I was unable to make it to rookie camp this weekend to see and behold the skills of Brandon Weeden and Trent Richardson. In some ways that’s probably a good thing. I learned last year in regular training camp that it is quite a vacuum to look at football. Without some serious perspective it is easy to think the team is far better or far worse than reality.
That doesn’t mean it isn’t worthwhile to go see rookie camp or training camp. I am still happy that I saw the kind of potential that guys like Jordan Cameron and Armond Smith have. At the same time, what I missed last year when I started talking about those guys was just how much of a gap there was between their training camp performances as true rookies and the timing of them potentially contributing on the field. I think both can potentially contribute to a woeful Browns offense, but to expect them to do so as rookies was optimistic at best and naive at worst.
Of course a guy like Trent Richardson has all the potential in the world to be different. He’s a guy with such potentially elite talent that he should be able to step in and contribute at a high level right away. Past Richardson, everyone else is a bit of a longshot to be much more than a rookie.
You’d like to think that Brandon Weeden would be an exception too, but even that is a bit of a longshot. I think it is possible that Weeden can come in and improve the overall quarterback play of the team since 1999, but it is a good bet that despite his age and physical abilities he will have some really rookie-type moments this season. This is also assuming that Weeden can take advantage of all the shortcuts that it is assumed the Browns will give him to the top of the depth chart.
So yes, I was interested in the goings on in Berea this weekend. Honestly though, other than important guys staying healthy, there’s not much more to talk about. Trent Richardson and Mitchell Schwartz better contribute this year. You have to hope that Brandon Weeden does, but he isn’t a lock. Travis Benjamin and the rest from defensive linemen to linebackers are all longshots to be meaningful contributors this upcoming season unless you count special teams.
I am an eternal optimist and I think that the Browns are taking a very healthy and methodical approach in the draft. But I’ve said time and again that there’s no such thing as an overnight turnaround in the NFL. Overnight success is an illusion created by a team finally going from four wins to say eight or more, but the turnaround in record usually dismisses a much longer building process.
The “overnight success” is a tipping point, but no team goes from, say, Mangini’s first year squad after it was necessarily gutted to ten game winners in a season’s time. That also means no matter how much you like rookies, it is not normal that more than one affects your team in a truly meaningful way. Which also means while it is important to take note of what rookies do in rookie camp, it is also important not to try and extrapolate it too much.