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Browns Rookie Progress Report

The regular season is nearly upon us and the Cleveland Browns rookies look to have carved out roles.
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With the opening game of the regular season just a week away for the Cleveland Browns, this year's rookie class is taking shape and figuring out their roles. Despite not picking in the first two rounds of the draft due to trades general manager Andrew Berry made, the Browns have been able to find players that look poised to make an impact this season.

The Browns have to be thrilled with what Ford has shown capable to this point. His receiving ability was his best trait coming out of college, but he's taken to the wide zone blocking scheme, showing the ability to make some explosive runs.

That will be an ongoing development as Ford displays the ability to shed tackles and make opponents miss. His vision and anticipation are hit and miss, which isn't surprising considering how he played for the Cincinnati Bearcats and how much different the blocking scheme is with the Browns. He is a player who excels around the goal line.

While Ford is likely to contribute as a rookie, it could be limited short of injury. The Browns are paying Kareem Hunt far more money to operate in the same role and he has a track record. So Ford could be back for kick returns and see a few snaps at running back each week, which will enable him to focus on improving in areas like pass protection, which are critical to earning the trust of the coaching staff.

Hunt is a player who is often dealing with injuries as a result of his running style. With the Browns, he's played one full season out of three but he dealt with three separate injuries in 2020. Ford becomes a luxury that can help limit the wear and tear on Hunt.

Michael Woods II, Wide Receiver

With relatively limited production at both Arkansas and Oklahoma, it wasn't clear what to expect from Woods as a rookie with one exception. Woods was going to be utilized on special teams. His combination of size and strength is a good fit there.

Everything else from Woods was surprising. Woods impressed immediately and it looked as though the Browns had found another late round receiver with potential not unlike Donovan Peoples-Jones. Unfortunately, that is when Woods suffered a hamstring injury that kept him of training camp for a few weeks.

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Healthy and back practicing, Woods will have to make up ground. He will likely play most of his snaps on special teams, but it wouldn't be out of the question for Woods to contribute not unlike DPJ did his rookie year. That amounted to 14 receptions for 304 yards and a pair of touchdowns. DPJ received more fanfare because included in those receptions were a game winning touchdown catch against the Cincinnati Bengals and a 75-yard touchdown against the Tennessee Titans. Woods could chip in a dozen receptions for a couple hundred yards.

Isaiah Thomas, Defensive End

Thomas came out of Oklahoma as a reliable player who consistently did his job, operating up and down the defensive line. For the Browns, he popped against the Jaguars in no small part because he was smart, explosive and demonstrated effective use of his hands. In that game, he had two sacks and a tackle for loss.

Unfortunately for Thomas, he would suffer a broken hand. He missed the second preseason game and he came back for the third, but he needed to be clubbed up so he could participate. His impact was muted by the handicap.

Thomas is going to be a rotational end that appears better suited to play the run, but can't be dismissed as a pass rusher. A healthy hand would help and that may not be far away.

Dawson Deaton, Offensive Line

Unfortunately, the rookie trying to make his way as a center and guard option tore his ACL and will miss the entire season. He hadn't really made much of an impression before suffering the injury and might have been cut with the hope of getting him to the practice squad.

D'Anthony Bell, Safety

Bell made the team in large part because of what he could offer on special teams, which is going to be where he makes of the impact he can have there. Nevertheless, Bell also stands to be the backup for Ronnie Harrison in that slot safety role. 

Bell is a player who just finds his way to the football and makes tackles. He flashed when he was able to punch out a ball in the preseason. His size and athleticism are intriguing despite his age. Maybe he stays at safety, but it wouldn't be surprising if the Browns had him put on some weight in the coming offseason, potentially making him a linebacker since he has many of the qualities the Browns look for in that position.