BEREA – The opportunity is there for Carlton Mitchell to win a job and play a role in the Browns’ receiving corps. He just has to capitalize on it.
Mitchell, a sixth-round pick in 2010, has ideal size (6-foot-3, 215 pounds) and above-average speed. He also has three catches in two years.
He shows off his sculpted arms by rolling up his jersey in practice, but needs to demonstrate reliable hands. He dropped an in route against no defense Thursday during minicamp and has been inconsistent catching in his time with the Browns.
“I think what I’d like to see him do, No. 1, is be more consistent, first in practice and then be able to show it in the game,” coach Pat Shurmur said.
Mitchell didn’t have a catch in five games as a rookie. He played 11 games last year with three catches for 31 yards. But he never really recovered from a broken finger in training camp that cost him the entire preseason and kept him inactive for five of the first six games.
“It was big,” he said. “I had a cast on my finger, and it took awhile to get adjusted. It definitely hurt. I missed a lot and I had to build back up.
“Nothing’s given to you in the NFL. You have to prove you belong to be there. I missed so much, so I had to go out there and just work hard in practice, and do whatever was necessary to gain the trust back.”
Mitchell will be fighting for one of probably six receiver spots during training camp. His upside gives him a chance to stick.
“Everyone has their own role and whatever they ask me to do, I have to do it,” he said. “No ifs, ands or buts about it.”
Mitchell said the most common critique he receives from the coaches is that he leans at the top of his routes.
“Sometimes I’m giving away my routes too early,” he said. “And obviously we all want to catch the ball better.”
“I think he’s made progress,” Shurmur said. “He’s made a few plays.
“All of these guys we’ve seen do it once or twice, now you practice so that you build a level of consistency that is professional. So I think that is what he is doing. I think he’s got a good start so far.”
Shurmur said rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden isn’t losing out on valuable repetitions because he’s sharing time in the quarterback competition with incumbent Colt McCoy.
“He’s getting more of the reps than anybody at this point, No. 1,” Shurmur said of Weeden. “No. 2, as I’ve mentioned all along, we need to see him function in our offense.
“We drafted him for a reason (to play). In my opinion, we’re moving forward with that. At this point in the year, everybody on the roster gets reps. When you get to the season and you name somebody the starter, that’s when he gets most, if not all, of the reps.”
Shurmur said Wednesday he’ll name a starter “sooner than later.” He was asked Thursday what he needs to see before he makes the announcement.
“I want to see a good body of work here through the offseason,” he said. “Unfortunately you don’t always get real game situation or as much as you might like to make those decisions, but we’ll see.”
The offseason officially ends next week with four organized team activities practices. The rookies will stick around for a couple of extra weeks before leaving for vacation. Training camp starts in late July.
Weeden, who continued to take the majority of the snaps with the first-team offense, struggled with his accuracy for the first time this offseason. He was intercepted by safety Usama Young on a pass underthrown for tight end Evan Moore in the left corner of the end zone, was almost intercepted by safety Eric Hagg when he underthrew Mohamed Massaquoi on a deep ball and was a little off on a number of other incompletions.
Weeden did make some nice plays, including changing the call at the line and firing a short out to Moore to beat a blitz.
The practice got a little chippy, especially with the defensive backs bumping and pushing the receivers downfield, then chirping after the play.
“Stop crying and get back to the huddle,” safety T.J. Ward told Moore.
Moore had caught a crossing route from Weeden and took a shot from linebacker D’Qwell Jackson. The contact was too much for Shurmur.
“Stop grabbing. Cut that (stuff) out,” he yelled.
The warning didn’t stop undrafted rookie defensive back Antwuan Reed from tackling undrafted rookie receiver Jermaine Saffold. The players aren’t in pads, and practice is supposed to be light on contact.
“Hey, Reed, don’t do that,” Shurmur said. “I don’t understand why that’s so hard.”
Shurmur deflected a question about him correcting the secondary.
“I just wanted to make sure we are getting our work done and being safe,” he said. “That’s all.”
RICHARDSON RARIN’ TO GO
Running back Trent Richardson, the No. 3 pick, will get to put on the pads in the NFL for the first time during training camp. His focus is further down the road.
“I’m dying to get to the first game,” he said. “I really can’t wait.”
Shurmur said he’s seen growth from Richardson through the OTAs and minicamp.
“I think he’s made good progress,” he said. “I think he had a nice day today and there’s a lot to learn in this league from how you line up to the protection to the routes that you’re running and what-not. I think from that standpoint, he’s done a good job.”
From the department of no surprises, Shurmur said Richardson is the starter.
“I think that is probably fair to say,” he said.
Richardson was named Alabama Amateur Athlete of the Year for his role in helping the Crimson Tide win the national championship.
Avon is one of 35 schools in Northeast Ohio that will participate in the NFL’s High School Player Development program, presented by the National Guard.
The program is free for students and will reach more than 40,000 high school student-athletes in all 50 states and Puerto Rico this spring and summer. The Browns are hosting 2,000 area students as the program focuses on character and skill development.
In addition to on-field football work, there are character development and life skills segments, concussion treatment and management lessons, guest speakers and preparation for standardized tests.
Avon will host sessions Tuesday-Thursday from 9 a.m.-noon. Visit www.nflhspd.com for more information.
Offensive lineman Oniel Cousins returned after missing Wednesday for family reasons.
** Rookie receiver Travis Benjamin made a great diving catch in the end zone after McCoy rolled right.
** Linebacker Kaluka Maiava knocked the ball out of Moore’s hands after an apparent touchdown.
** Receiver Jordan Norwood made a one-handed touchdown catch in the left corner from Weeden.
** Rookie cornerback Trevin Wade continued to get noticed, breaking up an out route from McCoy to Josh Cooper.
** Kicker Phil Dawson was long enough but wide left on a 65-yard field-goal try. A second attempt fell short.
** Running back Brandon Jackson, usually a reliable receiver, dropped two passes.
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