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Rucker Excited about Opportunity


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Lot's was made about Rucker's inability to block coming out of college...but that may be more about the system than his actual skill set. After all....it is often said that the ability to block is all about a DESIRE to block.

 

Tight end Rucker hoping to be a breakout Brown

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By Steve Doerschuk

CantonRep.com staff writer

Posted Jul 30, 2009 @ 08:47 PM

BEREA —

 

“K2” is gone, which maybe hurts the Browns but certainly opens the gates for Martin Rucker.

 

“There’s a big opportunity,” Rucker said recently before the team moved into training camp mode. “It’s a great situation. I’ll just cherish it. I’ll give ’em anything I can.”

 

Rucker, the second of the Browns’ five draft picks in 2008, would welcome a chance to replace Kellen Winslow Jr. as the No. 1 tight end.

 

“I’m just looking to improve everything,” he said. “Recognizing defenses. Route running. Blocking. Everything. This is my craft.

 

“Catch the ball. Block. Whatever they ask me to do is what I’m going to do for this team.”

 

Rucker hits camp as the No. 3 tight end behind veterans Steve Heiden, a ninth-year Brown, and Robert Royal, who was signed away from the Bills in the offseason.

 

Heiden is in his 12th year as a pro. His NFL years are numbered. Royal isn’t as old, but at 31 he doesn’t figure as a long-term starter either.

 

Heiden and Royal are experienced blockers, giving them a serious edge on Rucker, but Rucker shapes up as a more talented receiver.

 

Granted, it was college ball, but it’s worth noting that Rucker caught 184 passes in his last three years at Missouri, including 84 in 2007. In Royal’s last three seasons with the Bills, he totaled 81 catches. Heiden’s number in his last three years with the Browns is 71.

 

Rucker came away from OTAs and minicamps with an open mind.

 

“They’re just finding out what everybody can do,” he said.

 

Most of what was discovered about Rucker in 2008 unfolded right under new Browns Head Coach Eric Mangini’s eyes.

 

After one preseason game, Rucker was put on the shelf with a knee injury that required minor surgery. He didn’t see the light of a game until Nov. 30. He was an afterthought while appearing in five games, producing two innocuous catches, one against the Colts, one in the season finale at Pittsburgh.

 

That one preseason game, though, was against Mangini’s Jets. He caught five passes for 70 yards.

It was the only fun he had all year.

 

What was that like for a guy who spent 2007 as a Missouri captain setting a school record for catches in a single season?

 

“It’s tough,” Rucker said. “You’re a competitor. It’s tough for anybody to sit.”

 

It’s tough to tell whether Mangini is as high on Rucker as former General Manager Phil Savage was. Rucker might need to be more intense, a little meaner. One time during spring practice, he was one of the guys who didn’t put much energy into running a penalty lap after making a mistake.

 

Mangini seems the sort to take note of such details. He loves hungry players. But he also knows that Rucker has seen what it takes to succeed in the NFL. His brother, Mike Rucker, was a top defensive lineman with the Carolina Panthers.

 

During the 2008 draft, when the Browns didn’t have a pick until Round 4, Savage gave up a third-round pick in 2009 to acquire an extra Round 4 pick and reel in Rucker.

 

Mangini seems to have an open mind as he heads into training camp. The first full-squad workout will unfold Saturday.

 

Rucker headed for camp seeming confident enough.

 

“I’m getting a lot more comfortable,” he said.

 

 

 

KEEP AN EYE ON THESE CAMPERS

Six players who could help the Browns win in 2009 if they expand on their limited 2008 duties:

TE Martin Rucker: Buried behind Kellen Winslow Jr., Steve Heiden and Darnell Dinkins as a rookie.

RB Jerome Harrison: Even with a career high for carries in ’08, that worked out to fewer than two per game.

WR Joshua Cribbs: He had almost as many carries as Harrison, usually when lining up at QB, but he caught a measly two passes.

QB Brady Quinn: Obviously.

LB Beau Bell: Last year’s top draft pick was lost as a rookie, but ex-Jet Eric Barton looms as an ideal mentor.

DE Robaire Smith: One of the hidden reasons behind the ’08 shipwreck was Smith going down with a season-ending injury in Game 2.

 

I like the last two comments as well. Bell and R.Smith are 2 players that we keep forgetting about when we talk about improving on last years defense. It should be remembered that R.Smith was supposed to be our run stopper and the guy that was to keep Wimbley clean. When he went down and S.Smith moved out of position to take on the RDE position...it left a big hole in our run stopping ability, and S.Smith was not mobile enough to keep LT's off of Wimbley. In effect, 2 positions were nullified for us.

 

Beau Bell...he came to us off of injury...then had another during camp. He never go off to any kind of start due to those injuries. He is a big, downhill hitter who may just be one of the reasons we didn't go R.Maualuga in the draft. If he can get it going under the tutelage of Barton...we may have a nice rotation at ILB...and a guy that can carry the position going forward.

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