Scattered rain drops made for a wet Wednesday minicamp in Berea. Here's what we saw.
1) *Dwayne Bowe's standing tall*
Time will tell, but right now it looks like Bowe will be the wide receiver opposing teams use their No. 1 cornerback to mark this season. Bowe's not a blazing speed guy anymore, but he's been craftily using his 6-foot-2, 225-pound frame to be a physical, possession receiver, catching many passes with cornerbacks all over his back during mini-camp.
"He has a big catch radius, strong hands that can make the contested catches," coach Mike Pettine said. "He's proven he can do that throughout his career. Throughout the spring he's shown us examples time and time again of why we brought him here."
Before Bowe signed his contract with the Browns, general manager Ray Farmer sat down with the receiver and showed him film of some of best highlights in eight seasons with the Chiefs. Farmer sold Bowe on Cleveland igniting areas of his game that Kansas City had gone away from under coach Andy Reid. From the looks of it so far, there have been some play calls tailored to bring out the best in Bowe.
2) *Johnny Manziel now focused more on opposing defenses *
One of the bigger football revelations during Manziel's interview with reporters on Wednesday better explained some of his struggles in 2014. As a rookie, Manziel was so concerned about mastering his own playbook and correctly reciting the plays in the huddle that he ended up not preparing enough for opposing defenses.
Under the guidance of quarterbacks coach Kevin O'Connell, Manziel's mindset has drastically changed. Because Manziel feels more comfortable with the wordy NFL jargon, more emphasis can now be placed on defensive trends – how to beat a zone coverage with a seam route, why a certain pass protection on second down can fool linebackers. It's little anecdotes like these that have pleased the coaching staff.
"Has he improved since the day he set foot back in the building? Absolutely," Pettine said. "In all the little things that it takes to be an NFL quarterback."
3) *Cornerback Pierre Desir earns first-team reps *
With Justin Gilbert out of mini-camp to attend to a family matter and Tramon Williams sidelined with a minor injury, Pierre Desir lined up opposite of Joe Haden as Cleveland's starting cornerback.
In a competitive 11-on-11 session, Desir perfectly jumped an Andrew Hawkins out route to the sideline and nearly picked off the pass. The play caused enthusiasm from the defensive sideline – so much that defensive coordinator Jim O'Neil rushed on to the field to slap Desir's helmet.
Don't make the assumption that Desir is ready to challenge Williams as the starter in September. But his growth this spring coupled with his surprisingly successful stint in December could spell playing time in certain packages this season.
4) *Duke Johnson makes a big play as a receiver*
This theme may seem repetitive, but it's worth noting because it was one of the most thrilling plays during minicamp.
In a 7-on-7 drill, Johnson split out wide and was defended by undrafted rookie De'Ante Saunders. Johnson sped his way 20 yards up the field, cut towards the sidelined, hauled in a sizzling pass from Manziel over his back shoulder and tapped his toes in-bounds. Had we been on the other side of the field, Johnson's precision as a receiver could've been mistaken for Hawkins.
A reporter questioned Johnson about whether the Browns are asking too much for a rookie to be a jack-of-all-trades.
"I don't think that's asking a lot out of a rookie," Johnson said. "They tell us in college when you get here, this is your job now. You don't have anything else to do but this. Whatever it is I have to do, whatever it is I have to learn – I'm willing to do it."
5) *Wednesday's standouts *
Billy Winn – With more bodies than ever in the defensive line room, Winn knows what he needs to do to stand out: make plays. The 26-year-old anticipated several running plays and was breathing down the neck of Josh McCown more than once.
Tank Carder – Similar to what Jordan Poyer has brought to safety, Cleveland is loving its depth at inside linebacker and Carder is at the forefront of that reasoning. He's really progressed in coverage. Expect Carder to play a bunch in the preseason.
Darius Jennings – Who? Make note of this undrafted rookie from the University of Virginia. He's just 5-foot-10, 169 pounds, but his routes are crisp and his hands are reliable. Remember, last year at this time, nobody knew who Taylor Gabriel was. There's always room for a late riser with big-play ability on the roster.