BEREA, Ohio — Cleveland Browns coach Hue Jackson implored the media this week not to make snap judgments on players or systems based on two organized team activity practices (the media was able to watch the second).
We shall honor that request. But we shall also make the following observations, with this proviso: Jackson is right. It is wise not to read too much into OTA practices.
Here are five thoughts coming off the first OTA:
Temper the optimism. This May-June period is the second-most optimistic period of the year for Browns fans, the first of course being the draft. The annual May/June optimism makes immediate Pro Bowl players out of new acquisitions and brings excitement beyond the stage the team is in. OTAs are exciting only to teams that do not win. Winning teams use OTAs to refine and assess. The Browns use it to learn and start over. OTA's are far different from training camp, which is far different from preseason games, which is far, far, far different from regular-season games. May phenoms can turn into September cuts. Best to keep the May/June optimism to a minimum, and instead demand results in November and December.
Josh McCown is the best quarterback right now. Judge it on individual ability and arm strength, and Robert Griffin III leads the pack. Judge it on reading defenses and throwing the ball from the pocket and McCown leads. He has been in the league so long and learned new offenses so many times that this transition might be less challenging for McCown than it is for other players. One year ago, Browns players marveled at McCown's ability to pick up the offense. He's doing the same now. The question is whether McCown can actually win the job given the team's signing of Griffin, who was the choice of the new coach. It certainly seems that the job is Griffin's to lose. The other question about McCown is the same as it's always been, and the same as it is for Griffin: Can he stay healthy?
Terrelle Pryor has made strides. Pryor looks far more comfortable at receiver than he did last season, and his skills seem to be the kind that Jackson likes. Pryor is a big guy who can run and who can be moved around the offense. The Browns signed Pryor just before training camp last season, then he was sidelined by injury. The team never got to really see what he could do. Now he's healthy, running well and catching the ball. It's way too soon to say Pryor has made the transition — Pryor has yet to play in pads against Joe Haden in press coverage — but as Jackson said: "He's flashed the last several days."
The practice was energetic, and coaches were loud. This is not a quiet staff. The head coach races around the field, making corrections and giving encouragement. After Isaiah Crowell caught a short throw and ran down the field, Jackson called him to his side from 30 yards away, put his arm on Crowell's shoulder and gave him tips on how to make the play work better. Receivers coach Al Saunders is like the Tasmanian devil. The days of quiet practices seem to be over.
Jackson's effervescence boils over. The coach challenged his rookies to work to get in better shape, but his outlook usually is sunny. Consider Alvin Bailey, an offensive lineman snatched by the Browns after Seattle did not make him an offer as restricted free agent. Bailey started eight games in three seasons in Seattle, one in the NFC Championship Game. Said Jackson: "[Bailey] was at Seattle and did a tremendous job for them." Being positive isn't necessarily a bad thing. Players do pay attention, even though they say they don't. It's just interesting.