The Cleveland Browns are officially open for business beginning on July 25 at the team’s facility in Berea. Shortly thereafter, the annual Orange & Brown Scrimmage will commence August 3 at FirstEnergy Stadium.
Training camp allows many new players, such as rookie draft picks, undrafted free agents, newly-signed veterans and players who were obtained via trades, to gain experience with the playbook, system, coaching staff and the overall vibe of the Browns.
It also allows players who have languished at the bottom of the depth chart, or perhaps the practice squad, to create new roles for themselves and make a mark on this 2019 squad with added playing time. Cleveland’s management staff has brought in many new faces this year through different channels, but one thing is for certain: they all want to play and make this roster.
Let’s take a look at the projected depth chart of six players who are working on having a tremendous training camp along with the four preseason games against the Washington Redskins, Indianapolis Colts, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Detroit Lions.
Wide receiver Rashard Higgins
Last year the Browns traded for wide receiver Jarvis Landry and then drafted wide receiver Antonio Callaway. This past off-season, general manager John Dorsey broke the internet when he landed wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. from the New York Giants.
The 2018 campaign was Rashard Higgins’ best with Cleveland, as he posted 572 yards on 39 receptions and four touchdowns. Now that OBJ is in the mix, what is going to happen to those 39 catches? Would less be your guess?
In March, the Browns tendered Higgins instead of letting him go via free agency, so this training camp he will need to prove his substance, especially since the tender was before the OBJ trade. Can he contribute on special teams? Callaway is the club’s punt returner while running back Dontrell Hilliard is listed as the kick return man. It appears that the playing time will be split between Higgins and the speedy Callaway, who looks like a definite threat every time he flies downfield. Higgins needs wow factor this camp because there is already plenty of wow factor on the roster.
Tight end Demetrius Harris
Without a doubt, David Njoku is the Browns starter at tight end. The franchise spent a first-round draft pick on him in 2017 and he is a large guy and a fine receiver with speed, but lacks sound blocking techniques. But the Browns didn’t exactly draft Njoku to block from the tight end 1 spot.
In March of this year, Dorsey inked Demetrius Harris to a two-year, $6-million deal. The signing basically brings in a huge-bodied tight end to help with the run game. Harris is 6-foot-7 and 230 pounds and is a superior blocker. If there is one word to describe the former basketball player it is versatile. During his five years with the Chiefs, Harris averaged 10.6 yards per catch amidst his 33 starts.
He is basically a “tackle light” when he is stationed on the end of the line; is a punishing, athletic blocker; and will get lots of snaps in the rushing game as well as twin tight end sets. First and foremost, he has to prove his worth even as the second tight end.
Cornerback Greedy Williams
When the Browns drafted cornerback Greedy Williams out of LSU in the second round of this year’s NFL draft, they weren’t expecting to see his name still listed on the draft board and traded up three slots to nab him. What was even worthier was that cornerback and safety were two areas that needed some help this year.
Williams will need an exceptional training camp to become the starter opposite Pro Bowler Denzel Ward; but Williams is a hard worker, and came from an exceptional conference where the competition was strong almost every week. If Williams can solidify the right corner spot away from T.J. Carrie or Terrance Mitchell, this will allow defensive coordinator Steve Wilks to have exceptional depth to a position that was once seen as a possible weak spot.
Kicker Austin Seibert
One point of emphasis that Dorsey outlined that needed improvement was at the kicker position. Incumbent Greg Joseph had an above average season last year, but missed four extra points and was 17-of-20 on field goal attempts.
The main problem with Joseph is that he is very inconsistent with kicking the ball deep into the end zone on kickoffs. On 69 kickoffs last year, he had only 47 touchbacks for a 63.5 percent touchback rate. Coaches today want as few runbacks as possible.
Seibert played for Oklahoma in a very tough conference. He was a four-year starter and missed only five extra points his entire career. Seibert’s career college field goal totals were 63 made of 79 attempts, with the majority of those misses in his freshman and sophomore years. His field goal percentage in his senior season was 89.5 percent. That is better than six of the 2018 top 10 kickers in the NFL. He broke the college record of most career points by a kicker with 499 points scored and had a career success rate of 98.4 percent on extra points.
Seibert has a huge leg, is highly competitive and will improve the kickoff aspect during games and needs a good camp to prove he is an upgrade. Did we mention he was also a four-year starter at punter?
Defensive tackle Trevon Coley
Defensive coordinator Steve Wilks has a tough job. He has been gifted what may be the most overall talented starting defensive line in the league. But just because you have four players who are extremely gifted, just as Clemson displayed last year, this does not mean you don’t need quality at the backup positions. In fact, the ideal situation is to have six defensive linemen whom you rotate in all game long, which keeps those big guys from petering out in the fourth quarter.
Coley is a good player and has spent three seasons with the Browns after being on the Baltimore Ravens and Washington Redskins practice squads. He is solid against the run, but is not a dependable sack guy. He can play disruptive and is a hard worker, but has had a history of underperforming.
Coley’s roster competition is Brian Price and Carl Davis, so he will need this training camp to prove that he can be that first man off the bench, especially since Dorsey signed Sheldon Richardson this off-season as the new starter.
Offensive guard Drew Forbes
When the Browns traded All-World guard Kevin Zeitler to the New York Giants during the off-season, suddenly a huge sinkhole opened up at the right guard spot. This position should become the only new body on the offensive line during training camp as this unit only allowed 25 sacks last year.
Most folks have penciled in 2018 second-round draft pick Austin Corbett as the eventual starter, and he just may end up winning the job as Corbett is as advertised. But Drew Forbes is a quality guard and should be considered the wild card in who captures the starting nod.
Forbes is more than a diamond in the rough; he was a three-year starter in college and one of the Browns scouting department’s most scouted player. His strengths are his ability to finish blocks and is just a very tough dude.
The carrot that offensive line coach James Campen will dangle in front of Forbes is that he can back up left guard Joel Bitonio for 10 years or he can take Zeitler’s spot right now.
The work begins on July 25 at 10 a.m. when the Browns hold the first practice of training camp in Berea.