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Improved Ricardo Louis could fill Browns' need at receiver

Ricardo Louis was more confident and assertive at receiver for the Browns during minicamp. Ken Blaze/USA TODAY Sports

Ricardo Louis is a name to remember as the Cleveland Browns search for offensive impact players, especially at receiver.

Entering his second season, Louis looked, talked and acted like a different player during offseason workouts. To say he was more confident is an understatement.

"It was funny because I went back and looked at our last year's rookie minicamp, the OTAs and the veteran camp, and [he's] a different guy," receivers coach Al Saunders said.

"He has really improved," coach Hue Jackson said.

If Louis can translate that improvement into actual games, he could be a boon to the offense -- and, depending on how preseason goes, a fantasy sleeper.

A year ago, Louis was one of four receivers taken by the Browns in the 2016 draft. Coaches and players privately thought highly of him, but Louis never put it together on the field, finishing with 18 catches. He admitted the challenge of going from Auburn to the NFL was larger than he expected.

"There's a lot of things that you have to be very specific on when it comes to being in the NFL," Louis said. "You have to be detailed with everything you do as far as preparation and taking the next step."

Louis listed almost every element of the position when addressing how he now feels more comfortable -- route running, change of direction, coming off the ball, creating separation, coming out of breaks.

"I have definitely taken a step forward," he said.

Saunders said that Louis takes the most detailed notes of anyone in meetings, and that none of the other receivers prepare "any more diligently off the field and at home than Ricardo."

This from a guy who was quiet and almost reserved a year ago. The pro game seemed too much for Louis at times.

"Now he lines up at the line of scrimmage and hears the play and sees the defense and recognizes the coverage, he goes 100 miles per hour," Saunders said. "He's a talented young man. I'm thrilled he feels really comfortable in what he's doing and am really excited when we get him to the preseason and take that transition and get into real physical football and play the game when things aren't what you expect it to be."

That will be the next step for Louis. Impressing in meetings and offseason practices is a long way from impressing in training camp and preseason games. But the Browns have a gigantic need Louis could fill.

The sole veteran is Kenny Britt, who is coming off his first 1,000-yard season in his eighth year.

Corey Coleman was a first-round pick a year ago but is a bit of an enigma. Coleman missed most of camp with an undisclosed injury. Jackson pointedly said in the offseason it was time for Coleman to grow up and step up, but it didn't happen in offseason work.

The rest of the group is inexperienced and young. If Louis' progress is real he would seem to have as good a shot as anyone at earning playing time.

"We're all competing to get on the field and play," Louis said. "Nobody has a legit spot right now. Nobody's No. 1. Nobody's No. 2. Right now, we're just all competing to see who can do things the best, who can play this position the best."