Connect with us


Analysis: Browns need real test against another team; and four other thoughts from training camp

The Browns have practiced eight times since training camp started, including scrimmages Friday and Saturday — the first with tackling, the second in front of 40,000-plus at Ohio State.
Camp resumes Monday after a day off Sunday, and coach Hue Jackson’s squad will be gearing up for the preseason. Only three practices remain before a game in Green Bay, then the countdown to Week 1 of the regular season Sept. 11 in Philadelphia begins in earnest.
Here are five thoughts after the first week-plus of the first Cleveland camp under Jackson.
The Browns need to play someone else.
Not just to break up the monotony, but to get a better gauge of where they stand. The preseason opener Friday in Green Bay may not be the most accurate indicator — the Packers starters aren’t likely to play much — but we will know more than we do now.
Will quarterback Robert Griffin III and receivers Corey Coleman and Terrelle Pryor still look good against a defense that isn’t wearing brown and orange? Will that defense get exposed by an established offense? Will any optimism that’s building be stomped out?
We’ll begin to learn the answers soon enough.
Griffin is coming off his best two days since the Browns signed him in March. He picked a good time, with the focus on him about to get a lot more intense with the start of the preseason.
He showed great accuracy on deep balls Friday, has completed passes to every part of the field and has gotten through his progressions better. The recurring flaws are holding the ball too long on occasion, throwing off his back foot and a lack of touch on short throws.
Griffin will never be perfect, but can he be good enough to win with the Browns? Much of that comes down to what Jackson asks him to do and how Griffin embraces those demands.
A question that will begin to be addressed in the preseason, but won’t really be answered until the regular season, is how Griffin and Jackson will mix in his ability to run. Will Griffin feel comfortable enough after a string of injuries to take off and put himself in harm’s way? Will Jackson call read options or bootlegs to keep the defense honest? If the answers are yes, Jackson will have another dynamic element in his already diverse scheme.
Coleman has exceeded early expectations with a start that has impressed coaches and teammates. He’s made plays throughout camp and took his performance to another level Friday night with three long catches that revealed the big-play ability the Browns saw when they scouted him and drafted him with the No. 15 pick.
He’s quick, fast and explosive, with good hands and remarkable field awareness.
Almost as encouraging for the organization is that he’s not the only rookie receiver worth watching.
Fifth-rounder Rashard Higgins’ solid spring has continued into the summer. Fourth-rounder Ricardo Louis caught a few passes over the weekend, beginning to flash the promise that comes with his 6-foot-2, 215-pound frame. And fifth-rounder Jordan Payton looks comfortable at the pro level despite missing the offseason program.
Not long ago the receiving corps was thought to be the worst in the NFL. Now it has the potential to be the Browns’ best in nearly a decade.
A rapidly improving Pryor and recently reinstated Josh Gordon add size and sizzle to the group of rookies and inspire visions of Gordon, Pryor and Coleman scaring defenses for years to come. With veteran Andrew Hawkins in the slot, the position group has every size, shape and skill set.
Jackson and new head of football operations Sashi Brown deserve credit for the turnaround. They immediately identified receiver as the biggest weakness on the roster and sought to fix it in a variety of ways.
This is the perfect time for optimism, but not everything is rosy.
The offensive line isn’t ready after losing a pair of key starters in free agency. Center Cameron Erving (elbow) has missed three days of practice and still must prove he’s capable of filling Alex Mack’s shoes. And right tackle remains unsettled after the departure of Mitchell Schwartz, with rookies Spencer Drango and Shon Coleman competing with veteran Alvin Bailey.
Injuries have accumulated, as 11 players sat out the scrimmage Saturday. That’s not unusual for training camp, but inexperienced players such as tight ends Seth DeValve (hamstring) and Randall Telfer (knee), fullback Malcolm Johnson (concussion) and rookie cornerback Trey Caldwell (hamstring) need as much practice time as they can get.
And questions remain across the defense. The Browns don’t have a dominant pass rusher, so the burden will fall on coordinator Ray Horton to come up with something creative to get to the quarterback and force turnovers to make up for deficiencies in the secondary and quite possibly the run defense.
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.


More in Analysis