Cleveland Browns: Josh Gordon, Manziel and training camp

The Cleveland Browns find themselves in an unfamiliar place heading into training camp, the limelight.  Camp doesn’t even start until Saturday July 26th, but the team has been under media scrutiny all summer.  Josh Gordon faces a looming suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy.  Johnny Manziel has faced criticism for having “too much” fun, and the Browns face a lot of change from last season.

Josh Gordon Suspension

Gordon is coming off a breakout season, but he may not even see the field in 2014.  The third year receiver is facing a one-year suspension from the NFL, and his recent DWI in Raleigh likely seals his fate.  (Via ESPN)  Gordon is going to appeal the NFL’s decision on August 1st.  Gordon will participate in training camp until a decision is made despite the bleak outlook.

Browns first-year coach Mike Pettine refuses to give anything away yet.  “It is concerning and you want to address it, but until we know where he stands with the league we don’t really know where he stands with us”, Pettine said Monday.  (Via ESPN)

The Browns did not address the likely need for reinforcements at the wide receiver position in the 2014 NFL Draft.  Nate Burleson and Miles Austin arrived in Cleveland this summer however.  These two veteran free agents provide a bit of cover, but the Browns will sorely miss Gordon if his appeal is unsuccessful.  Tight end Jordan Cameron should see the ball even more than he did after his 80-catch 2013 season.  The 6-foot-5 monster will provide either Brian Hoyer or Manziel a security blanket.

Johnny Football Distraction?

Eddie Murphy’s girl isn’t the only one that wants to party all the time.  Cleveland’s rookie quarterback has been pictured in party settings in Vegas, Los Angeles and even Mexico.  Manziel balanced partying in the offseason and winning football games easily in college however.  If Manziel focuses hard in training camp and calms down with the partying, no harm will have been done.

Pettine said that Manziel’s off-field activity will be a “non-story” during training camp. (Via ESPN)  Manziel did very well in mini-camp and put 100% effort into the game.  There is no reason to believe Manziel won’t do the same now that he’s already reported to camp.  Camp kicks into gear on Saturday, and Manziel will be completely focused.

Pettine is confident that Manziel will have a great camp.  He said that he’s been very “humble” and is performing “ahead of the learning curve.”  That’s absolutely huge.  Hoyer’s biggest advantage over Manziel is his experience in the league and with the Browns organization.  If Manziel closes that gap, then his athleticism and playmaking ability could catapult him into the starting position.  It’s no secret that Browns fans are foaming at the mouth over the former Texas A&M star.  Manziel already has the best selling jersey in the NFL despite the fact he’s yet to take a snap in the league. (Via USA TODAY)

If Manziel keeps his head down and focuses on football, he could win the starting job.  Pettine intends to announce his starter by the third week of preseason games.

New Look Browns

Not only do the Browns have a new mascot, but the team will have a new look on offense. (Via cleveland.com)   The offensive line will likely feature four returning starters, but Kyle Shanahan will implement his tried and true zone-blocking schemes in the running game.

Instead of assigning certain defenders to block, the concept focuses on flowing to the left or right sides of the field.  Left tackle Joe Thomas and center Alex Mack will provide much needed leadership while the line adjusts to the system change.

Running backs Ben Tate and Terrance West in particular will hope the line learns quickly.  Tate needs to have solid protection as he’s prone to the injury bug.  The former Houston Texan seems to spend as much time off the field as on it.  West, a rookie coming off a fantastic career at Towson, will be needed to provide breathers for Tate and will need the line to give him space in his first season.

 

Camp begins on Saturday.  Keep a look out for my first impressions after the first few days.  Read here to find out which player you need to watch in camp.