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5 observations from the Browns' Labor Day practice

While most of the country was enjoying a well-earned day off in the summer sun, the Cleveland Browns went to work Monday in preparation for the 2015 season opener against the New York Jets.

Week 1 also means you, the reader, need to start preparing, too. Here are the five newsy items from practice and the locker room to know.

1)      Browns offensive line energized for RB Isaiah Crowell to carry the load

When Terrance West was traded Sunday, it didn't exactly rock the boat inside the Cleveland Browns locker room. Pettine said the trade occurred not because of one episode, but a series of well-documented instances. And there happened to be another second-year back who has continually earned the respect of veterans and the coaching staff.

Emerging from the fsummer is Isaiah Crowell, and the buzz is real about this being his big break. Crowell was never used as a workhorse during his rookie season, averaging 9.2 carries in 16 games, and 17 carries in a game remains his career-high. 

The Pro Bowlers up front aren't quelling their enthusiasm for some clarity at the position, either.

"Crowell's looked good all camp," center Alex Mack said from the locker room Monday. "When he runs the ball, he runs it well. I think we're going to have a good attack."

Joe Thomas has been open and honest with the media for several years now, even joking he didn't know which players the Browns cut the other day. Thomas reiterated Mack's optimism about Crowell and expanded further on the less proven backups – Duke Johnson Jr. and Shaun Draughn, both of whom could see extensive action in September.

"I think we are really comfortable with who we have," Thomas said.

2)      Browns not shying away from read-option, other trick plays

Wide receiver Terrelle Pryor played one half of preseason football and the two times he touched the football were out of the shotgun formation, where he scrambled for 9 yards on read-option keepers.

Pryor's debut may have had more bark than bite, but there's a reason behind that.

As a former defensive coordinator for five seasons in the NFL, Pettine knows what the read-option does during the week of preparation. The opponent has to watch film on formations like this across the league and dedicate walk-through and practice time to it. Small complexities like this can win a battle on Sunday's.

"Anytime you can run something that's simple for you offensively that causes stress on the other side of the ball – I put that in the body punch category," Pettine said. "You'll never know the effect that you had but I think we always need to have those types of things."

Pettine listed a diverse empty backfield, an unbalanced offensive line, the Wildcat formation and other trick plays as something the Browns may or may not incorporate in specific game plans.

"You need those types of plays as change-ups," Pettine said. "Things aren't going well with your conventional stuff, what are some things you can do to break a game open. I think a good offense has those in waiting."

3)      QB Johnny Manziel practices; RB Duke Johnson Jr., doesn't

After throwing with a tennis ball and weighted ball over the past few days, Johnny Manziel returned to the practice field as the second-string quarterback. With an athletic sleeve still wrapped tightly around his right elbow, Manziel took every repetition and showed no signs of arm fatigue.

However, rookie running back Duke Johnson Jr. still remains in concussion protocol after suffering the head injury nine days ago in Tampa Bay. It was peculiar seeing Isaiah Crowell and Shaun Draughn as the team's only running backs participating in drills. While Pettine said there is no doubt about the ability of Cleveland's running backs, it was also a reminder that the roster is still fluid and moves could still be made.

4)      More on why Cleveland kept both E.J. Bibbs and Rob Housler

The Browns pulled off a mild stunner when the club kept four tight ends on the roster: Gary Barnidge, Jim Dray, Rob Housler and E.J. Bibbs. Pettine said the team was going to keep a minimum of three tight ends and ended up keeping the best football players at each position.

Housler (6-foot-5, 250 pounds) and Bibbs (6-foot-2, 258 pounds) seemed very much in competition with each other, but Pettine said it's difficult to compare to the two.

"Bibbs is almost part fullback, part tight end. Housler is almost part wide-out, part tight end," Pettine said. "(Offensive coordinator John DeFilippo) is well aware of the depth in that room and we'll use it to our advantage."

5)      News and notes

-Pettine said the Browns looked into bringing Vince Mayle back to the practice squad after releasing the rookie Saturday, but there was some hesitancy and other potential offers on the table for the wide receiver.

-By putting sixth-round pick Charles Gaines on the injured reserve – designated for return list, the Browns told the world how much they value the rookie. Gaines (hamstring) will be eligible to practice Week 6 and return to the field by Week 8.

-"I think Charles played well enough for us in the preseason and demonstrated that he's going to be a part of what we do," Pettine said. "When you looked at roster moves to ensure that you keep all the guys and don't expose players that you want to the wire, we felt that was the best move for the organization."

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