The Cleveland Browns have plenty of vital position battles during this year’s training camp. Here are three that everyone should keep a look out for.
Will the world get to see Johnny Manziel step onto the field during an NFL game or will he have to wait behind Brian Hoyer? The Cleveland Browns selected Manziel with the 22nd pick of the 2014 NFL Draft, but that does not mean the Browns have anointed the former Texas A&M star to be the starter in Cleveland, yet.
Hoyer, a Cleveland native, is the starter heading into training camp and has a clear advantage over his rookie counterpart. Hoyer is 3-0 as a starter for the Browns, and his experience gives him an edge over Manziel.
NFL teams have recently been leaning towards giving their young star quarterbacks time to learn before throwing them into the fire, if possible. Aaron Rodgers blossomed into one of the league’s elite quarterbacks behind Brett Favre. Manziel is obviously going to have to feature for Cleveland in the near future, but the Browns will look to give Hoyer a chance to win now.
Manziel clearly has the “It” factor that Hoyer simply does not. Manziel is exciting on AND off the field. He’s already the biggest celebrity in the NFL before taking a single snap. The Browns needed that spark of life in their program. He’s an electrifying player on the field, but he doesn’t quite have the fundamentals down yet. He will push Hoyer, which is a good thing for the Browns, but Hoyer has a clear advantage to start Week 1.
This time next year, Johnny Football may be the one holding the keys to the offense.
2. Running Back
The quarterback race may have the most exciting headline in Johnny Football, but the running back competition will certainly be an interesting one with plenty of story lines as well.
The Browns currently have Edwin Baker, Jourdan Brooks, Isaiah Crowell, Dion Lewis, Ben Tate and Terrance West on their roster. Tate is the most experienced back, but he is not necessarily guaranteed to be the number one guy this fall, according to Dawg Pound Nation.
Tate will certainly be a huge part of Kyle Shanahan’s plan, but the former Texan needs to stay healthy if he’s going to get the most carries this season. He has missed 24 games in four seasons, and that alone could easily open the door for another back to slide in as the starter.
Tate plays hard-nosed football and can be a factor in the passing game, but don’t sleep on Terrance West or Isaiah Crowell.
West plays with a similar style to Tate, but he has even more burst. The former Towson star will see some time this year for the Browns, and if he takes advantage of it he could easily turn into a feature back in the future.
Crowell is an enigma. His college career started at the top, but he hit a slippery slope and is lucky to have gotten out of a personal rut. He was the number one running back out of high school and had a solid freshman year at Georgia, but he left Athens after being arrested on weapon charges.
Crowell then had two great seasons at Alabama State and found his way to the Browns. He has dependability issues, and obviously coaches need to be wary of past legal issues, but Crowell is an extremely gifted athlete who could make a big impact for the Browns if he keeps his head on straight.
3. Wide Receiver
The Cleveland Browns will be without their best player for the entirety of the 2014 season. Josh Gordon will surely be suspended after another legal issue. (Via ESPN) The Browns star was arrested for DWI in Raleigh over the weekend.
This leaves the Browns in a bad position at wide receiver. Miles Austin and Nate Burleson will help the bleeding however. It will be interesting to see which player will be the number one man. Neither has had that role for extended periods of time in the NFL, but one of them will have to step up. If Austin is healthy, he will probably get the nod. It is clear that these two are ahead of the rest of the competition.
Andrew Hawkins and Travis Benjamin are the most talented receivers molded for the slot and will have a fairly stiff competition for the spot. Both have the same athletic attributes and are extremely quick, but Hawkins simply has better hands. He should claim the slot position as his own quickly.
The number two receiver spot would be a little more muddled, but Earl Bennett was released earlier after OTA’s. This likely leaves Anthony Armstrong as a number two man.
Training camp, which begins July 26th, will answer many of the questions the Browns have if everything runs smoothly.