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Who's hurting?

March 20, 2011 - Mike McLain
The lockout that has shut down the NFL will have many victims, but none more than young players needing an offseason to develop their skills.

Browns quarterback Colt McCoy falls into that group. McCoy made more progress than anyone expected last season as a rookie. Team president Mike Holmgren didn't expect McCoy to take a snap, but injuries to Jake Delhomme and Seneca Wallace changed that.

In starting eight games, McCoy showed that he has some of the intangibles needed to be a successful starter. Questions about his arm strength remain, but at least he showed that he can do most of what is asked of him.

With a new coaching staff in place, McCoy needs an active offseason. Learning the playbook that has been brought in by new coach Pat Shurmur is important. McCoy also needs to work with his teammates during OTAs -- organized team activities -- which would normally begin soon.

Players often make their biggest leap in improvement from their rookie to second seasons. For a quarterback the leap can be huge.

This is all assuming that McCoy will be the starter. Shurmur and Holmgren have indicated that McCoy will get the job next season, but the Browns are among several teams that will work out some of the top quarterbacks availabale in the draft.

Cam Newton of Auburn could interest the Browns, who have the sixth overall pick. Blaine Gabbert of Missouri has seen his stock solidify to the point that he could be the first quarterback selected.

With so many glaring needs, it's doubtful the Browns will select a quarterback. Defensive linemen and receivers are desperately needs for the Browns to show signs of improvement.

But you never know with Holmgren, who never met a talented, young quarterback he didn't like. Holmgren normally likes to wait until later rounds to make a move on a quarterback, but it's possible Newton or Gabbert will impress him enough to pull the trigger on a quarterback in the first round.

For now, McCoy is the guy. He ended last season thinking that he would be the starter in 2011, and that's likely to be the case.

McCoy needs to get back to work. The lockout comes at a bad time for him.

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