BEREA – Should he stay or go?
Four days before Memorial Day, with the start of the regular season still so far off in the distance that you need binoculars to see it, that’s one of the burning questions on the Browns.
That is, should rookie quarterback Colt McCoy stay on the sideline all year, holding a clipboard while wearing a ball cap, or should he at some point go into a game and begin his on-field development?
The line of thinking from Browns management does not appear to be consistent.
Head coach Eric Mangini has left the door open for McCoy playing as a rookie. After his first Browns team needed a season-ending four-game winning streak to go just 5-11 last year, Mangini just wants to find guys who can play. He doesn’t care how old they are, or where they come from.
Browns president Mike Holmgren first said – emphatically so – in a radio interview that McCoy, a third-round draft pick from Texas, would not play this year, but would instead stand on the side, watch and learn. He has since backed off those comments.
It’s not a big deal right, but it will be interesting to see it play out as things go on.
But if Thursday’s OTA practice is any indicator, then McCoy should probably stand and watch all year. He may not be NFL-ready yet, even for a bit part. At least that’s the way it looked.
On two long passes he delivered, one wobbled and was short, and the other was well overthrown. He needs to strike a happy medium and split the difference and put the ball where it needs to be, and he certainly appears to have the talent to do so. But it will take time, which is fine. The Browns have all kinds of time right now. They’re not going to win much this year no matter who they use, so they can be patient with their younger players instead of throwing them into the fire too early and ruining their confidence.
That’s especially important at quarterback, a position where the mental aspect is so crucial.
In other practice notes from Thursday:
*Despite getting praise from Mangini earlier in the day during the coach’s press conference, wide receiver Brian Robiskie has to keep plugging away. One of the first eye-catching plays of practice was his dropped pass on a crossing pattern. He’s got to catch those all the time. He has the ability to do so. Now he needs to do it.
*Speaking of holding onto the ball, rookie free agent wide receiver Johnathan Haggerty from Southwestern Oklahoma State has to do that much better as well. A pass from starter Jake Delhomme went bouncing off his hands in rapid-fire fashion, as if it had been fired off a brick wall. OK, so maybe Delhomme could have slowed down the speed on it to oh, say 200 miles per hour (just kidding), but regardless, if a receiver gets hands on a ball, he should catch it – especially if it hits him square in the hands.
*A receiver for fans to watch – the Browns are certainly are watching him – is sixth-round draft choice Carlton Mitchell. He is listed at 6-foot-3 and 218 pounds, but for whatever reason, he looks much bigger than that. Usually, a wideout coming out of college is not tall and also solidly put together. He’s either one or the other. But Mitchell has both of those qualities. He has a chance to make this team, particularly when you consider that overall, wide receiver is one of the weakest position areas on the Browns right now.
*Rookie free-agent wide receiver Dion Morton of Colorado State is working hard and doing some good things, but at just 5-8 and 160 pounds, he may be simply too small for the NFL.
*Similarly, it could be that veteran wide receiver Jake Allen is too skinny and slight at 6-4 and just 196 pounds. But in the cases of both players, we’ll just have to wait and see.
*Tight end Evan Moore, who came out of nowhere to play relatively well after joining the team late last year, had a lot of balls thrown his way. The Browns are apparently trying to see just how much he’s got.
*Displaying some of the best hands on the day was rookie safety T.J. Ward. He went into a crowd of receivers and defensive backs and picked the ball off the top of the grass for an interception.
*Another defensive back, special teams whiz Ray Ventrone, is fast. He displayed his speed on a blitz, getting into the backfield and to the quarterback almost as soon as the ball did.
*Knocking down a pass on a similar type of blitz was rookie safety Larry Asante. Keep an eye on this kid. He played at Nebraska for head coach Bo Pelini, the former Youngstown (Ohio) Cardinal Mooney High School and Ohio State star defensive back, and one-time Browns public relations intern in 1993. So he got some excellent college coaching and is more ready for the pros than most rookie DBs.
*The Browns appear to have some young, active – and possibly productive – pass rushers. Knocking down passes during the practice were linebackers Marcus Benard and David Veikune. Both look so much surer of themselves, which is what you would expect from second-year players.
*On the other side of the ball, rookie free-agent left tackle Jason Capizzi did what Mangini and offensive line coach George Warhop loathe – that is, he jumped early on a pass play. Take a lap, big fella.
*Ditto for veteran right tackle Tony Pashos after he moved early.
*Veteran fullback Peyton Hillis is big (250 pounds), but is hardly a plodder when he runs. He has good quickness.
*“The Big Show” was a no-show at practice. That’s because Holmgren was at the NFL owners meeting in Dallas.
*As the Browns try to reverse their fortunes and start winning, so, too, have they already reversed the direction of their practice fields – at least for the time being. Instead of running north and south, as they have ever since Browns Headquarters was first opened in 1991, they now go east and west. It’s not known if this will still be the case when training camp begins, but if it is, then it will be interesting to see where the Browns will have the fans stand – or sit -- to watch practice. If they continue to put them along the east and west ends of the complex, then it will be like they’re sitting in the Dawg Pound at Cleveland Browns Stadium, or in the seats behind the west end zone. For a lot of fans, those may not be their most favorite places to view practice.?