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Cleveland Browns strap on the pads

Posted Jul 28, 2014

Observations from Monday’s higher intensity practice

  • Overcast skies and a cool air really did make it feel like football season in Berea on Monday. The Browns strapped on the shoulder pads and began portion of training camp that truly matters: hitting. Players weren’t tackling each other to the ground, but the increased physicality gives us a better idea of where certain players stand.
  • We’re starting to figure out where a certain quarterback does stand. For the second straight day, quarterback Brian Hoyer barely had a pass hit the turf. You can just tell he knows the offense better than a preacher knows the bible. The release of Hoyer’s throws are timed perfectly to correlate with the receiver’s breaks. Everything looks natural for Hoyer, especially touch passes on 20-yard routes in the middle of the field. Hoyer was in a rhythm Monday, and is showing no signs of slowing down.
  • A thing not many people are talking about with Hoyer: his body language. He shakes off mistakes, as rare as they’ve been, with ease. A picture is worth a thousand words; body language is worth a million.
  • We learned something about the Browns' offense on Monday: Johnny Manziel’s play calls were different than Hoyer’s. There was much more read-option for Manziel. He was in the pistol more. He was also out of the pocket more and without film we won’t know if that’s because of the play design or if Manziel was feeling pressure and wanted to escape the rush. Regardless, the Browns are not hiding the fact that they want to utilize their rookie quarterback’s legs.
  • “Certainly when you have a guy that’s more mobile, when you’re calling plays for him in live situations, you’re going to lean towards an inventory of plays that suit his skill set,” said Mike Pettine. “I think at the end of the day, we will see more [read-option] with Johnny than we will with Brian.”
  • Manziel’s flashes of brilliance are brighter than most players, though. His connection on a 35-yard fly route to Josh Gordon in traffic almost makes you daydream of what the future holds. Monday was an above average practice for Manziel, but nothing to brag about.  
  • Rookie cornerback Justin Gilbert had his best practice, ever, as a Brown. He broke up at least three passes and picked off a Hoyer pass in a one-on-one drill. Gilbert said he’s been trying to act more like a veteran, by getting in and out of the cold tub and also getting massages.
  • “Being able to get the hands on receivers, re-route them at the line, be able to play more like I want to play,” said Gilbert about his marvelous practice.
  • “He’s flashed some of the things we saw coming out of college, which is one of the reasons why we took him where we took him,” said Pettine.
  • Pettine said it’s early in the Gilbert-Buster Skrine cornerback competition, but things seem as close as any competition on the roster. The Browns head coach reiterated the coaching staff will judge competitions with much more scrutiny during the scrimmage and preseason games.



Five names who performed well Monday

  • Ben Tate. We saw a renewed sense of urgency from Tate, who took on a more physical role as a runner and pass protector with pads on.  
  • Paul Kruger. This hybrid defense is allowing Kruger to do something he looks more comfortable doing – putting his hand on the dirt and bull rushing offensive tackles. Kruger is a strength over speed player. The leverage he’s getting from a different stance could make a big difference in his play. Much more on him in the coming days.
  • Chris Kirksey. The rookie linebacker picked off Manziel by hiding back in zone coverage and pouncing when the moment called for it. He also showed has a repertoire of moves as a pass rusher. In a one-on-one drill against a blocking running back, Kirksey put on two spin moves before attacking the makeshift quarterback.   
  • Taylor Gabriel. The undrafted wide receiver hauled in an outstretched leaping catch on Buster Skrine and caught another deep one. The rookie from Abilene Christian is only 5-foot-8. But so far his size has not dictated his visible impact.
  • T.J. Heath. The cornerback is rising up the charts for more playing time. The dime cornerback is completely up for grabs  

News and nuggets

  • Wide receivers Charles Johnson and Travis Benjamin were held out of practice Monday. Pettine didn’t want the receivers to practice five days in a row.
  • The Browns released offensive lineman Chris Faulk. The LSU product was injured for most of his tenure in Cleveland.
  • Pettine agreed with a reporter’s question that the defense, specifically pressure up front, is ahead of the offense.
  • “Given the inventory we have defensively, it makes it tough on the offense,” said Pettine. “They are getting a lot of looks [from us] that they don’t typically see. We do some exotic things that very few other teams do. There are going to be some pains early with pass protection.”
  • Thursday’s practice will include live tackling. Right now, inside running drills and 11-on-11s only feature defenders “thudding” ball carriers, by just wrapping them up or lightly knocking them back.

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