The first noticeable difference about the Cleveland Browns’ training camp – besides people flying along the zip lines adjacent to the practice fields – is the tempo.
It is much quicker than last summer. More urgent. More aggressive.
This is true on both sides of the ball, but it shows up the most on defense.
No surprise there.
With Mike Pettine as head coach, and the Browns’ defense was bound to reflect the same edgy, in-your-face style that the defenses he guided for the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets displayed. And it has. Defenders consistently swarm to the ball, constantly look to strip it free, and frequently jaw with offensive players … with defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil often leading the jawing when he isn’t chest bumping with one of the members of his unit.
At times, such as on Sunday, the edginess boils over into an altercation between players. Pettine loves the fire, but doesn’t want it to get out of control. Fighting in practice is one thing; fighting in a game leads to penalties.
Still, a year ago, Browns’ practices didn’t feel anywhere near as intense. There wasn’t the heightened level of competition that has been present since the first workout began on Saturday morning.
That, too, stems from Pettine and general manager Ray Farmer. The competitive tone they promised would permeate throughout the team back in February, when the Pettine-Farmer duo were put in place to lead the franchise, has quickly proven to be much more than lip service.
After being put through an ultra-challenging conditioning test on Friday, which was more than a few players could handle, the squad has gone through two highly spirited practices that gave the distinct impression that many jobs are up for grabs -- and players are doing all they can to grab for them.
That has been especially true at wide receiver, where everyone from the top to the bottom of the depth chart looks to outdo each other on every pass play. And at running back, where running hard is not optional. And at cornerback and at linebacker and on the defensive line.
The environment figures to do plenty to get the Browns ready for the real thing.
ELSEWHERE AROUND THE NFL …
NEW YORK JETS quarterback Geno Smith recently found himself at the bottom of a poll by ESPN ranking the players at his position. But he doesn’t sound discouraged. In fact, Smith told ESPNNewYork.com that he is investing the work necessary to improve his game and soar up that list in the near future. “The thing about it is, you have to climb up,” Smith was quoted as saying. “If I’m No. 32, by this time next year or the year after, I expect to be in the top 5.”
OAKLAND RAIDERS quarterback Matt Schaub is drawing some favorable reviews in training camp from Raiders defensive tackle Antonio Smith, Schaub’s former teammate on the Houston Texans. “Schaubby’s getting his mojo back,” Smith was quoted as saying in the San Francisco Chronicle. “He’s getting his confidence back. He’s starting to believe in himself again. He is starting to throw with confidence. You would be surprised just how much your mind-set is important in this league.”
THE TEXANS’ OFFENSIVE LINE has dedicated the 2014 season to one of its own, David Quessenberry, who was diagnosed in June with lymphoma and is undergoing chemotherapy. Center Chris Myers told Fox 26 and the Houston Chronicle that Quessenberry’s linemates intend to find ways to raise money and awareness for lymphoma. “He’s on our minds 24-7, and that’s not going to stop,” Myers said. Said Quessenberry, “It’s hard to put into words what it means to have the support of your brothers on the team. It’s humbling. I want to do them proud. I want to come back stronger and come back and help these guys when I do come back eventually.”>>Be sure to tune in Monday through Friday, 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. ET, for “Cleveland Browns Daily, Driven by Liberty Ford” on ESPN 850 WKNR or catch the live stream right here on ClevelandBrowns.com. We take your questions at 216-578-0850 and via Twitter @Browns_Daily.