August 23, 2014

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Browns notes: Receiver Travis Benjamin finishes rookie minicamp strong

BEREA — The finish was better than the start for receiver Travis Benjamin.

Travis Benjamin ended Browns rookie minicamp on a high note, catching a number of passes and showing nice speed. (AP photo.)

The fourth-round pick from the University of Miami made a nice catch in front of the goal line, turned and scored in the final minutes of practice Sunday on the final day of rookie minicamp. The catch was made more difficult because a defensive back darted in front at the last second trying for the interception.

Benjamin’s weekend began Friday morning with a couple of simple drops, but coach Pat Shurmur said it was too early to get down on him. On Sunday, Shurmur said he expects Benjamin to compete for a significant role in 2012.

“I would say so,” Shurmur said. “I saw a lot of good stuff from Travis this weekend and I feel like he’ll only continue to get better.”

Benjamin was the only addition in free agency or the draft to a maligned receiving corps. He is undersized at 5-foot-10, 175 pounds with hair thicker than his legs, but has world-class speed and changes directions smoothly.

“He’s a speed guy, he’s one of those guys that you don’t expect all of that coming from a smaller guy,” running back Trent Richardson said. “But he plays like a grown man and he is a grown man out there. He plays with a lot of heart.

“With a guy like Travis, you can just throw it up anywhere and he can go get it. That’s good for your team.”

Quarterback Brandon Weeden said he started to develop a rapport with Benjamin.

“The guy can really fly,” Weeden said. “And they had him moving around a bit, playing some different positions. Travis is a real good player.”

Benjamin caught 41 passes for 609 yards and three touchdowns as a senior. He totaled 131 for 2,146 and 13 in his career.

His route running needs work, and the coaches stressed precision during drills. It paid off with a few nice completions along the sideline from Weeden.

“I’ve been working on it,” Benjamin said.

West Coast bias

During a receiver drill Sunday, Shurmur, coordinator Brad Childress and receivers coach Mike Wilson gave specific instructions on how they wanted the routes executed. The shallow cross was to be a certain number of yards with a specific path. So was the out route.

Weeden noticed the change from the free-flowing spread offense of Oklahoma State.

“There’s a lot of more detail, whereas at Oklahoma State we just played fast and out-executed guys with our tempo,” he said. “There’s a lot more detail and assignment detail to what we do.”

Weeden got a taste of the West Coast Offense during the Senior Bowl, which helped with the transition over the weekend. He likes the Browns’ version.

“We threw the football down the field more and that was one thing at the Senior Bowl we didn’t do a ton of,” he said. “That’s one of the misconceptions of the West Coast Offense is that we don’t really throw the ball down the field. But we did. We’re throwing verticals, throwing corners, which I really like.

“I think I proved I can throw that ball on the sideline — the corners and the comebacks — so that’s the funnest part of my game for me.”

More like it

Shurmur is back in a comfort zone. After the lockout deprived him of a traditional offseason last year, he’s enjoyed the offseason workouts and rookie minicamp.

“This is really my first offseason as a head coach,” he said. “This is what I remember the offseason to be.

“If you compare the middle of May this year to the middle of May last year, it’s night and day ahead of where we were at, so I’m excited about that. It’s a normal teaching process this year, with being able to work with the players individually for a while, and then put them out here on the field and watch them compete, be able to teach them stuff that they’re going to have to execute in the fall. So from that standpoint, it’s easier for us to visualize moving forward.”

The class of ’12

The season is months away, but the draft class could produce a handful of starters on opening day.

Richardson and second-round right tackle Mitchell Schwartz appear to be locks, Weeden is likely and John Hughes (third round) or Billy Winn (sixth round) could replace the injured Phil Taylor (pectoral) at defensive tackle. Fourth-round linebacker James-Michael Johnson, Benjamin and seventh-round H-back Brad Smelley stood out over the weekend and will compete for significant playing time.

A couple of undrafted players also impressed over the weekend and will get a long look the rest of the offseason. Florida State receiver Bert Reed (5-10, 180 pounds) showed quick feet and was productive. Receiver Josh Cooper, Weeden’s No. 2 target at Oklahoma State, also made several plays.

Extra points

  • Defensive backs David Sims and Antwuan Reed made nice interceptions in the end zone on Weeden passes. Sims undercut an out to Cooper and tipped the ball to himself. Reed corralled a pass that went off Cooper’s hands.
  • Hughes had an ice pack applied to his right hamstring by a trainer. He was able to participate in the walkthrough part of practice.
  • Former Ohio State linebacker Andrew Sweat signed a free-agent deal with the Browns, then opted not to participate in minicamp. He told the Columbus Dispatch he chose to go to law school instead.

Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7253 or spetrak@chroniclet.com. Like him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.