PITTSFORD, N.Y. – Head coaches Rex Ryan and Mike Pettine called both of their respective football teams to the middle of the field and asked each player to take a knee.
The rules of engagement were laid out to the 180 players and right before breaking up onto the two fields at St. John Fisher College, Ryan quipped at recently signed linebacker IK Enemkpali, "No fighting!"
Let the fun begin.
1) *The front seven responds to different practice setting*
On the very first play of 11-on-11 between Buffalo's offense and Cleveland's defense, outside linebacker Paul Kruger busted through in pursuit and wrapped up quarterback Tyrod Taylor for the sack. The Bills' offensive line is not a strong suit of their team and the Browns clearly took advantage. Buffalo was consistently pushed back and did not run the ball well during the joint practice session.
"Without a doubt: we are a much more physical defense this season up front," linebacker Karlos Dansby said. "It really is a mindset, man, and our mindset has changed. We've dialed it up a little bit."
2) *Undermanned secondary has tough day*
Two Pro Bowlers in Joe Haden and Tashaun Gipson and two up-and-coming players who will be counted on this season in K'Waun Williams and Pierre Desir watched practice from the sidelines, and their absences were too much to overcome. Buffalo put on a clinic in one-on-one drills and a red zone period, where three 20-yard passes were completed for touchdowns. Receivers Robert Woods and Andre Davis had big connections with quarterback Matt Cassel. Cornerback Justin Gilbert was on the receiving end of several Bills deep completions.
"That's the life of a corner," Pettine said. "You have to have that short-term memory and be able to bounce back from a play. The best corners are confident corners and that's something that comes from having success and if he's in a little bit of a slump it's on him. We have to help him, but he has to play his way out of it."
There is good news to report: The argument can be made Tramon Williams was the best player on the field Monday. Much more on him soon.
3) *Danny Shelton helps Karlos Dansby play more effectively in the middle*
Things are different for Karlos Dansby at inside linebacker this season. Some of it has to do with Year 2 in the system; some of it has to do with Danny Shelton's arrival to the defensive line.
"Danny Shelton changes the math – he takes on two offensive linemen every time," Dansby said. "Usually you get a one-on-one situation. But you have to put two people on him. If you put one guy on him, it's going to be hard to get a first down if you do."
Shelton's rapid progression in training camp might be one of the biggest storylines coming into the regular season for the Browns: He changes how the defense matches up with the offense. Keep in mind, when you evaluate his rookie season, don't just look at statistics. What Dansby is relaying is that Shelton's strength in the middle of the defense is going to open up other Browns players to attack quarterbacks and running backs.
4) Bills skill players provide different test for Cleveland defense
Many around the league will argue Buffalo has some of the most explosive offensive weapons in the entire NFL: LeSean McCoy, Percy Harvin and Robert Woods. Even tight end Charles Clay can make defensive backs miss with his speed.
On the other hand, Cleveland's offensive weapons are of a different mold with strength and finesse. Dwayne Bowe, Brian Hartline, Isaiah Crowell and Terrance West are different types of athletes than Buffalo's because no team in the NFL carries players with identical skill sets.
"It was really good for us as a unit to see different speeds, different talents," Dansby said. "This is a sure way to judge yourself, to measure yourself.
"I think the energy is that of a game-type speed, especially inside with the lines. To me, it is competing against somebody other than your own. You kind of get in a comfort zone when you are going against your own guys and you don't get a good sense for where you stand."
5) *Other news and notes *
- Undrafted rookie Dylan Wynn continues to impress on the field and with his work ethic. The first player on the field running laps on the track? Wynn. The last player off the field working on his pass rushing technique? Wynn. He wants a spot as bad as anyone in that locker room, and so far the extra work is being noticed.
- Defensive back Kendall James had two solid deflections in pass coverage. If Haden, Desir and Williams are held out Thursday against Buffalo at FirstEnergy Stadium, expect to see a ton of the first-year pro out of the University of Maine.
- Pettine wasn't the only coach returning to St. John Fisher College. Defensive coordinator Jim O'Neil, defensive line coach Anthony Weaver, outside linebackers coach Brian Fleury and inside linebackers coach Chuck Driesbach all coached under Pettine during their 2013 season in Buffalo. The quartet of coaches was often seen hugging their former staff members with the Bills throughout the morning.