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June 8, 2010 - Mike McLain
It's never easy predicting how young NFL players will perform at this time of the year, but at few signs manage to surface during OTA practices and minicamps.
Granted, it's touch football now. A receiver can look good grabbing a pass across the middle, but his job is made easier because there's no fear of being hit by a linebacker or safety.
With that in mind, here are a few Browns that have looked good in the few practices the media has been allowed to watch:
Safety T.J. Ward, a second-round pick from Oregon, has been impressive. He wasn't known for his coverage skills in college, but he's showing good field awareness. No one questions that he might be the hardest hitter in the secondary.
Rookie receiver Carlton Mitchell has caught a touchdown pass in each of the last two practices open to the media. He's a tall, inviting target and has shown decent hands. The criticism on Mitchell was that he catches the ball too much with his chest.
Offensive lineman Tony Pashos will bring an attitude on game day, which is a good thing. The line has talent but not a lot of nasty guys.
There have been noticeably less interceptions than in previous years, although Jake Delhomme was picked a couple of time last Monday.
Rookie offrensive lineman Shawn Lauvao doesn't seem intimidated by the NFL. He's a strong player with the classic stout build of a guard. It's hard to gauge linemen because there's no hitting, but it will be interesting to watch Lauvao develop.
This might be the best stable of running backs the Browns have had in years. Rookie Montario Hardesty is impressive and could be the starter. Jerome Harrison showed what he could do late last season, and don't forget second-year player James Davis. Davis stood out in preseason last year but suffered a shoulder injury early in the season. I failed to mention Peyton Hillis, who was acquired from Denver in the Brady Quinn trade. He'll be a valuable backup.
Tight end Ben Watson should help on the field, and he'll definitely add to the quality of the character in the locker room. I talked to Watson last week and was impressed with the way he handled my questions. There was no "I'm-a-big-shot- from-New England attitude about him.
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