The Browns have been waiting with anticipation when the youth on the roster would stake their claim.
A marked day in the progress of any player, especially a rookie, is when the he lines up against the best there is to offer and walks away successful.
Rookie offensive tackle Joe Thomas has had some bright moments during training camp, as well as some struggles during the early stages in Berea, Ohio. As a top-of-the-first round selection, Thomas is expected to step right in and contribute mightily right off the bat.
During the first day or two of camp, Thomas looked somewhat out of place. The Wisconsin left tackle didn't appear to be comfortable, and it showed with his play on the field.
But when it happens a few times, you have to wonder what is going on.
Following those tough first couple of days, Thomas has become a model of consistency and has displayed the athletic qualities and ability which back up his lofty draft status.
Getting seriously challenged from the onset was the best thing that could have happened to Thomas. The rookie tackle was forced to adjust to the speed and quickness of the professional game. Practicing daily against the likes of Wimbley will certainly elevate Thomas' game. Competition is the greatest motivator.
Offensive line coach Steve Marshall has been consistent with the direction of his charges during training camp. He can be heard telling linemen to engage, get your hands into the defender, and move the defender with positioning. All three of these instructions have become increasingly evident in the passing days, and have shown in the play of Thomas. The rookie has achieved a level of consistency during camp, doing as he has been instructed.
On the opposite side of the offensive line, veteran Kevin Shaffer has looked solid at the right tackle position.
The Browns starting left tackle last season, Shaffer has been moved to the right side, replacing the suspended Ryan Tucker, while conveniently making room for the rookie from Wisconsin.
Shaffer has looked very good in practice sessions, battling Wimbley and Robaire Smith on the left side, while combating Antwan Peek and Shaun Smith on the right side of the line. The position switch comes as a difficult one to swallow for Shaffer, who felt he played better than many believed last season. Shaffer has a point: last season, the interior of the Cleveland offensive line was as poor as any in the game.
For Shaffer, a successful training camp and aligning with one of the Browns' key off-season acquisitions would have been the path to redemption. But that was all changed on draft day.
Shaffer's redemption could come in the fact the team believes he will be an effective right tackle for this team.
After last season, the Browns looked to become increasingly athletic on the offensive line, but still strong at the point of attack. With this in mind, the Browns discussed the idea of moving Shaffer to right tackle late in the off-season, when the organization decided to select Thomas in the NFL draft.
While Shaffer did not appear to be overly fond of the idea, he has made the move. Shaffer is playing as well, if not better, than Tucker or Kelly Butler had been during the first week of camp. Although only lining up on the right side in a few practice sessions, Shaffer has easily made the move and it could pave the way for him to see out the remainder of a seven-year 36-million dollar contract he signed prior to the 2006 season.
While anticipation builds with the acquisition of guard Eric Steinbach and a possible return of center LeCharles Bentley, let's not forget about the level of play and professionalism Kevin Shaffer is providing.