AFC North: Tyler Thigpen

Opening up the MailBag on the weekend before the minicamp that will conclude the Cleveland Browns' "offseason" of work:
Catching up on some of the leftovers from the Cleveland Browns offseason practice on Wednesday:

• As things stand now, John Greco is lining up at right guard, with free-agent signee Paul McQuistan and second-round draft pick Joel Bitonio at left guard. Bitonio looks the part of a guard. Stout, strong -- and he brings a bit of a 'tude to an offensive line that probably would welcome it. When Ray Farmer was asked by about the one under-the-radar guy the Browns drafted, a guy he thought fans would really like to see, he mentioned Bitonio. Clearly there are high hopes for him -- and clearly those high hopes are part of the reason the team did not take a receiver in the second round.

• Brian Hoyer had some interesting things to say about new wide receiver Andrew Hawkins. Hoyer compared Hawkins to Wes Welker in the way he runs his routes and finishes them. Hawkins looked very good on the day the practice was open.

• The attention paid to running back spot, something that was missing last season, was evident during one practice in shorts. Ben Tate and Terrance West both look the part, and Farmer is very high on free agent Isaiah Crowell.

• The way Tyler Thigpen threw on the day folks could watch him begs the question: What the heck happened to Vince Young?

• It was refreshing to hear Farmer say on radio that Hoyer is ahead of Johnny Manziel by a substantial margin. Refreshing because it was honest and lacked the games of past regimes of talking around an issue. And it's refreshing because Farmer recognizes it's not in any way a condemnation of Manziel. He should be behind right now; he’s been a Cleveland Brown for one stinking week.

• An objective look at the quarterbacks shows this: The No. 1 with three games started for the Browns coming off an ACL reconstruction, a first-round draft pick trying to learn as he goes, a veteran backup trying to revive his career and an undrafted free agent. Yes, it's a good thing it's May.

BEREA, Ohio -- I might have been a little harsh on Vince Young the other day -- in an attempt to be humorous.

After seeing and hearing him, he might bring something to the Browns if he makes the team. A year ago he didn't make the Packers coming out of preseason. Now he'll have a chance to make the Browns, as the team signed both Young and Tyler Thigpen coming out of minicamp.

Assuming the Browns add another quarterback in the draft, they'll have five heading to the full-team minicamp in June and perhaps training camp.

The Browns had to see something they liked in Young and Thigpen to keep both. On the field during interviews following the final practice, coach Mike Pettine said the team's brass had to meet to decide who would be signed.

Less than two minutes after the media returned to the media room, word had broken that the Browns had agreed with both players.

Not even Don Draper works that fast in meetings.

How the Browns will use the veterans remains to be seen. Perhaps they and Brian Hoyer will all compete along with the rookie. Perhaps Thigpen and Young will compete to be the backup.

Clearly Young is the more interesting story of the pair. Perhaps he will pull a Jim Plunkett and revive his career in Cleveland. He is 31-19 as a starter, but the last time he started a game was 2011. His experience in Green Bay would indicate his climb is uphill.

“You can tell he's very rusty,” Pettine said. “I was joking with him the other day that it was falling off and rust was falling off in large clumps.”

But when Young left college to become the third overall pick in the draft, many predicted he would change the league. He started 28 games his first two seasons, 10 in his fourth -- when he went 8-2.

Things went south the next season.

Young said upon signing that he would cancel his return flight and stay in Cleveland to further study the playbook. Which is a good sign. So was the way he spoke about filling any role and helping any way he could.

The Browns have seen quarterbacks of all sizes, shapes and abilities ramble through the training facility here. Young and Thigpen might not be as good as many, but they are better than some.

The Browns needed a veteran backup, and they needed someone for this camp.

Young and Thigpen provided the arms needed.

Now they get a chance to prove to the Browns that they are needed.

The only thing the Cleveland Browns gain by giving Vince Young and Tyler Thigpen tryouts at this week’s minicamp is arms to throw footballs.

They needed some, with Brian Hoyer probably limited as he comes back from knee surgery and only Alex Tanney on the roster. So Young and Thigpen will get a look-see.

But if these guys are the long-term answer to anything -- either backup or starting -- then so is the Statue of Liberty.

Young and Thigpen have spent years proving they cannot play, and the pair spent the entire 2013 season watching as not a single team -- the Browns included -- chose to sign them.

The image of Young in many minds is the guy standing under the confetti wearing a Texas Longhorns jersey after beating USC for the national title.

The more accurate one should be of Young from a year ago, when he couldn't make it as the Green Bay Packers' backup, even though they lacked a true backup coming out of preseason.

To be fair, everyone deserves a chance, and Young and Thigpen could revive their careers in Cleveland, which needs a backup and/or veteran to compete with Hoyer and the quarterback they probably will draft.

General manager Ray Farmer said he wants to take a look at each, and minicamp is a logical place to do so. In that regard it makes some sense. There’s nothing really to lose.

It would simply be wise to keep expectations realistic on this front.

Walker's weekend mailbag

August, 7, 2010
Let's see what's in the weekend mailbag.

Ryan Davidson from Los Angeles writes: With the Washington Redskins releasing quarterback Colt Brennan, is there any chance the Cleveland Browns take a look at him?

