On The Line: It Begins

The game is won and lost in the trenches, and that's where Brent Sobleski is focused. During the camp process, players get into the flow and refine their techniques. We'll track their progress...

Day 1 (Thursday): Often football coaches acquiesce, "A team does not exactly know what type of talent they have until the live bullets start to fly."

The Cleveland Browns took a step in the right direction today as the pads were strapped on in full force for the first time, although contact was minimized.

This is merely the initial baby step, which eventually can start to give clues as to who can play and who cannot. Specifically, questions surround the trenches as many are curious as to how the new defensive line performs and if the offensive line can maintain last year's high standard. Players will get into the flow, refine their techniques, and get adjusted to the system. As the recently opened Browns training camp progresses, the Orange and Brown Report will study these units and how each individual progresses.

Keep in mind that these will just be snapshots of how players did on a particular day. Sometimes players will have off-days or take a few days to get back into the swing of things.

Defensive Line

Louis Leonard – The big nose tackle looks the part. Leonard is a fluid and athletic for player of his size. When the ball snaps though, he appeared to be slow in his block recognition.

Chase Pittman – The added bulk certainly does not appear to have helped the second year product. Pittman appeared stiff in all his drills and off the snap.

Melila Purcell – Much like the aforementioned Pittman, the added weight Purcell gained during the off season does not appear to have helped his standing much at defensive end. The Hawaii product is often pushed around at the point of attack and easily neutralized one-on-one.

Shaun Rogers – The monster addition to the defensive front found himself sharing repetitions with Shaun Smith and was not the initial nose tackle with the first team. This should change as camp progresses, but Rogers is appears slow adjusting to the new defense. A potential bad habit is his propensity to look in the backfield instead of reading his keys. On two plays in particular during the first session, Rogers was driven off the line of scrimmage by Hank Fraley. When the overstuffed nose came off the ball low and hard, he certainly demanded two to three blockers.

Ahytba Rubin – The young rookie received plenty of additional coaching as the day went along from the likes of his defensive line coach, the defensive coordinator, and even head coach Romeo Crennel. From a physical standpoint, Rubin looks to have all the tools, but his overall technique is lacking at present. On one play in particular, the nose tackle was unable to keep his feet underneath himself, and the big rookie fell flat on his face when he could not adjust to a downblock.

Brian Schaefering – As an undrafted free agent, Schaefering could be turning heads with his strength at the point of attack. As an athlete, he appeared to be a little lacking in flexibility in drills and really had trouble sinking his hips.

Robaire Smith – The only returning starter of the defensive line obvious employs a veteran approach to practice. The end is long, quick, and uses his hands well.

Shaun Smith – The vocal "leader" of the team, Smith had an up-and-down day. The nose tackle relied heavily on a simple bull rush for most of both sessions. In the opening frame, he planted backup center Seth McKinney on his backside. During the second session this technique was often neutralized.

Corey Williams – Another highly touted free agent acquisition, Williams is obviously still adjusting to a new defensive system. He is a little slow reacting, got cut off on his backside pursuit, and gave up his chest consistently.

Offensive Line

Nate Bennett – An undrafted free agent trying to make the roster, Bennett was moved to right tackle. Predominantly a guard throughout his collegiate career, the transition was an adventure. To his credit, the former Clemson Tiger got better as the day and practices progressed. Early the offensive lineman looked lost in space; his technique was breaking down all over, and generally looked bad. Later on, Bennett was moving better and did a nice job reestablishing his hands in pass rush drills.

Hank Fraley – Nothing about the pivot's game is exceptional, but his game looked solid all around today. The center was able to get to the second level consistently and quickly, he was crisp on his double teams, and just never lost a block. Does well reestablishing his hands but can be pushed around a bit.

Lennie Friedman – A versatile contributor, Friedman was quick off the snap all day and shot his hands quicker than any other offensive lineman today. Hand placement will be a key as he struggled slightly holding ground and anchoring.

Rex Hadnot – Currently the starting right guard on the depth chart, Hadnot had an uneven day. Once in his pass set, he completely whiffed on his initial punch, and later was landing it solidly. Did struggle some in space.

James Lee – As the second string left tackle in minicamp, Lee received plenty of repetitions. Today was not the same case as he slipped to third string playing behind Joe Thomas and now Isaac Sowells on the blindside. Still, the undrafted rookie slid well in his pass set and looked solid during his limited playing time.

Cliff Louis – Long and lanky, Louis struggled throughout the day. His problems all center on his inability to play with a low pad level.

Seth McKinney – Struggling for stretches the practices, the once starting right guard was manhandled at times at center.

Derrick Morse – A late addition to the roster, Morse is not the most impressive physical specimen. He does come off the ball low and hard, but lacked the playing strength to drive anyone off the ball today.

Marvin Philip – Surprisingly solid first day for the interior offensive lineman who was stashed away on the practice squad a year ago. A collegiate center, Philip spent the day as the second-team left guard. Compact and very strong at the point of attack, once the lineman gets his hands on a defensive lineman, he usually wins. He fired off the ball low and hard consistently as well. The one area which will certainly need work is a complete lack of any punch today throughout the practices.

Kevin Shaffer – Generally, Shaffer is sound and consistent. The one area which presented some troubles today was a lack of consistency with his footwork, especially in his pass set. On more than one occasion, the right tackle was beat simply because he did not get enough depth on his initial kick step.

Isaac Sowells – The experiment at left tackle now begins. Overall, Sowells had a nondescript day, but did get some nice fits in his pass protection.

Eric Steinbach – An area which has plagued Steinbach throughout his career is his inability to anchor solidly against larger and stronger defensive lineman. Today was no different, as the undersized interior lineman will continue to make up in other areas with his athleticism. Also, he was corrected once by offensive line coach, Steve Marshall, to deliver a blow instead of accepting defensive linemen.

Joe Thomas – A perceived infallible left tackle, a trend appeared throughout the day. The Pro Bowler has a tendency to keep his hands wide on his initial punch, and it caused some problems in pass rush drills.

Ryan Tucker: Injured and placed on P.U.P list.


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