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3 things to watch during Browns OTAs

The Browns will kick off the first of two weeks of OTAs before heading into mandatory minicamp


The Browns' organized team activities officially begin this week, the first of two weeks of light practices that represent the first time the Browns can all work on the field together this offseason.

It's important to note that attendance is still voluntary. The whole roster won't be in Berea, but that'll change from June 6-8 when the Browns begin their mandatory minicamp period. 

Those three practices — which are the last time the Browns will be together until training camp — will arrive one week earlier than normal on the offseason calendar due to the Browns also starting training camp a week earlier to prepare for the Hall of Fame Game on Aug. 3 in Canton.

The pads don't come on until training camp, and the intensity in both OTAs and mandatory minicamp will be minimal, but there are still a few things to watch as the Browns take another big step toward the season.

1. Watson builds chemistry with new WRs

These spring practices are all valuable reps for QB Deshaun Watson as he embarks on his first full season in Cleveland — this is the time of year when a quarterback needs to build chemistry with new receivers, and Watson has plenty of them.

Elijah Moore, Marquise Goodwin and Cedric Tillman are all new additions whom the Browns want to feature heavily in their pass game. Moore and Goodwin each bring an extra speed gear to the offense, while Tillman adds some height. Both those traits were lacking in the Browns' receiver room last year.

This week represents the first time Watson will be able to throw passes to them. How will the initial connections look?

As soon as Watson has his timing nailed down with the Browns' new weapons, the more explosive the offense should look.

Check out photos over the years of the Browns' new Pro Bowl edge rusher, Za'Darius Smith

2. Jim Schwartz's new defensive schemes

There's a lot to be excited about on the defense, too, even though we won't really begin to see how much more talented the group can be until training camp.

New defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz was brought in to reshape the Browns' defensive line into a beast, and he now has the pieces to do it after the team acquired three-time Pro Bowl DE Za'Darius Smith in a trade with the Vikings last week. Smith joins new DT Dalvin Tomlinson and DE Myles Garrett as three powerful defensive linemen who fit into Schwartz's plans.

How different might the defense look with a new coach and a few new pieces up front? We'll receive a very preliminary glance over the next two weeks.

3. A look at the rookies

It's always exciting to see how a draft class appears to fit into the initial roster, although the Browns don't need to rush to find out how any of the current rookies might fit this year.

The Browns already had most starting positions and backup roles filled prior to the draft, which is why they were content with waiting until Round 3 for their first pick.

It'll still be intriguing, however, to see the first reps from Tillman and DT Siaki Ika, the two third-round rookies who perhaps have the best chance of cracking a considerable role this year. A smooth spring could help Tillman play his way into snaps in an already-crowded receiver room, while Ika could be a candidate for a heavy role in the rotation of the second defensive tackle spot next to Tomlinson.

Rookie QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson will also be worth watching whenever he's given reps in a QB group that includes Watson, Joshua Dobbs and Kellen Mond.

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