of OTAs just on his distance and his velocity with a few things we have done in the lower body; and Kevin looked good today and went 3-for-3 and a couple touchdowns here in the red zone. They are progressing and getting better. At the same time, we are asking a lot of them. They are totally controlling the protections at the line of scrimmage, coverage, reading, throwing accurately, and then you have that 24-second clock that makes you speed everything up. Right now, we just need to keep going, keep grinding like we are going into training camp and then get to those games.”
- Lee also talked about the individual strengths and weaknesses of his top three quarterbacks right now. It’s the type of thing where I can’t do Lee justice via a condensed summary, so I’m going to quote him in full from the Browns’ transcript for each player:
- On DeShone Kizer: “First of all, fundamentally is a long stride. It just came with him when he came here. That really affected his accuracy. Boy, he is all over it and then he is array; he is all over it, and then he misses again. That has been the No. 1 thing. When he gets a base and shortens his stride and he steps and throws, it is a thing of beauty. He has an extremely strong arm, and if we can get his fundamentals and his lower body good, you don’t touch his release. He has one of the most beautiful releases and whip in his arm. He has to learn the offense. He has a lot in front of him. It is different. He is not playing [in college] anymore. It is a different schedule. He is going through a lot right now and his head is swimming, but boy when he gets it and he gets the lower body, he has a chance to be special.”
- On Brock Osweiler: “I will tell you something, and I think (Head) Coach (Hue) Jackson would back me up on this, Brock has been a pleasant surprise. Say what you want, but the guy in the last two years has taken two different teams to the playoffs and there is no one else in that room that can say that. Plus, he’s got six years of experience, whereas others have no years of experience. Kizer is fresh. He has been here four months, like me, and the other two were rookies last year. He’s the senior citizen, that is for sure (laughter). He does a good job with these other guys. DeShone and he have built a good rapport and they communicate a lot.”
- On Cody Kessler: “Cody had a long stride, locked his knee and looked like a boomerang when he released the ball. He has gotten more upright because he has a base. He shortened his stride. He has a bend in his knee. If you have been out here, he hit three go routes in a span of three practices just from shortening his stride and popping his hips and increasing his distance. That is where I have been pleased with him. He has gotten more velocity and distance on the ball. He was always accurate, but he wasn’t always deadly accurate past 15 yards, and I think he has gotten better in that area. He knows the offense the best. He knows all of Hue’s stuff. Kevin knows it, too. Kevin is smart. He is tough. I remember him at Stanford. He just willed wins. He would will them. I think he beat Cody twice. It is a good room,. It really is competitive, and they are taking to all of our teaching. We just have to give it a couple more weeks, go play a game and see what we have.”
Running Backs / Run Game Coordinator - Kirby Wilson
- Wilson says that RB Isaiah Crowell "isn't even in his prime yet" and continues to work hard. Wilson believes that Crowell thrived off the limited success he had in 2016 and is really hungry to be even more productive this year.
- Echoing what Bob Wylie said earlier, Wilson feels that RG Kevin Zeitler and C J.C. Tretter are in the upper-echelon at their positions and the team will be significantly better on the line this year.