James Walker: The Browns feel pretty comfortable with what they have, Ryan. But in the event of a major injury or a complete debacle, I will throw out a name to consider who might generate some interest: Tyler Thigpen. He's battling for the third quarterback job with the Miami Dolphins, but has good starting experience. So if there is a major quarterback injury this preseason in Cleveland or anywhere else, keep an eye out for Thigpen to be one of the first names to possibly come up in trade talks around the league.

Steve from Somerset, Ky., writes: How do you like the chances of the Cincinnati Bengals going 4-1 or 5-0 headed into bye week? They’re playing at Patriots, Ravens, at Panthers, at Browns, Buccaneers.

Walker: I'm not going down that road again, Steve. I already have some Pittsburgh Steelers fans upset that I wrote that they won't go 4-0 without quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. So I'm just going to let things play out and stay away from the wide-ranging predictions.

Scott Sensenig from Myrtle Beach, S.C., writes: How is Jerome Simpson looking so far in training camp this year?

Walker: In my visit to Bengals camp, Simpson made some really nice catches, Scott. But I’ve seen that before with him in practice, so it’s not a surprise. This is his third year in the NFL and it's really time for him to become more than a “practice player.” Simpson will need a good preseason to make Cincinnati’s roster this year, because the competition at receiver is intense.

Tom from Elkridge, Md., writes: What are the possibilities of Darrelle Revis coming to the Baltimore Ravens if he can't get his contract from the New York Jets?

Walker: Zero. No chance. Nada. You know these teams play in Week 1, correct?

Chris from Cleveland writes: Will my man Tom Zbikowski get a shot at the Ravens' starting safety position while they wait on Ed Reed?

Walker:I like Zbikowski and thought he filled in well when Reed was injured last season. But the Ravens also signed Ken Hamlin for a reason. I thought something was up, because Hamlin is more of a free safety than strong safety. Then news of Reed's major hip surgery was released and it all made sense. It should be a good competition.

Jason M. from Knoxville, Tenn., writes:Walker, it's been forever since I've sent in a question to you! How have you been? Which Steelers rookie will have the biggest impact this year?

Walker: I've been great, Jason. Thanks for asking. Maurkice Pouncey is the safest bet. He's a first-round pick and the only projected starter out of this year’s draft class. I think linebacker Jason Worilds will contribute on special teams and receiver Emmanuel Sanders will have to wait his turn to get on the field and contribute.

Mo from Chantilly, Va., writes: I really like Charlie Batch and was wondering what the chances were of the Steelers keeping all four quarterbacks throughout the season and how it could work?

Walker: Not good, Mo. There's really no reason to have four quarterbacks on a 53-man roster. It rarely happens. I don't see Pittsburgh letting go of a young talent like Dennis Dixon, and Byron Leftwich like is the starter for the first month. So it looks like Batch will eventually be the odd man out.

Complaint department

Here are the latest comments and complaints in our AFC North inbox.

Segatman from Australia writes: I think Pittsburgh likes the way that you are keeping them under wraps. They have a solid spread across the board in terms of talent, but honestly the one thing that is being lost here is the receiving corps. Do you genuinely think that the first month without the quarterback is more of a worry than having a laughable receiving corps for the rest of the season?

Alex from Baltimore writes:Why would Roger Goodell allow for a shortening of Roethlisberger's suspension? Of course he would act anyway needed to get back into his job earlier. He should have had a set suspension and then seen how Roethlisberger acts to determine if more should be given, not less.

Paul from St. Paul, Minn., writes:The reason why everybody's talking about the Bengals is because everybody knows this isn't the same Bengals team that we've seen in the past. They're deeper, more talented, more poised, and hungrier than I ever remember them. This team not only wants to win, but expects to win and has the experience and talent to make it happen.

Glenn from Orlando writes:I enjoy the fact that the Bengals are finally getting some attention, even though they have not done anything major in the NFL since I was in about fifth grade. Anyway, I don't see there being any change in Cinci at all. WOW, they went out and got T.O. Big deal. The combination of Ochocinco and T.O. will never compare to what Cinci had when their receivers were Chad Johnson and TJ Houshmandzadah. At this point T.O, Chad and Carson better hope that their offense can even come close to what Pittsburgh did last year and what the Ravens will be capable of this year. I'm a diehard Steelers fan. But until the Bengals can do something in the postseason they will continue to be the BUNGLES in my eyes.

Derek from D.C. writes:If the Bengals think that by sweeping the AFC North last year and adding weapons for this season they can easily reclaim the division title, then they are in for a reality check. The Steelers are healthy again and the Ravens are more consistent. Cinci goes back to the basement where they belong.

Tom from Indianapolis writes: In my opinion the Ravens defense will miss Ed Reed and Domonique Foxworth a lot more than the Steelers will miss Ben Roethlisberger. Why are those key players being out not getting as much attention as the quarterback of the Steelers? I mean, besides the fact that he is a quarterback?

Chris from Annapolis, Md., writes: I would sooner see the Ravens lose every game this season than see them bring back penalty-flag-Frank Walker. Lardarius Webb and Fabian Washington will be playing on Week 1 with Chris Carr as the nickel, mark my words. We don't need him.

Kovacs from Santa Monica writes: Please explain to me why the Browns are behind three teams that they beat (KC, Oakland and Jacksonville) at the end of last year in the preseason power rankings. You honestly think any of those teams improved more than the Browns?