"Prelude to the storm" might be the best way to describe the Browns' second day of training camp.
On Saturday, when the players don pads for the first time, it gets real.
"It's as close to a real-game situation as you're going to get," Browns coach Mike Pettine said. "They're wearing everything that they're going to wear come game time. It is difficult on an offense, talking about blocking surface. When you put pads on you see it's not as easy to get to the quarterback when there are pads on."
1) Josh McCown, Johnny Manziel lead bounce-back day on offense
On back-to-back plays during the final team period of Friday's practice, McCown threw, perhaps, his two best passes in an open practice setting since he signed with the Browns. McCown found Travis Benjamin in a crowd on an out pattern roughly 15 yards down the field and toward the right sideline. He showed similar touch on the very next play, this time to Brian Hartline on what appeared to be an instant replay of the throw to Benjamin.
A few plays earlier, McCown connected with Dwayne Bowe on a 30 yard over-the-shoulder pass.
These were the types of pass plays that weren't as frequent Thursday, as the Browns offense opened it up a bit one day after featuring a number of shorter, quicker throws.
"That's the one thing that has jumped out is his accuracy, not just on the underneath stuff but intermediate to deeper throws," Pettine said. "I talk about having to watch the film and to be able to evaluate … I don't need to watch the film to know he threw some pretty good balls in practice today."
Manziel was also better, as he connected on the majority of his passes and made quicker decisions. Most of his throws went primarily to receivers such as rookie Vince Mayle and Kevin Cone.
"He came out here today, just like any other day," Pettine said, downplaying the apparent struggles Manziel had Thursday. "He wanted to work to get better and he took it one play at a time."
2) McCown catches fans, teammates by surprise with his wheels
The play was dead in the water.
On the play that preceded his long completion to Bowe, McCown looked, and looked, and looked but couldn't find anyone. Instead of tossing it out of bounds, McCown turned the corner and darted down the sideline for what likely would have been a 10-15 yard gain.
"When he took off running, we were joking with him that he's an older car, with low mileage. Kept in the garage, driven to church, not a lot of mileage on it," Pettine said of the 36-year-old veteran. "But he has kept himself in great shape over his career. Credit to him, he's a good athlete and he showed it today."
Pettine talked about McCown's athleticism earlier this week, calling him a "better athlete than people give him credit for," but stressed the Browns likely wouldn't draw up many designed runs for him. The impromptu kind, though, are certainly up McCown's alley -- no matter his age.
3) TE Gary Barnidge very active in passing game
Barnidge's sure hands became a storyline earlier this summer when Pro Football Focus unearthed the stat that no tight end in the NFL had caught more consecutive passes without a drop than Barnidge's 32. The recipient of some of the most important passes of the 2014 season, Barnidge isn't exactly known as a stat sheet stuffer, but he's been targeted early and often throughout the first two days of training camp.
The majority of Barnidge's receptions have come across the middle on seam routes. With the outside receivers garnering plenty of attention, Barnidge has consistently found openings because he's running good routes, the quarterbacks are identifying him early in their reads and they're hitting him in stride with good passes.
Barnidge is considered a "Y" tight end in offensive coordinator John DeFilippo's offense. That's more of the prototypical, on-the-line tight end while free agent acquisition Rob Housler is more of an "F" tight end, which can sometimes be found lining up on the perimeter, in the slot or out of the backfield.
4) Rookie WR Vince Mayle eager to shake off the rust
OTAs and mini-camp tested Mayle's patience. When a ball came his way, it took every bit of strength not to reach up and catch it. Sometimes, he couldn't resist.
Mayle, who underwent surgery on a broken thumb shortly after he was drafted, was cleared for contact -- and most importantly, catching -- when training camp started Thursday. The months off for Mayle's hands were apparent on a couple of drops, but he bounced back Friday with a solid, drop-free practice.
"First day wasn't what I would have liked it to be," Mayle said. "There's a lot of rust to be knocked off. Got to get comfortable catching the ball again and having faith in my hands."
Mayle caught a number of short, quick passes during Friday's 11-on-11 drills. He said those kind of plays have been the biggest adjustment for him after two years as a deep threat at Washington State.
5) Other notes and observations
- P Andy Lee had a busy, productive day. Benjamin, Taylor Gabriel and Tramon Williams were on the receiving end of a number of his booming punts.
- All four RBs -- Terrance West, Isaiah Crowell, Duke Johnson Jr. and Shaun Draughn -- received repetitions with the first-team offense.
- OL Joe Thomas likely will be off Saturday, Pettine said. With a few exceptions, Thomas is expected to rest every three days.
- WR Marlon Moore was active Friday after being sidelined Thursday. DB Charles Gaines, LB Darius Eubanks and RB Glenn Winston did not practice for a second consecutive day.