Advantages, Challenges of Browns Splitting Into Two Teams For Camp
During his media availability on Thursday, Kevin Stefanski mentioned that one of the safeguards the Cleveland Browns are taking to limit COVID-19 exposure is splitting the team into two teams - an orange team and a brown team.
Meetings will remain virtual for the time being, so unless they get together outside the facility, half the team won't see the other team in person.
This has some notable advantages. First, it makes it so only half the team is in the facility at a time and allows the coaching staff to have a specific focus on a smaller group of players and potentially have more individual coaching and development.
It also puts pressure on the coaching staff and players to be efficient, because they are now dividing their practice time between two groups. They must maximize the time in terms of reps and minimal time spent between periods. Over two practices, that's twice as many stoppages, so an inability to be efficient causes twice as much down time.
On one hand, it should ensure that younger players get more reps. On the other hand, it does put a cap on how much the starters can work. In the early stages where the team is seemingly trying to acclimate players and prepare their bodies to take on the rigors of a full on workload to avoid soft tissue injuries, this might be the smart play.
As training camp gets further along and they are going 100 percent, how they split up the time between the practices may vary more in favor of the veterans, projected starters.
It will also be interesting to see how the coaching split up the players into these squads. Perhaps it's as simple as those competing to be on the starting offense are on one team while the players competing for the starting defense are on the other team.
As an example, Lincoln Riley, the head coach of Oklahoma, has said that he never plans to have his starters go against each other in an attempt to minimize the chance of infection. He intends to only have his starters go against backups, players still developing and then opponents.
Baker Mayfield should be with any receiver that's potentially going to be catching passes from him this year, including Odell Beckham, Jarvis Landry and Austin Hooper. The starting offensive line should stick together to gel. There isn't much benefit to just mixing up the teams.
Depending on how players perform or in case of injury, infection, it will be interesting to see if players switch between the teams and how frequently. How players react to potentially being down with the second team for their various side of the ball could prove important.
The potential wildcard in all of this will be special teams. Early on, it may not matter which team guys are with, since they are working on skills and finding roles. At some point, they may need to start working together as a depth chart is figured out and trying to time up some details.
The NFL isn't going to tell teams how to practice, but it's interesting to consider that they might urge teams to use this methodology given the unique circumstances of the season. Obviously, if everyone is tested and comes back negative before entering the facility, the virus isn't going to simply appear, but since it's invisible, it reduces the likelihood of what's happening in Major League Baseball, where a few teams have been shut down, even if only temporarily, due to the virus.
There are disadvantages to this idea and it does put more pressure on both coaches and players to perform and be efficient in small windows of time, but there could be some payoffs in addition to simply reducing the risk. That peace of mind could prove valuable in its own right.