Last week there were some questions about how the Browns front office would approach free agency. A week later, Browns fans have their answer – not much. That’s not to say that President Mike Holmgren and GM Tom Heckart are sitting on their hands however.
– Cleveland’s first free agent addition was former New Orleans Saint, Usama Young. Young is a local product from Kent State who found himself buried on the Saints depth chart behind Darren Sharper and Malcolm Jenkins. Fans may look at this signing as a questionable one but if there’s any doubt about Young’s talent, former teammate Scott Fujita doesn’t see it…
“Exceptional athlete, he’s one of those guys that can do everything on the back end. If you want him to play nickel coverage, he can do that. He can lock you down as a corner, he is big and has range. He has good leaping ability and great ball skills. I think they moved him to safety last season in New Orleans and body type wise and skill set wise, that’s probably what he is most suitable doing.”
– As reported by fellow BrownsGab columnist, Matt Loede, the Browns have agreed to terms with former Philadelphia Eagle’s cornerback, Dimitri Patterson. The signing of Patterson raised a few eyebrows among Browns fans but should be viewed as a necessary addition considering the loss of Eric Wright (Signed with Detroit). A quick look at Patterson’s stat line from the 2010 season and he appears to be a solid addition: 16 GMS, 9 Starts, 52 Total Tackles (50 Solo), 1 Sack and 4 INTs (1 returned for a TD). However, the jury is still out on Patterson’s coverage skills.
– The Browns also completed their first trade of the season, when they sent an undisclosed 2012 Draft pick to the St. Louis Rams in return for offensive lineman John Greco. Greco is another local product from Toledo who heard his named called in the 3rd Round of the ’08 NFL Draft by the Rams. Scouts around the league agree that Greco is a solid offensive lineman, who posses a nasty streak that should entice Browns fans. Head Coach Pat Shurmur is familiar with Greco from his time in St. Louis. Shurmur had this to say about his newest offensive lineman..
“John is a versatile guy. He’s played left guard. He’s played right guard. Two years ago he played left tackle for us with a club on his hand. I think he’s a very good pass protector. Big guy, so he’s good when you’re running the football. I think of him as a somewhat versatile guy who can come in and compete for a spot. But, if he’s not the guy that’s playing, he has the experience to be that sixth or seventh guy.”
Having seen action in 26 games throughout this career, Greco’s most extensive action came during the ’09 season when he saw action in 11 games with three starts (four overall). He’s most likely to see time at guard and could replaced Eric Steinbach if he is, in fact, ready to take that next step in his career.
– Last week DE Jayme Mitchell was an unrestricted free agent. This week the Browns were able to retain Mitchell, who is a player GM Tom Heckart has coveted since last season. The former undrafted free agent was traded to Cleveland from Minnesota last year, but was seldom used by then head coach Eric Mangini. It’s possible Mitchell could go from seldom used, to opening day starter this season for the Browns.
– With all the injuries being reported from Berea so far, the hardest hit position may very well be wide receiver. (Although losing for Punter Reggie Hodges for the season with an ACL injury certainly hurts) There’s already concerns about the lack of experience and talent at the position, and injuries to Mohammed Massaquoi (calf), Josh Cribbs (knee) and Carlton Mitchell (shoulder) certainly haven’t provided any relief. However, while Massaquoi, Cribbs and Mitchell are on the sidelines, more reps have been given to veterans Jordan Norwood and Demetrius Williams.
Norwood is in his second year in the league and was signed by Cleveland last year from the Philadelphia Eagles. The former Penn State star never stepped foot on the field for the Browns last year, but that could all change this year. Early reports from camp say Norwood has really stood out among the other receivers fighting for reps and Shurmur has certainly noticed..
“Jordan’s got quickness. He’s a guy that can separate. He’s made a lot of plays so far in this camp. Very bright eyed guy. You can see in the short time that we’ve been together that he gets it. That ‘it’ factor. I think he understands how to play the game. It’s just a matter of him now learning the terminology. He came in with a pretty good foundation, having been to the camps. I’m looking forward to him even getting better.”
Look for Norwood to compete for a starting position as a slot receiver for the Browns.
Demetrius Williams only saw action in two games for the Browns last year but failed to record a single catch. At 6’2″ and 202 pounds, Williams possess the kind of size Shurmur loves…
“He’s a receiver who has some size. For the most part, he’s caught the ball very well. We have hopes that he’ll pan out well.”
There’s no denying that there are a few “unknowns” among the current wide receivers on the roster, but Mitchell is certainly the most experienced. The former Oregon Duck is currently in his sixth year in the NFL (originally drafted by Baltimore in ’06) and has 63 receptions for 1,008 yards and 4 TDs in his young career.
Chew On This:
A name to keep an eye on is Branndon Braxton. Braxton is another big offensive lineman who’s generating a little buzz around Berea. The Browns originally signed Braxton in ’09 as an unrestricted free agent, but has spent the last two seasons in the UFL with the Las Vegas Locomotives, where he helped the team win back-to-back UFL Championships. Back with the Browns for the ’11 season, head coach Pat Shurmur admits that the local kid from Youngstown hasn’t had it easy…
“He’s a big guy and he has the ability to play tackle, which you’re always looking for in this league. He also has made steady progress these first couple of practices. He’s playing on the left side which is difficult. I know last year he was somewhat of a developmental guy. Those guys that are developmental practice squad, once training camp is over and they’re on the team, their live work or real work kind of stops. He’s kind of picking up where he left off last training camp. We’ll just have to see. There will be plenty of reps for him in there and we’ll get a good judge on how much he’s improved.”
Braxton could very well be that dominant tackle the Browns have been looking for on the right side of the line.
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