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5 players to watch at Browns training camp

Thousands of words were written about Terrelle Pryor last year as he embarked on the difficult switch from quarterback to receiver.

Thousands of words were written about Terrelle Pryor last year as he embarked on the difficult switch from quarterback to receiver.
He responded with one catch, a 42-yarder in the season finale vs. Pittsburgh.
The statistics must undergo an overwhelming transformation this year, or Pryor’s career will likely be over — as a receiver and an NFL player.
At 27, the time is now for Pryor. His performance in offseason practices gave him and the Browns reason to believe he’s ready.
“I don’t even call it a transition anymore,” Pryor said during the spring. “I feel like I’m there. I already transitioned. It’s just now continuing to get better at my craft and try to be the best I can be.”
Pryor’s ideal size (6-foot-4, 223 pounds) and sprinter’s speed convinced former Browns general manager Ray Farmer he could make the move to wideout after a career at quarterback for Ohio State and four years under center in the NFL.
Pryor flashed the athleticism and hands necessary to play receiver, but he lacked consistency. A strained hamstring in training camp didn’t help, and he was cut before Week 1 before returning to play three games at the end.
He looks more polished this year, making plays in practice on a regular basis.
“I feel like I’m on the end where now I’m really working on the skill, the details of running the routes and stuff like that,” he said. “I feel great out there. It’s definitely like second nature now.”
A breakthrough season from Pryor would go a long way toward stabilizing the situation at receiver. Veteran receivers coach Al Saunders believes Pryor is headed in that direction.
“The season’s yet to come here, but I know one thing: He’s improved by leaps and bounds,” Saunders said last month at the end of minicamp. “Every day he gets better, he does something that really gives me room for optimism that he has a future at that position. And we’re really excited about him, he’s dedicated himself in the classroom and his work ethic is better and better and better, his efficiency is better and better and better.”
Robert Griffin III, quarterback
No player on the Browns roster is a bigger mystery. Or will have a greater impact on the team’s success or failure.
Only three years ago, Griffin was coming off a historic rookie season in Washington and viewed as the future of the NFL. But little has gone right since his dazzling debut.
Injuries, inconsistency and clashes with coaches led to his premature departure from Washington and a second shot with the Browns. New coach Hue Jackson saw enough in Griffin’s private workout to sign him to a two-year, $15 million deal and hasn’t wavered in his support — at least publically.
Griffin hasn’t officially been named the starter, but it’s his job to lose. He was inconsistent passing throughout the offseason program, and it’s up to Jackson to structure the offense and call plays to maximize Griffin’s running ability and arm strength, while helping improve his play in the pocket.
Griffin, 26, was portrayed as stubborn during his days in Washington but has the opportunity to remake his image. He was quick to take on a leadership role when he arrived and must continue to earn the trust of his teammates while embracing whatever style of offense Jackson believes is best.
If Griffin approaches his potential, as he did as a rookie, the Browns will have a good chance to greatly exceed the experts’ low expectations. More importantly, if he shows he can still be the player who was the No. 2 pick, the Browns may have finally found their long-term answer at the game’s most important position.
Corey Coleman, receiver
Rookies are always the great unknown, and that’s especially true for wideouts. The transition to the pro level at the game’s glamour position has historically been a hit-and-miss prospect.
The Browns could use a home run from Coleman, the No. 15 pick out of Baylor.
He lacks ideal height at 5-foot-10 5/8, but the Browns viewed him as one of the most explosive players in the draft. He has a solid 194-pound frame, along with 4.38 speed and 40ᄑ-inch leaping ability. He needs to turn those traits into touchdowns, as he did with 20 in his final year at Baylor.
Coleman will get every opportunity to earn a starting spot in a questionable receiving corps, and it will be a disappointment if the top pick doesn’t seize it.
Cameron Erving, center
One of the enduring images of an embarrassing 2015 Browns season was Erving being bulldozed by a defensive lineman. The No. 19 pick had a rookie season to forget. He started four games as an injury replacement and was too often overpowered.
The Browns would’ve preferred to bring back Pro Bowler Alex Mack this season, but he left in free agency. That thrust Erving into the critical position in the middle of the line, surrounded by proven veterans who expect excellence.
Erving has an edge to his personality and made it clear his performance as a rookie motivates him. He spent the last seven months trying to get stronger and more technically sound.
He’ll need to make a huge jump on Sundays to ease the concerns of the organization and keep the line a strength of the team.
Duke Johnson, running back
The third-round pick in 2015 teased fans as a rookie. He showed flexibility and athleticism by catching 61 passes for 534 yards and two touchdowns, including a few spectacular grabs normally the domain of wideouts.
But the production that made him the all-time leading rusher at the University of Miami didn’t immediately translate to the NFL. He averaged a pedestrian 3.6 yards on 104 rushes, finishing with 379 yards and zero touchdowns.
Johnson (5-9, 210), who had bumps and bruises starting in training camp but was able to play in all 16 games, should benefit from a new playcaller. Jackson believes in establishing the run and has had success with two-back attacks. The Browns saw Johnson as a playmaker when they drafted him, and need him to live up to the hype.
Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7253 or [email protected] Like him on Facebook and follow him @scottpetrak on Twitter.

Browns writer for The Chronicle-Telegram and The Medina Gazette. Proud graduate of Northwestern University. Husband and stepdad. Avid golfer who needs to hit the range to get down to a single-digit handicap. Right about Johnny Manziel, wrong about Brandon Weeden. Contact Scott at 440-329-7253, or email and follow him on and Twitter.


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