NFL Cleveland Browns

Previewing the Cleveland Browns’ 2014 Training Camp

Previewing the Cleveland Browns' 2014 Training Camp

Browns practice
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2014 marks another new era in Cleveland for Browns fans. In Cleveland, the offseason is typically when fans are most excited due to slow starts and losing seasons. But this year is different; newly signed playmaking free agents are all over the roster, and Cleveland is the talk of the NFL world due to the positives and negatives of Johnny Manziel. With training camp a little over a week away, here is a preview of the Cleveland Browns' 2014 camp.

Schedule

Mike Pettine
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Schedule

Mike Pettine
Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Although training camp doesn't officially begin with the first practice until Saturday, July 26, Browns' rookies will be required to report on July 23. Veterans must be in Berea, where team headquarters are located, on July 25. Training camp will run until Saturday, Aug. 16.

Quarterbacks

Johnny Manziel, Brian Hoyer
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Quarterbacks

Johnny Manziel, Brian Hoyer
Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

The quarterback position for the Cleveland Browns has been a hot topic among the NFL experts. The Browns had been tight-lipped on who they planned to start Week 1 but have since named veteran Brian Hoyer the starter over rookie Johnny Manziel. Barring a Hoyer meltdown in camp or the preseason, expect Manziel to be on the sidelines. Connor Shaw and Tyler Thigpen will be fighting to grasp either third-string or a practice squad spot.

Running Backs and Fullbacks

Ben Tate
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Running Backs and Fullbacks

Ben Tate
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Last season, RB was a key area of concern in Cleveland, but the Browns made sure to bring life to a stale backfield heading into 2014. Former Texan Ben Tate was at the top of the free agent RB list and will be the featured back in the offense. Dion Lewis, who was placed on IR, should battle rookie Terrance West for the backup role. Others in the mix include rookie Isaiah Crowell and Edwin Baker. Chris Ogbonnaya and Ray Agnew will compete at FB.

Wide Receivers and Tight Ends

Andrew Hawkins
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Wide Receivers and Tight Ends

Andrew Hawkins
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The suspension of Josh Gordon is imminent, so the Browns will have to turn their focus and rely on a receiving group that includes free agents Andrew Hawkins, Miles Austin and Nate Burleson. Without a true No. 1 receiver, Cleveland must rely on Pro Bowl tight end Jordan Cameron to pick up the offense in the passing game. The Browns will find ways to utilize him on the outside as well due to the blocking of the newly acquired Jim Dray.

Offensive Line

Joe Thomas
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Offensive Line

Joe Thomas
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If there is one player who deserves a shot at the playoffs, left tackle Joe Thomas is that guy. Thomas heads into his eighth season and will be joined by fellow Pro Bowl center Alex Mack, right tackle Mitchell Schwartz and right guard John Greco. The left guard position will be left up to rookie Joel Bitonio and veterans Jason Pinkston and Paul McQuistan to battle it out. Look for Bitonio to win the starting role.

Defensive Line

Jabaal Sheard
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Defensive Line

Jabaal Sheard
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One of the few bright spots on a 2013 Browns team that only won four games was the defensive line. Led by Jabaal Sheard, Phil Taylor, Desmond Bryant and Ahtyba Rubin, the Browns will look to continue their success and anchor a defense that seemingly underachieved last season. Players like Billy Winn, Armonty Bryant and Jacobbi McDaniel will need to keep up the level of play as they rotate with the starters.

Linebackers

Barkevious Mingo
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Linebackers

Barkevious Mingo
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On paper, the Browns should be set at linebacker with names like Paul Kruger and Barkevious Mingo manning the outside. The addition of Karlos Dansby at one of the inside linebacker positions replaces D'Qwell Jackson's leadership capabilities. The second inside backer role will be a competition between Zac Diles, Craig Robertson and rookie Chris Kirksey. The athleticism on this group should create havoc in opposing offense's backfields.

Defensive Backs

Joe Haden
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Defensive Backs

Joe Haden
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Pro Bowl cornerback Joe Haden headlines a defensive secondary that was weak by NFL standards a year ago. Veteran safety Donte Whitner replaces T.J. Ward at strong safety and will bring veteran leadership and a punishing style of play to the defensive backs. Last year's starter at FS, Tashaun Gipson will retain the role. The second CB position will be filled by either last year's starter Buster Skrine or rookies Justin Gilbert or Pierre Desir.

Special Teams

Travis Benjamin
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Special Teams

Travis Benjamin
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Speedster WR Travis Benjamin has been seldom used on offense and has found a home on special teams. Benjamin has returned kicks and has a punt return for a touchdown in each of the past two seasons. If he's called upon to contribute more to the offense, look for rookie CB Justin Gilbert to field punts or kicks. Gilbert returned six kickoffs for touchdowns in college. Kicker Billy Cundiff and punter Spencer Lanning should remain the starters.

Biggest Camp Battle: Quarterback

Johnny Manziel, Brian Hoyer
Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Biggest Camp Battle: Quarterback

Johnny Manziel, Brian Hoyer
Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Last month, head coach Mike Pettine named Brian Hoyer the starter and claimed that he was way ahead of Johnny Manziel in terms of being NFL-ready. Now we'll see if Manziel is ready to step out of the limelight and into a starting role. Hoyer should be named the starter for Week 1, but Manziel's ability to make plays will put pressure on the unproven veteran to perform at a high level. Hopefully for Browns fans, that push will produce wins.

The city of Cleveland might be the mecca of sports this season with LeBron James returning, and Johnny Manziel heading to the Browns. After the draft, over 2,000 season Browns tickets were sold.