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5 storylines to know as Browns conclude training camp

Posted Aug 18, 2017

Myles Garrett shines, QB competition ongoing, unexpected standouts shine

In what was an otherwise picturesque three weeks, the Browns concluded training camp on a stormy, muggy Thursday afternoon. In that span, head coach Hue Jackson said his team got better in more ways than one.

“We’re physically better than where we were a year ago. We are more mentally tougher,” he said after the team's final practice.

“I think it’s a better roster. We still have some questions to solve. Obviously, the quarterback situation, we will get that finalized as we go. We're playing guys in some positions still to find out how they fit and where they fit, but for the most part, I think we have a good idea of who we are.”

Here are five storylines we saw emerge throughout camp:

Myles Garrett shines with the ‘right mindset’

Myles Garrett, the rookie defensive end and No. 1 overall NFL Draft pick, left little doubt on the field as to why the Browns believe he'll blossom into a cornerstone type of player for years to come. It was Garrett’s work ethic and humility, however, that earned the respect of the coaching staff and his teammates.

“Myles walked in here with the right mindset. He was going to earn the right to show his teammates and coaching staff that he was who he was,” Jackson said.

“He’s done that every day. I still think there’s another level for him to get to. I think he’s talented. I think he’s still learning the National Football League game and just the grind of it all. It’s going to be different for him, but I think he has some good mentors on defense and coaches who are going to get him through it.”

Browns defensive coordinator Gregg Williams echoed a similar sentiment, saying the team's veterans asked him to move Garrett up the depth chart.

“One of the things we do is when those (rookies) come in the door, they are dead last on the depth chart,” he said. “How do you handle that? How do you handle the locker room? How do you handle the meeting room? How do you handle the field? How do you handle the walkthroughs? How do you handle being humble? How do you handle being respectful?

“He’s a really good young man and a pretty good player, too," Williams continued. "He handled the threes, he handled the twos, he got some spot time on one and then the other players, the veteran players came to me and said, ‘Hey, do you know we are better when he is in there?’”

The ongoing QB competition

Though training camp has not yet offered offer clarity when it comes to who will be the Browns starting quarterback Sept. 10, the next three weeks should go a long way in determining it.

“I think the major game in the preseason is the third game,” Jackson said, referencing a trip to Tampa on Aug. 26. “I think hopefully we’ll have it all nailed down about exactly where we are headed and where we are going. I think whoever trots out there (in the third preseason game) has a very good chance of trotting out there against the Steelers” in the season opener.

In what’s an ongoing competition between Brock Osweiler, DeShone Kizer, Cody Kessler and Kevin Hogan, Jackson has emphasized he’s in no rush to anoint a starter.

“We’re going to keep working at this thing, and we are going to continue to coach all of these guys to get better,” Jackson said. “When it is the right time to make the decision that we feel is right to say, ‘This is the quarterback of the Cleveland Browns for 2017,’ then we will make that decision.”

A veteran and a rookie impress

Outside of the Browns’ four first picks — Garrett, Jabrill Peppers, David Njoku and DeShone Kizer — perhaps few rookies have shined quite like running back Matthew Dayes, the former N.C. State star who fell to the second-to-last pick in the NFL Draft.

“He’s flashed. He’s flashed every day,” Jackson said. “He’s really competitive. He’s further along than even I thought he would be. He makes plays in the running game. He makes plays in the passing game. He is not afraid to pass-protect. He’s a young man who demonstrates three-down ability.”

To be certain, Dayes — who totaled 2,856 rushing yards and 34 touchdowns in four seasons with the Wolfpack — finds himself behind backs Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson Jr., but will have the opportunity to showcase his ability throughout the preseason.

The same goes for veteran Nate Orchard, who moved back to the defensive line after playing linebacker his first two NFL seasons. The former second-round pick played in the trenches at Utah, amassing 18.5 sacks as a senior, and impressed in last week’s preseason opener against the Saints.

“I thought Nate Orchard showed up last night,” Jackson said. “That was outstanding to watch him go in there and compete like he did.”

Orchard, who missed most of last season because of an ankle injury, started 11 games in 2015 and is poised to be part of a rotation that includes edge rushers like Garrett, Emmanuel Ogbah, Cam Johnson and Carl Nassib.

Former practice squad members finding roles

In December, the Browns signed undrafted free agents defensive lineman Trevon Coley and safety Justin Currie to their practice squad.

Eight months later, both have put themselves in good positions when it comes to making the 53-man roster. Both have worked with the first- and second-team defense and earned the praises of the coaching staff.

On Coley, the former FAU standout and team MVP, Jackson said: “I think the way we kind of do it on defense is you earn your keep. So he’s playing well. We’ll keep giving guys opportunities. If you demonstrate on our football team that you have the skill and you can help us win, we are going to give you an opportunity to be out there.”

On Currie, who made 340 tackles in 37 starts at Western Michigan, assistant defensive backs coach Jerod Kruse said: “He's a surprising young man to most. I think he does some really good things. He’s really come into his own in the scheme and he’s comfortable in it. There's a high level of trust there. His physical toughness and effort is never in question. You're going to see him make more plays than you may think.”

‘I think there’s a lot in this group’

On Sunday and Monday, the Browns had back-to-back practices featuring multiple live-tackling periods. It proved to be the most intense stretch of camp -- and perhaps something of a turning point -- as Jackson hopes to get the most out of a young but talented roster

“I have really pushed this team pretty far, and as I keep telling them, I will keep pushing them because I think there is a lot in this group,” Jackson said. “You just have to keep pulling it out. There are hard days, grinding days, but that is what training camp is.”

After a 1-15 season in 2016, Jackson said this year’s squad is a “better football team” after adding three first-round NFL Draft picks and key players via free agency.

“I expect more from this team. I want more from this team. That’s the expectation,” he said. “I really believe we’re going to be a better football team. We’ll put a better product out on the field than what we did a year ago because I think these guys understand where we are.”

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