Monday, July 25, 2011
Browns back-to-work FYI
By James Walker
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Readiness factor: The Browns are by no means ready and are arguably the team hardest-hit by the lockout. They have a new offense to install, a new defense and a rookie head coach who still needs to learn his players. On top of that, Cleveland still has a lot of holes to fill in free agency and should be out to sign several key players as soon as possible. The Browns need to get to work immediately on all of these things if they want to avoid a slow start and contend in the AFC North.
Biggest challenge: Getting second-year quarterback Colt McCoy and the rest of the West Coast offense in sync is Cleveland's biggest task. The West Coast offense is primarily based on timing and precision, and Cleveland may lack both early. This is a huge year for McCoy, and he must quickly learn his second offense in two NFL seasons. McCoy is put in a tough spot, but he knows there will be no excuses if he doesn't turn out to be the long-term solution in Cleveland this year.
Rookie watch: The Browns are lacking talent compared with other teams in the division, so they are hoping for an immediate impact from their rookie class. Defensive linemen Phil Taylor and Jabaal Sheard are expected to start in Week 1, and the Browns have high expectations for second-round receiver Greg Little, who missed all of 2010 because of suspension. The lockout hurts all of these rookies, but this year's class will be given every chance to earn significant roles during training camp.
Key players without contracts for 2011: The Browns have already made most of their decisions on which in-house free agents they want to keep, but there were a few surprises. Fullback Lawrence Vickers, one of the best at his position, is set to hit the open market. Former starting cornerback Eric Wright has a better chance of returning but may garner interest. Veteran kicker Phil Dawson was offered the franchise tag but hasn't signed it, which leaves his future in Cleveland up in the air.