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5 observations: Browns bracing for an improved Derek Carr

A busy day at the Browns facility in Berea has come to a close.

Here's what we saw and heard in the locker room and during a quarterback-heavy Mike Pettine press conference.

1) Browns bracing for an improved Derek Carr

Linebacker Paul Kruger has seen it and so has pretty much everyone else on the Browns' defense during their early stages of film review.

Raiders second-year quarterback Derek Carr is a lot better than he was the last time he played at FirstEnergy Stadium.

"It seems like he has made some strides as a player and as a leader on the team," Kruger said. "Making sure he is leading the team with how he plays and managing himself, not taking those hits that are unnecessary. Things like that you are starting to notice on tape. Overall, I think a guy with that much talent, with an arm like that, he is going to progress naturally as his career goes anyways."

After an injury-shortened season opener, Carr broke out in a big way in last week's win over the Ravens, throwing for 351 yards and three touchdowns. Trailing by a field goal with 2:10 to play, Carr led the Raiders down the field and into the end zone with a 12-yard touchdown pass.

Carr has benefited greatly from a new-look group of wide receivers and his rookie year behind him.

"He's a good quarterback, he sits in the pocket and he does what he has to do," defensive lineman John Hughes said. "We have to put pressure on him, though. We have to make sure he has to make choices really quick."

The Browns don't need seven sacks like they had last week against the Titans, but the goal is to provide the same kind of pressure on Carr, who primarily plays out of the shotgun and has been sacked just three times.

"Any quarterback, we always say, if you let it be pass scale 7-on-7 and they can sit in the pocket and it's clean and they can make their reads and throws, you are going to get diced up pretty good," Pettine said. "That's certainly the case this week with Carr."

2) McCown appreciates new concussion protocol

Had it been a few years ago, Josh McCown might have played Sunday against the Titans.

The competitor in McCown was disappointed when he couldn't pass the NFL's concussion protocol before Friday's practice, but the veteran took on a new appreciation for the league's increased focus on the short- and long-term effects of concussions.

"I'm thankful for that because it's a serious thing, concussions and head injuries and what our older players and retired players are dealing with, so we don't take it lightly," McCown said. "Was there a huge part of me that wanted to just say 'Hey, let's go. Forget about the test and everything else, let's do it?' Yeah, but I think that's why they're in place is to prevent some of those things from happening.

"I was just trusting the process, trusting the testing and trusting the doctors and the protocol that the league's put in place. I think long-term, we'll be glad that we have those things. We won't know for a while, but I feel like as our game continues to grow and get better, I think that's one of the major reasons why it will continue to grow because we'll feel better about that area of our sport."

3) Injury update

Pettine said running back Robert Turbin (ankle) and linebacker Scott Solomon were the only players who would be definitely out for Sunday's game.

Defensive lineman Desmond Bryant (shoulder), who did not practice Wednesday, is a player to monitor throughout the week. Linebacker Barkevious Mingo, who was said to be dealing with a sore knee, practiced in full.

4) And the belt goes to…

The championship belt moved west within the Cleveland Browns locker room.

The WWE-style belt, awarded to the defensive player who makes the most "Play Like a Brown" plays in the previous game, was proudly positioned on the top shelf of Hughes' locker. The defensive lineman played 34 snaps against the Titans and made the most of them, piling up 1.5 sacks, another tackle for loss and a quarterback hurry.

He'll have to give the belt back Monday -- unless he does enough to win it two weeks in a row.

"It could have went to a number of guys," Hughes said. "We all played great on defense."

5) Some kudos for Browns special teams

In nearly every capacity, the Browns special teams units are off to the kind of start coordinator Chris Tabor envisioned.

Andy Lee is off to a big start and is among the league's leaders in punt average and net punt average. Travis Coons hasn't missed an extra point or field goal attempt and has seen just one of his kickoffs returned. The Browns are in the top half of the league in stopping their opponents' punt returns and are near the top on kicks.

And, by the way, Travis Benjamin is the league's leader in punt returns after his monster performance Sunday. He became the sixth Browns player to win AFC Special Teams Player of the Week since Tabor and assistant Shawn Mennenga came to Cleveland in 2011.

That's enough to earn a shout-out at Pettine's press conference.

"Those guys have done an outstanding job preparing our units," Pettine said. "They are always ready to go."

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