The first mini camp is now complete, so now it's time to shuffle through the positives and negatives. Being the optimist that I am, I will start with the positives.
1. Braylon Edwards was there, and apparently he was back to 2007 form. He claims that he is out there to have fun again and not pressure himself so much. Even Mangini said that he was impressed with his performance. Even better than that was the fact that he apparently kept his shoes on for the entire practice--wouldn't be surprised if he showered with them on his feet.
2. The Mangini staff is charting everything. They are putting so much time and effot into evaluating what they have on the field. It appears that they are taking every opportunity to see as many scenarios and packages as they can in the short amount of time that they have with the players. I also like the fact that they are doing mini camps instead of OTA's. Mini camps do not have the restrictions that OTA's do, so the staff has more quality time with the team.
3. With most of the team there for the camp, the team gets to see what is expected of them. They get the chance to digest the new playbooks, meet and greet with new teammates and coaches, and knock off the rust in the offseason. Since Thursday's practice was open to the media, Browns fans get an inside glimpse into the direction of the team. On the team website, there are photos of the players, which keeps the excitement and anticipation of the upcoming season in the air. There may not be concrete stories coming out of Berea, but at least they are now based a little less on speculation.
4. I like the direction that Mangini is going with the quarterbacks, too. They all had equal reps with the receivers, so there is a better system in place to really evaluate and distinguish between them. If you are a Brady fan, you will pleased to know that he got the first snaps. Mangini made it clear that this does not mean he is the proposed starter, but he did say that Quinn had the edge when it came to offseason workouts. Don't worry DA fans, there has been nothing set in stone. Another positive is that both DA and BQ claim to be 100% healthy from last years injuries. Let the competition begin, and may the best QB win.
And now for the negatives:
1. The biggest problem that the Browns face, aside from the players learning a new system and the staff putting personnel in the right place to help the team, is the Josh Cribbs hold-out. I know that the voluntary camps are just that--voluntary. However, this is a guy that I believe needs to be compensated. I am usually on the side of the owners when a player signs a long contract and then wants to renegotiate, but I just cannot fathom the alternative. I would hate to see him returning kicks against the Browns. He's made it very clear that he wants to stay and retire here in Cleveland, and I think that he does everything he can to better this team. The good news is that he was there Thursday for the team meeting. He did not participate in practice, but he did get the chance to talk with Mangini after the meeting. I believe that this situation will work itself out, but it is a shame that Cribbs is in this predicament. I just hope that they can come to an agreement before this really hurts his image and what he means to this team.
2. Phil Dawson also wants a new contract, so he was not at camp either. I do not know the particulars of his situation, but I hope that this gets worked out as well. He has proven to be a solid kicker, and he has the talent to kick in the nasty weather come winter time in Cleveland.
3. I know that I stated this as a positive up above, but the fact that Brady Quinn took the first snaps of camp could provide media fodder for another QB controversy. Of all the media posts on clevelandbrowns.com, most mention with enthusiasm that Quinn has the edge over Anderson. I know that he is the hometown favorite, but what if Mangini and company decide that DA is the starter? Browns fans and the media are ready to ostrasize him if he beats out Quinn again. I only hope that the fans can welcome him as a CLEVELAND BROWN, and forget about last year. There were too many variables to pinpoint what went wrong. If he gets the nod, then he is going to need the full support of the fans, as well.
Well, I know that it is too early to grade this organization, but I feel like the team is heading in a positive direction. After the last half of the 2009 season, I never thought that I would be this excited to see the team hit the field. I know that it is doubtful that we go to the Super Bowl, but I think that the games will be much more competitive, especially with the weaker schedule. I'm ready to give this new staff a chance, one without rebuke. I think that they deserve that much. I hope they can turn this team around.