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Surprises so far in Cleveland Browns training camp

Posted Jul 27, 2014

Six under the radar players who’ve stood out.

  • Let’s start with cornerback. Buster Skrine has carried over his solid OTA and minicamp work into the summer. On a deep crossing pattern 40 yards over the middle of the field, Skrine caught up with Josh Gordon, dove and batted the pass to the ground.
  • “I feel like I’m getting better every year,” said Skrine. “I’m becoming a smarter player. Corner is one of those positions where you need experience to be able to play [well]. Some of the best cornerbacks now struggled their first years playing. Now they are in the Pro Bowl every year.”
  • Skrine hasn’t received many reps at nickel back either. That job belongs to Isaiah Trufant at the moment, a former New York Jet with Mike Pettine. Trufant is scrappy and instinctive. The Browns want Justin Gilbert to learn the outside cornerback position first, but will probably consider getting the rookie some nickel back snaps later in camp.
  • Anthony Armstrong, although he really shouldn’t be a surprise to Browns fans anymore. The receiver made several noteworthy catches on Sunday – across the middle of the field and a deep 45-yard bomb from Hoyer. Armstrong is 31, but he doesn’t have the mileage on his body like other veteran receivers. He was a 27-year-old rookie in 2010. His speed and knowledge of the offense are the reason he’s a first teamer early on in camp.
  • Read our profile on how big of an impact Armstrong had as a Washington Redskin a few seasons back.
  • Wide receiver Charles Johnson had a much better practice on Sunday. His name has been circled by diehard Browns fans for months as a potential breakthrough sleeper candidate. He runs routes tenaciously and really to catches the ball more-so with his hands than his body. It also helps that he’s an enormous target – every bit of 6-foot-2, 215 pound. Pettine said he had to watch Johnson’s YouTube highlights to find out about the 25-year-old. General manager Ray Farmer noted Johnson’s 4.38 40-yard dash time.
  • On the defensive line John Hughes and Armonty Bryant have filled in nicely for the injured Billy Winn (hamstring). Hughes looks like he’s benefitting from the organized chaos on defense. Bryant, who crushed the conditioning test on Friday, is feeling like he’s upgraded what he can bring to the table.
  • “My quickness has improved,” said Bryant. “Being able to get around offensive linemen so far. This defense is exotic with different fronts.”

Quarterback snapshot
  • Brian Hoyer was zipping the football on day two of training camp. It was absolutely a much better day for Hoyer than Saturday. There were a few coverage sacks, but for the most part, the football was rarely touching the ground when Hoyer was the quarterback delivering it.
  • “I think anybody coming off (an ACL injury), it’s just human nature, may be a little flighty early with lots of big bodies flying around,” said Pettine about Hoyer’s improvement from day one to day two. “I think he’ll only get more comfortable as we go.”
  • Nothing spectacular on the other end from Johnny Manziel, at least with the naked eye. There was some uncertainty in some of his passes on Sunday. Pettine made a good point about evaluating the competition without watching film.
  • “I don’t know if I want to stand here every day just walking off the field and evaluate the performance,” said Pettine. “Sometimes you think one thing and you get in and watch the tape and your opinion changes completely, so it’s hard to say.”

Quick news and notes
  • Guard Jason Pinkston is “unavailable to practice,” according to Pettine, and it is unknown when he will return.
  • Defensive tackle Phil Taylor is rehabbing and should return soon.
  • Monday is the first day the Browns will wear pads.