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Drops aside, Browns returning receivers appear 'faster' in second year of West Coast offense

Jun 13, 2012 -- 2:00pm

By Tony Grossi


Extra Points …

A new faster offense?: When you ask the returning quarterbacks what’s different about the Browns’ offense, their answers point indirectly at the receivers.

No, there isn’t a new elite playmaker out there lighting up the OTAs. There really are only two new receivers of note – rookies Travis Benjamin and Josh Cooper.

But the quarterbacks see something encouraging in the returning receivers and it has a lot to do with having the benefit of a true offseason to learn the West Coast system.

“There are guys flying around a lot faster,” Seneca Wallace said. “The body language has changed on certain players because they’re a little more confident in what they have to do every time they step out. And that goes a long way.

“Obviously, these OTAS and minicamps help out. Last year we didn’t have the luxury of having this (offseason). It was kind of a speeded up process of the West Coast system. Some guys are grasping it now and getting a better understanding of what it’s about.”

Colt McCoy put it this way:

“The biggest difference right now is we’re playing faster and thinking less. That starts with me, but it also starts with receivers from the time the play’s called in the huddle to the time they run their route. I feel we’re getting our hats in the right place. Our play-action looks good. I think there are little things (that are better). Obviously we’ve got to put the pads on (in training camp) and perform.”

These comments support the company line that the Browns’ embattled receiving corps should improve simply through the osmosis of experiencing another year in the West Coast system. But my eyes are telling me the unit still has not conquered the dropsies. I’ve seen too many drops for practices against air (no contact).

Fourth-round follies: Fullback Owen Marecic and tight end Jordan Cameron were somewhat surprising picks in the fourth round for the Browns last year, and neither had what you would consider “stellar” rookie seasons in part-time roles.

Each has a different challenge ahead in his second season.

Marecic could lay out a linebacker on a lead block, but he was stiff and ineffective catching the ball and running with it. Rookie seventh-round pick Brad Smelley may lack Marecic’s power as a short-yardage blocker, but he certainly has flashed more versatility in the passing game.

It’s doubtful that Marecic, Smelley and No. 4 tight end Alex Smith all can make the final roster; it’s possible that only one will make it, depending on configurations at other positions.

Marecic told the Akron Beacon-Journal that he lost about 15 pounds in a body “restructuring” because he felt a bit “sloppy” at 255 last year.

“He looks fitter and trimmer,” observed coach Pat Shurmur.

As for Cameron, he was drafted to eventually replace Ben Watson, 31, who is entering the final year of the three-year contract he signed as a free agent in 2010. Cameron, a former basketball recruit at Brigham Young who transferred to Southern California and turned to football, is the fastest and most athletic of the tight ends. He had six catches in very limited action as a rookie.

“He’s one of the players in my mind, at his position, that’s made the biggest jump in my eyes,” Shurmur said. “I see a guy that, number one, didn’t play much football before he got here. He competed and really showed the world that he had some skill and ability. And now in this offseason he’s gotten his body stronger. He looks more explosive. I think he’s done a pretty good job out here running routes.”

Cameron has to show in the preseason that he can be a reliable target and hold onto the ball when he gets speared in the back by a safety from the blind side. Those things don’t happen on a basketball court.

Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com.

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 44 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Email your “Hey Tony” questions to tgrossi@espncleveland.com

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi

 

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