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Training Camp

5 observations from Day 5 of Cleveland Browns training camp

A day of rest preceded a physical Browns practice that emphasized one of the most important aspects of the game.

That's what's on the top of our mind to kick off today's observations.

1) Browns devote heavy portion of practice to red zone work

Up until Tuesday, the majority of the Browns' 11-on-11 and 7-on-7 work was docked in the middle of the field. For Day 5, Cleveland shrunk the window to make plays and increased the pressure by positioning most inside the 20-yard line.

The result: Good and bad from both the offense and defense.

Josh McCown and the first-team offense opened it up with a touchdown pass to tight end Gary Barnidge and the unit found similar success with multiple, sharp throws to Brian Hartline. Second-team receiver Josh Lenz also found the end zone on a couple of throws. As the practice unfolded, McCown and Johnny Manziel were forced more and more to either tuck and run or throw the ball away.

It will be the defense that wears the orange and brown camouflage jerseys at Wednesday's practice because of what happened on the final play. With the offense lined up at the 4-yard line, the defense stood tough and picked off McCown for the first time during an 11-on-11 drill since training camp opened. McCown's pass was deflected at the line and veteran cornerback Tramon Williams dove to catch it right before it hit the ground.

The Browns ranked 24th in the NFL in red-zone efficiency last season. They were last in the league over the final three games.

2) Terrelle Pryor makes his throwing debut on the most interesting play of practice

One of the few series outside of the red zone saw the offense execute the first notable trick play of training camp, and Terrelle Pryor was at the center of it.

The converted quarterback, who was sidelined later in the practice with a hamstring injury, took an end-around and looked down the field for Travis Benjamin. The pass didn't exactly go as planned but the result was exactly what the offense wanted.

Pryor's pass was wobbly and underthrown. Multiple teammates called it a "duck." But Benjamin, perhaps channeling his punt return skills, won the battle against Pierre Desir and hauled in the long reception.

"I slipped a little bit," Desir said. "I should have made that play."

Pettine took a more serious tone when discussing the play. Trick plays are serious business in the NFL and can pay win games.

"Special plays are going to be part of our plan each week. You want to have those up so the sooner we can start working on them, the better," Pettine said. "I am a firm believer of always having that option. It is there, you have a couple practiced and ready to go. You get into a game where there is a lull on both sides and offensively you need something to break it open; you always want to have that to go to and a guy like Terrelle certainly gives us that ability"

3) Injury rundown

Newly acquired running backs Timothy Flanders and Jalen Parmele got right to work Tuesday. The Browns didn't have any other choice.

Running backs Duke Johnson Jr. (hamstring), Terrance West (calf), Glenn Winston (knee) and Luke Lundy (concussion) were unavailable. That meant major repetitions for Isaiah Crowell and Shaun Draughn, who both saw plenty of snaps with the first-team offense.

"It's hard when the lineup is constantly being churned like the way it is," Pettine said. "You want to be able to settle in at some point during camp. That's important because those guys are all young, they need their reps. When they're not out there that is a source of frustration."

Rookie fullback Malcolm Johnson walked off the field midway through Tuesday's practice with an undisclosed injury. Defensive back Robert Nelson Jr. did not practice.

4) Brian Hartline shines when field shrinks

Two of the loudest ovations from the crowd Tuesday came when Hartline caught passes that didn't look like they'd go anywhere but the ground or in the hands of a defensive back.

Hartline showed the toughness and poise he has throughout his NFL career when the Browns went through their red zone work. His crisp route-running, which has been lauded by his teammates and coaches since he was signed in March, was on display throughout the session and allowed him to get the best of Desir and other Browns defensive backs.

This type of effort and performance from Hartline was foreshadowed Saturday, when general manager Ray Farmer talked at length about the veteran from Canton.

"The guy is a pro," Farmer said. "He is professional in everything he does from taking his run test to running his routes to his warm up sessions. He is a pro. If you watch the meticulousness of his detail and his preparation, you'll see the reason the guy has played in this league and had success. He details his routes and he knows how to stack guys. He does the little things right. I think that is what you need. You need a guy that has size, who can run routes and who catch the football inevitably. He has proven he can all those things so far."

5) Other observations - DB Joe Haden, LB Karlos Dansby and DL Desmond Bryant received an extra day of rest. For a second consecutive day, Desir filled the spot vacated by a first-team cornerback.

  • Actress Valerie Bertinelli watched Tuesday's practice and was introduced to a number of players and coaches after it ended. Bertinelli recently starred in the TV Land sitcom "Hot in Cleveland."
  • Cleveland native Shane Wynn joined the competition at punt returner. He was one of four fielding Andy Lee's punts along with Taylor Gabriel, Williams and Benjamin.
  • Offensive line coach Andy Moeller praised the effort reserve offensive lineman Michael Bowie has made to to improve his overall conditioning. Moeller said the second-team right tackle, who started for Seattle's Super Bowl team in 2013 but missed all of 2014 with a shoulder injury, has lost significant weight since February.
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