Players to watch in training camp:
Quarterback Trent Dilfer: The Browns are counting on Dilfer to lead a
rebuilding project. They gave the 33-year-old quarterback a four-year contract
after acquiring him in a trade with the Seattle Seahawks. He heads into training
camp as the undisputed starter.
Dilfer showed in minicamp he still has a strong arm, and though the offensive line should be better than it was a year ago, the question for Dilfer will still be one of survival.
Dilfer's biggest contribution could be what he brings to the young Browns in the locker room. He knows how to win. He is unselfish and is willing to help rookie Charlie Frye.
Center Jeff Faine: Normally a center doesn't attract much attention
unless he's shooting shotgun snaps over the quarterback's head. Faine had those
problems early on with Jeff Garcia last year, but in minicamp did not have any
misfires with Dilfer.
Faine will draw attention, though, because he is fighting Melvin Fowler to retain his starting job. Faine claims he weighs 290 pounds and says he looks smaller because he doesn't have as much body fat as many offensive linemen do. Coach Romeo Crennel says he is not concerned about Faine's size, or lack of it, as long as he blocks well.
Former coach Butch Davis drafted Faine in the first round in 2003. That means nothing to Crennel. Faine begins training camp as the starter, but if he gets pushed around he might not be the starter for the opener Sept. 11.
Linebacker Kenard Lang: Lang has proven over the years he can rush the quarterback. He had seven sacks last season, second most on the team behind Ebenezer Ekuban's eight sacks.
Lang has to show he can handle the other duties as he makes the switch from end to linebacker. Namely, he has to show he can cover running backs and tight ends in pass situations. He did a good job of staying with the backs in passing camp and minicamp, but those camps were conducted in shorts and T-shirts, and Lang was covering teammates. It could be a different story in preseason.
Lang's 2005 contract is for $3.75 million. It is highly unlikely the Browns would want to pay that kind of money to a situational player, although what must be a comfort to Lang is that no one else on the roster has a proven history as a pass rusher.
Safety Brodney Pool: Free safety should be the best battle of training camp. To win the job, Pool is going to have to play as though he is not a rookie second-round draft choice from Oklahoma because starting strong safety Sean Jones is virtually a rookie. Jones missed his rookie season in 2004 because of a knee injury.
Pool must prove he can tackle well and read offenses. The Browns figure to use a lot of two-deep coverage in their 3-4 defense, meaning Pool will be responsible for one half of the field. He is athletic, and showed in college he has good hands. Pool intercepted seven passes as a sophomore.