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How the receivers absent from OTAs are stymieing the growth of the Browns' offense, and other observations from the team's coordinators

Editor's note: Tony Grossi covers the Cleveland Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR.

The Browns passed the midway point of their “voluntary” OTA workouts on Wednesday. Five down and three to go before the mandatory minicamp June 4-6.

And on hump day, the Browns made their three coordinators available to media, providing insight on offense, defense and special teams issues.

Todd Monken, offensive coordinator

Each of the top four receivers – Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry, Antonio Callaway, Rashard Higgins – has missed one or more OTA sessions. While those absences have given extra practice time to the back end of the receiver roster – namely, Damion Ratley, Derrick Willies and Jaelen Strong – they have also “challenged” Baker Mayfield and the other quarterbacks. “You do what you can,” Monken said. “I think the most important part is we have a vast majority of our guys here. In terms of your installs, what we are doing offensively, our calls and our adjustments receiver wise, it is obviously a challenge for our quarterbacks in terms of the receiving corps that are out there, but that is part of the deal. It is their job to make them right.” …

As coordinator with Tampa Bay last season, Monken pulled the strings on one of the league’s most potent offenses. The Bucs were third in offensive yards, 12th in points, second in first downs, first in passing yards and third in passing touchdowns. His early assessment of the offensive talent on the Browns? “It is exciting. Like I said, some of them aren’t out there, but we will be talented enough. It won’t be about talent,” Monken said …

Monken’s quarterbacks in Tampa were Jameis Winston and Ryan FitzPatrick. As head coach at Southern Mississippi, his quarterback was Nick Mullens, who won three of eight starts as a rookie in place of injured 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo last year for San Francisco coach Kyle Shanahan. Monken’s early impressions of Mayfield: “It is hard to see everything here because we are not in pads, but you can certainly see the competitive spirit,” he said. “He likes having fun. The best way I can put it is he likes to have fun but he is not a clown. I think people misconstrue how much he likes having fun playing the game and around people. I am telling you, when you are in the meetings and you are out here, he wants to be coached, he wants to be great and he is a serious guy when it comes to the game of football.” Monken said Mayfield has “tremendous arm talent and really has a unique knack once he gets outside the pocket to see receivers down the field and throw it accurately.” ...

Steve Wilks, defensive coordinator

He believes the toughness of a defense can be simplified down to the ability and willingness of the cornerbacks to tackle. “The identity of our defense is not really how physical our front seven plays but really our secondary, most importantly, and how our corners tackle,” Wilks said …

It so happens that two of Wilks’ projected leading cornerbacks – Denzel Ward and rookie Greedy Williams – have different issues on tackling. Ward’s have to do with changing his technique to avoid further concussions. “I think you really have to be able to teach the guys the different technique and fundamentals, understanding exactly where their help is within that particular play,” Wilks said. “I know Denzel last year had a situation when he had come in and threw his body around which resulted into some concussions. We really have to teach these guys how to tackle.” As for Williams, his, ahem, lack of enthusiasm for tackling contributed to his slide in the draft to 46th overall in the second round. “No. 1, he is long and he is athletic,” Wilks said. “This game right now, you talk about the different receivers and the types that we have as far as big bodies. I love long corners. He is definitely that, very athletic, can run and he is very physical. That is important in the run game with me, that our corners tackle. We don’t have pads on right now, but you can see that athleticism out there on the field and the way he moves around. He made it aware that he is not afraid to tackle. He just needs to understand the technique and how to do it.” …

While he did not want to comment on Myles Garrett’s recent comments on feeling restrained by former coordinator Gregg Williams, Wilks feels Garrett should be expected to hit a higher level in his third NFL season. “I think so. It is that time. First overall pick. Very talented individual. Played well last year, and I think you are only going to see continued growth out of him each and every year,” he said …

The makeup of the starting linebackers is one of the few real position battles in training camp after the drafting of Sione Takitaki and Mack Wilson. Wilks sent the message not to count out incumbents Joe Schobert and Christian Kirksey. “You guys saw Joe last year and saw his ability to be able to perform out in space. I think he does that well. Joe is extremely smart. Smart players know how to put themselves in positions to be successful. Kirksey – athletic, he is a smart, physical guy. I think these guys can run. You have to have that matchup with these talented tight ends that can get vertical down the field. I think we have that in these two linebackers but also able to spread out in space over to the slot receiver. I have no problem with these guys playing out in space.” ...

Mike Priefer, special teams coordinator

He said a spate of missed PATs by incumbent Greg Joseph and rookie fifth-round pick Austin Seibert at last week’s media-attended OTA were the result of punting hopeful Jamie Gillan learning how to hold on place-kicks for the first time. “Both those guys, I think right now are right about 9 for 10 in team,” Priefer said. “[Gillan] has never been a holder. We had him working in those situations and those reps. Missed a couple because the holds were not great, but they are getting better, as well. It is a work in progress, but they are both very strong, very talented. I’m excited where they are.” …

He believes some of the problems on special teams a year ago were because starters were held out of special teams duties. “I know that they were not allowed to use some of the personnel that was necessary,” Priefer said. “It looked like some of the better players on special teams were on the sideline on some of those plays, which I don’t understand. At the end of the day, you have to put your best players out there, and sometimes your best players are starters on offense or defense. You might have to use a Christian Kirksey, might have to use a Joe Schobert, might have to use Damarious Randall on some of the core special teams to help us win. Those guys have bought in and they are going to be there if we need them to. I would not use them a lot – that would be dumb on my part. I want to win. It is not all about just special teams. It is about all – offense, defense and special teams. If we can use some starters on some of these phases, then great. If we don’t need them and we have good backups, we won’t need them.” …

Priefer said he has not yet identified who will be the team’s primary return specialists. “I think Antonio [Callaway] is part of the conversation, absolutely. Dontrell Hilliard is part of the conversation. Damon Sheehy-Guiseppi, the young man that we bought in here that is a speedster, he has entered the competition. We bought in D’Ernest Johnson, the college free agent running back; he has entered the conversation. We really have not identified the No. 1 guy yet.” ...