COMMENTARY | It's almost that time of the year again.
On July 25, the Cleveland Browns return to Berea for their 2013 training camp. In the midst of seemingly the umpteenth reboot of the front office and coaching staff since the franchises return to the NFL in 1999, the Browns have plenty of question marks heading into camp. Cautiously optimistic about a team that could surprise a lot of people in 2013, Browns fans should watch out for these three things during the Browns stay in Berea:
Who Will Start at Cornerback Opposite Joe Haden?
With the Browns not opting to re-sign Sheldon Brown for 2013, the hunt for a new starting cornerback is on. Buster Skrine and Leon McFadden are likely the two main candidates for the spot, with former Atlanta Falcon Chris Owens being a longshot to win this battle.
Skrine is entering his third season with the Browns and though he did have 85 tackles in 2012, opposing quarterbacks completed 73.1 percent of the passes they threw in Skrine's direction last fall. Needless to say, vast improvement will have to shown by Skrine during camp to be given a shot at starting in 2013.
His main competitor will be the rookie McFadden, who was selected by the Browns in the third round of the 2013 NFL Draft. McFadden was an All-Mountain West selection his last three years at San Diego State, playing against teams such as Boise State, Fresno State and Hawai'i that threw the ball early and often. With this pedigree, don't be surprised to see McFadden come out of camp as the starter.
Will Josh Gordon Get First-Team Snaps During Camp?
At first glance, the thought of Gordon not being on the field with the starters during training camp seems like an outlandish notion. After all, Gordon did lead the Browns in 2012 with 805 receiving yards, but this idea is not as far-fetched as it may seem.
With a two-game suspension looming for Gordon at the start of the regular season, quarterback Brandon Weeden is going to have to develop a rhythm with another wide receiver opposite Greg Little for the first couple weeks of the 2013 season. Offseason pickups Davone Bess and David Nelson are two contenders to fill the void left by Gordon's absence, along with the returning Travis Benjamin.
Bess has averaged over 60 grabs per season in his five NFL seasons, but his career 10.7 yards per catch is a far cry from the 16.1 average that Gordon put up in 2012. Nelson hasn't been a huge deep threat either in his three-year NFL career, posting a pedestrian 11.1 yards per catch average. Benjamin, on the other hand, didn't have many receptions last season, but he made them count. His 18 catches for 298 yards were good enough for a Gordon-like 16.6 yards per catch in 2012.
Bess has the inside track on this job, but at least Benjamin will still provide a legitimate deep threat while Gordon is suspended.
Will Barkevious Mingo Live Up to the Hype?
Cleveland's first-round pick in April's NFL Draft, Mingo was an All-SEC selection at LSU the last two seasons. He joins a linebacking corps that could be one of the most underrated units in the NFL.
D'Qwell Jackson was his usual workhorse self in 2012, piling up a team-leading 119 tackles. Free-agent signee Paul Kruger had nine sacks last year for the Baltimore Ravens, an impressive number considering he only started five games in 2012. Rounding out the linebacking crew is Craig Robertson, who was somewhat of a revelation last fall as he racked up 93 tackles in a season that saw him start just three games.
With Cleveland's last five first-round picks(Joe Thomas, Alex Mack, Joe Haden, Phil Taylor and Trent Richardson) all being key members of the 2013 Browns squad, the pressure is on Mingo to make it six decent picks in a row for a team that drafted a string of busts from 1999 to 2006. Freshly inked to a four-year contract, Mingo should be a solid addition to the Browns' defense in 2013.
Shaun Heidrick is a Yahoo! Contributor who has followed the Cleveland Browns for 25 years.
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