1) Goal line period gets feisty – and the defense won
The Browns held their jersey competition near the beginning of practice on the 4-yard line. Initially, the offense was off to a blazing start when running back Isaiah Crowell plunged into the end zone and running back Shaun Draughn caught a flare pass for a touchdown from quarterback Josh McCown. The offense was up 4-2 with three plays remaining.
But then the defense cranked things up a notch. Players on the sidelines were yelling and the buzz was tangible. Three straight running plays in a row were snuffed out, led by John Hughes, Craig Robertson and Desmond Bryant.
"It's huge because it puts us in game-time situations," linebacker Karlos Dansby said. "By any means necessary, we need to try and win those plays."
"The one thing I was pleased with was the mentality that Flip (offensive coordinator John DeFilippo) took in that period," coach Mike Pettine said. "That we weren't going to try to trick the defense that much, it was essentially 'hey, here's where the ball's going.' That's the type of team that we want to build here that we can, late in games, we're down on the goal line and say 'Hey, here's where we're running' and still punch it in.
"I was pleased that the first play of the drill was an off-tackle run and the last play of the game was an off-tackle run."
2) Two defensive players get repetitions at fullback
You weren't seeing things Wednesday when linebacker Scott Solomon and defensive lineman Dylan Wynn took turns as lead-blocking fullbacks during a goal-line session. Pettine said he's in favor of having at least one player who can be a "crossover" guy to include in his game plan.
"You always like to have a crossover guy defensively, especially if the way that you are building your offense is more of a hybrid fullback than heavier guy that can get it done in goal line and short yardage," Pettine said.
An interesting note: Wynn actually participated in fullback drills during his Pro Day at Oregon State to show his flexibility as an athlete.
3) Injury updates
Add wide receiver Dwayne Bowe (hamstring) to the list of players nursing minor injuries. Cleveland will be cautious, but Bowe is a durable player who has played in all 16 games four out of the last five seasons.
Others who missed practice: Terrance West (calf), Duke Johnson (hamstring), Luke Lundy (concussion), Malcolm Johnson (shoulder), Terrelle Pryor (hamstring), Billy Winn (ankle), Barkevious Mingo (knee), K'Waun Williams (rest), Robert Nelson (hamstring). Pettine said he's leaning toward Pryor, an Ohio State alum, being doubtful for Friday night's Orange and Brown scrimmage in Columbus.
4) Brian Hartline the star of the day – again
We hate to repeat an observation we wrote yesterday, but Hartline was far and away the biggest playmaker Wednesday. Connections with McCown happened all over the field: A 30-yard stop-and-go route, crossing patterns over the middle, out-routes to the sidelines. You can tell Hartline loves being back in his home state, as fans chant O-H whenever he touches the ball.
Hartline isn't a speedster and he's got decent size at 6-foot-2, 200 pounds. But where he can hurt a defense is with his patient route-running. The 28-year-old lulls cornerbacks to sleep by slow-playing his routes. It's an effective strategy and it's good news for this offense to see the chemistry Hartline and McCown are developing. Again, the depth at this position is night and day compared to 2014.
5) Others news and notes
- Two undrafted skill players to watch at the Orange and Brown scrimmage: Tight End E.J. Bibbs and wide receiver Darius Jennings. Bibbs' combination of hands and a quick release off the ball has him looking like a polished tight end in camp. Jennings has been on the receiving end of several big passes from Johnny Manziel on the second-team offense.
- It was another positive day to chalk up for Manziel with the second-team unit. He really seems to be letting it loose on his throws and launching the ball to spots on the field.
- Danny Shelton saw extensive action with the first-team, and was a mammoth at times. Pettine always talks about defensive linemen who can take two players on at the point of attack – and Shelton is excelling at this concept.