October 25, 2014

Elyria
Partly sunny with showers
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Browns training camp preview: Keep your eyes on these guys

he jerseys, helmets and numbers never change.

The players inside switch almost every year.

No. 17 now belongs to Jake Delhomme, not Brian Sipe or Braylon Edwards. Benjamin Watson, not Ozzie Newsome or Steve Heiden, is No. 82. Colt McCoy wears No. 12.

President Mike Holmgren is the most prominent name within the organization, and he may be the chief reason for any optimism surrounding the franchise in 2010. But he won’t catch a pass, make a tackle or take a snap this season. The guys wearing the plain uniforms will determine the Browns’ fate.

With training camp opening this morning, here’s a look at the most important players to watch over the next six weeks.

1: JAKE DELHOMME

All eyes will once again be on the quarterback position, but for a change, it’s not to keep track of a controversy.

There’s little doubt Delhomme will be the starter, and there’s no doubt he will provide more stability. But he also must give the Browns an improved performance.

Delhomme is coming off a 2009 that was so bad, the Carolina Panthers cut him while owing him more than $12.5 million in guaranteed money. The Browns are counting on a big bounce-back, and if they don’t get it, the season won’t get off the ground.

No matter how well the Browns run the ball – and they should be run it well – Delhomme must make enough big throws on third down and in the fourth quarter to turn close losses into victories.

President Mike Holmgren was encouraged by how he threw the ball in May and June, and is hoping it carries over to August and September.

2: BRIAN ROBISKIE

Delhomme must have people to catch his passes, and Robiskie is being counted on to be near the head of the group.

After a disastrous, seven-catch rookie season, he stood out throughout offseason practices. He made several spectacular catches, showing the hands Ohio State fans grew to love and giving coach Eric Mangini reason to believe he didn’t whiff on the 36th pick in 2009.

Plenty of NFL receivers struggle as a rookie before breaking out in Year 2, so why not Robiskie? He’s still got the size (6-foot-3) and pedigree (father Terry) that play at this level. He just needs the production to match.

3: ERIC WRIGHT

He’s the forgotten man at cornerback after the trade for Sheldon Brown and the drafting of Joe Haden with the seventh pick.

But Wright is a legitimate cover corner. If he commits to improving his tackling – rather than ducking and covering – he could start for any team in the league.

He’s in the final year of his rookie contract, which for a player with his talent usually means a big season.

4: SHAUN ROGERS

He will miss the beginning of camp as he completes his recovery from a broken leg suffered at the end of last season. He could miss the start of the season if the league suspends him for getting caught with a gun in his carry-on at Hopkins Airport.

But Rogers remains too talented to dismiss.

Ahtyba Rubin excelled at nose tackle in Rogers’ absence at the end of last year, so Rogers will be tried at end. That could provide a substantial boost to the defensive line.

5: MONTARIO HARDESTY

He was the third rookie chosen by the team in April, but could have the biggest impact.

He impressed the coaches in OTAs and minicamp with his talent and intelligence, and many observers expect him to unseat Jerome Harrison as the featured running back. But he must stay healthy – a problem at Tennessee – and prove he can pick up blitzers in games. For you fantasy leaguers, he’s likely to be the first Brown taken in drafts.

Others to watch:

• Joe Haden/T.J. Ward

The team’s top two picks in April aren’t locks to start, but their speedy development is critical because the dreadful secondary won’t improve unless they contribute.

• D’Qwell Jackson

The inside linebacker didn’t attend OTAs and minicamp, thought about holding out from training camp and isn’t guaranteed a roster spot. The former second-round pick looked like a franchise cornerstone before an injury robbed him of most of last season. He needs a big camp to regain his place within the team.

• Shawn Lauvao

The third-round pick from Arizona State could win the right guard spot. He’s strong and smart and should team with center Alex Mack for years.

• Joshua Cribbs

Handling his new contract – close to $7.5 million guaranteed – isn’t a problem, as he remains as devoted and motivated as ever. But how much time he spends in each of his plethora of roles needs to be determined.

Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7253 or spetrak@chroniclet.com.

TRAINING CAMP

• WHEN: Begins today with two practices, 8:45-10:45 a.m.
and 5:45-7:45 p.m.
• WHERE: Browns headquarters, Berea
• PARKING: Baldwin-Wallace’s George Finnie Stadium lot, off Beech Street near Bagley Road

FAN INFO

• Must use the Beech Street entrance to the Browns facility
• Entry is allowed one hour prior to the start of practice
• Call the hotline for updates: (877) 627-6967