BEREA—Eric Mangini made it a point to mention that he is happy with newly acquired veteran linebackers Chris Gocong and Scott Fujita.
Gocong (6-2, 263) came over from the Eagles in the trade along with Sheldon Brown. Fujita (6-5, 250) came to the Browns as an unrestricted free agent signing from the Super Bowl champion Saints.
“Chris and Scott are very bright guys and are adjusting very well to the scheme,” Mangini said.
Mangini has long been a proponent of versatility in players and he says both players can play multiple positions in the 3-4.
“It’s great to have guys who can (play inside or outside) because it gives you depth at both positions,” he said. “When you get to the 45 (game day roster), you can carry some guys at other positions.
“ The 3-4 is pretty flexible and that’s one of the reasons why I like it.”
Gocong, 26, is in his fifth seasons, while Fujita, 31, is in his ninth NFL season. Mangini coveted Gocong while he was making draft decisions when he was coaching with the Jets. The additions of Gocong and Fujita made the Browns feel they could trade outside linebacker Kamerion Wimbley as he was only an outside linebacker.
The Browns have several linebackers that can play inside or outside in Gocong, Fujita, Jason Trusnik, David Bowens, Matt Roth, David Veikune, among others.
Mangini said that Gocong and Fujita have been primarily working at one spot, but anticipates them moving around.
“Our goal right now has been to keep them at one spot,” he said. “When we get to minicamp, we might start moving them around, but those guys have played in various positions.”
Personnel Changes: The Browns announced several changes in their personnel department with John Spytek being named Director of College Scouting. Pat Roberts is now a senior national scout. Johnathon Stigall was added as an area scout coming over from the Eagles.
Hall of Famer Paul Warfield has decided to retire from the Browns’ front office.
Nothing New with RFAs: Mangini said there was no movement with the restricted free agents, including Matt Roth, Lawrence Vickers, D’Qwell Jackson, RB Jerome Harrison and DB Abe Elam. He did say that Harrison was once again working at the OTAs.
The players have until June 15 to sign their tenders or risk getting a pay decrease to their tender offers.
Mangini did offer his assessment on Harrison.
“He’s looked good,” he said. “It’s hard to evaluate where guys are at this time of year, but he looks like he did last year. “
He did say that second-round draft pick, Montario Hardesty has progressed well.
“He has had an outstanding camp,” he said. “He’s smart and has picked up (the system) and those type of things are going to give him a chance to play. I say that with an asterisk because we haven’t gotten to pads yet.”
Cornering the Market: Mangini talked about rookie cornerback Joe Haden and veteran Brandon McDonald.
Mangini said that Haden is soaking up information from Sheldon Brown.
“I think he’s benefited from having Sheldon around,” Mangini said. “Joe’s learning from him and Sheldon can be a mentor to him. All of those young guys are adjusting to the pro game and are starting to play a lot faster than they were when they started.”
It was no secret the Browns weren’t happy with the play of McDonald in 2009, prompting them to draft Haden with the first pick and trading for Brown. However, Mangini said McDonald has had a good off-season.
“The one thing I’ll say about Brandon is he has been one of our off season winners (in the off-season program),” Mangini said. “He has played a lot of football and the more depth you can have at the cornerback is great. He’s a very competitive player and I like that a lot about him a lot.”
Rookie Safeties: Mangini was asked if S Abe Elam held out longer, if he would be against starting rookies T.J. Ward and Larry Asante, if need be.
“T.J. Ward has also had a couple of good days,” he said. “I’m open to that. In New York, we started two rookies on the offensive line.”
Ward was the Browns second pick in this year’s draft, while Asante was the fifth-round choice.
“They may take some lumps early because they are rookies, but they will learn.”
Mangini said that Mike Adams has been working at cornerback mostly, leaving just Ray Ventrone, Nick Sorenson and DeAngelo Smith as the other safeties.
“You want everyone to be here, but it does create extra reps for those here,” Mangini said. “It’s great for the young guys to learn and get an opportunity.”
Versatile Line: Keeping with the versatile mantra, offensive linemen Shawn Lauvao and Tony Pashos fit the bill. Mangini said that third-round choice Shawn Lauvao has been working at center, besides right guard.
“Shawn has been working a little at center and that allows him to know what’s going on,” he said. “You want them to get comfortable at all positions.”
“(Pashos )is very serious about what he does,”Mangini said. “He’s all football all the time. Whether he ends up at guard or tackle, we’ll see where he fits whether as a starter or backup, we’ll see.”
Veikune Update: LB David Veikune has been stationed on the inside after coming in originally as a pass rushing defensive end in college. Mangini said he has taken advantage of his opportunities with D’Qwell Jackson out.
“David has taken advantage of the reps he’s received with D’Qwell not being here,” he said. “You can see his communication level improving and he showed different levels in college and last season. Now, he’s getting added value in his time here.”
Mangini said it’s not unusual for a player that played outside to move to the inside.
“I don’t think it’s unusual for someone with his background to be on the inside,” he said. “Teddy Bruschi was an end and then he learned and grew in the system and ended up inside. When you take a guy who had his hands on the dirt and now he has to learn to stand up, there’s a learning process.”
RB Update: Mangini said that RB James Davis has bounced back well from missing last season. He mentioned that he and Chris Jennings are in similar situations.
“I think James and Chris got a lot of opportunities last year,” Mangini said. “James missed playing time and it’s similar to what happened with Chansi Stuckey his first year when he got hurt. He learned a lot and came on his second year.”
Mangini said he was happy with the way Davis handled his injury in an after practice “opportunity time”.
“He’s handled it pretty well,” he said. “He rehabbed and has come along pretty well. “
Jake’s Progress: Mangini said he’s increasingly impressed with QB Jake Delhomme.
“He’s had a really good week,” he said. “I’m getting to know him and Brian (Daboll) is getting to know him. He’s very, very bright. He gets it and has used a lot of his tools to get the offense out of situations due to his experience.”