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5 position battles to watch at Browns OTAs
May 23, 2017 08:56 PM | Andrew Gribble


OTAs got underway today in Berea, and reporters will get their first full glance at the revamped Browns roster Wednesday.

The competition at positions across the field will go well into August, when the Browns power through training camp, but the first impressions made during OTAs are certainly important.

Here are the five positions where the competition will be particularly intriguing.

1. Quarterback

Cody Kessler is the only member of the group with starting experience in a Hue Jackson offense. Brock Osweiler has by far the most starting experience and boasts a winning record. Rookie DeShone Kizer is filled with potential and won't be held back if he proves to be the best man for the job.

Yes, the Browns' quarterback competition has a few layers to it, and that's why it will garner plenty of interest until a season-opening starter is officially named.

"I don't do it by numbers, I have to do it by feel," Jackson said Monday. "For the first day you might see the young guys with me the whole time. There's a lot of different things we're going to do and I'm talking about the young guy, I'm talking about DeShone because I want to make sure I have my hand on him as much as I can. It's not by rotation or anything.

"Cody is going to walk out there first and he's gotta keep that job. He's gotta do everything the right way in order to continue to lead the first team and the other guys will get opportunities as well and I think that's the way you have to do this if it's a competition."



2. Wide receiver

The Browns have a readymade replacement for Terrelle Pryor thanks to the addition of Kenny Britt, but there are opportunities to be had behind Britt and former first-round pick Corey Coleman.

Cleveland, which waived veteran Andrew Hawkins early in the offseason, didn't add a wide receiver in the draft or via the headline-making days of free agency -- beyond Britt, of course. That means the spotlight will be shining brightly on the Browns' three Day 3 picks from a year ago -- Ricardo Louis, Jordan Payton and Rashard Higgins. Of the three, Louis saw the most playing time as a rookie and is considered an asset on special teams.

A name to remember: Rannell Hall. He was in good position to land a roster spot last season before suffering a season-ending injury in the Browns' first preseason game. The opportunity is there for him to latch on and make an impact.

3. Defensive backs

The recent signing of Jason McCourty gave Cleveland's secondary some much-needed, experienced depth and gave the unit a player capable of lining up at multiple spots.

Jackson laid out the goal in plain fashion Monday. The Browns want the best four players manning the two cornerback spots and two safety spots. The same goes for when the team lines up with five defensive backs in its nickel defense.

Even though McCourty will be learning multiple positions, Jackson wants him to land at one specific place. If it's cornerback, that means the Browns will have a big opening to fill at free safety alongside first-rounder Jabrill Peppers, who is expected to make an immediate impact at strong safety. Derrick Kindred is back from a season-ending injury while Ed Reynolds and Tyvis Powell will be in the mix to man the back end of Cleveland's defense.

Players such as Trey Caldwell, Marcus Burley and a slew of undrafted free agents will be battling for some of the final spots in a secondary where versatility will be key.



4. Defensive line

This group will have a much different look to it in 2017, and a big reason why will be because of the team's rookie class. No. 1 pick Myles Garrett, third-rounder Larry Ogunjobi and sixth-round pick Caleb Brantley are expected to make a significant impact on a unit that should bring plenty of new looks under new defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.

If the Browns implement more four-man fronts, players such as Danny Shelton, Xavier Cooper and Carl Nassib could be in line for some different roles and responsibilities along the defensive line. Undrafted rookie defensive ends Jamal Marcus and Karter Schult will have their first chance to impress behind Emmanuel Ogbah, who got better and better with each passing game last season.

5. Kicker

Every kick matters during a kicking competition, and Cody Parkey and rookie Zane Gonzalez certainly will be attempting them during this portion of the offseason.

Gonzalez was the first kicker drafted by the Browns in years, but that by no means guarantees him a roster spot. Parkey was one of the most accurate kickers in the NFL over the final 12 weeks of the season and he showed off a big leg on multiple occasions. Gonzalez, meanwhile, comes in with as good of credentials as a rookie can have, winning the Lou Groza Award as a senior and finishing his career with the most field goals made over a four-year career.

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