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OTAs & Minicamp

5 things to watch during mandatory minicamp

The Browns will all be back at CrossCountry Mortgage Campus for three days of practice before training camp begins in July

3 things to watch minicamp 6.10

The Browns are officially all back in the building.

After they wrapped up three weeks of organized team activities – in which they held voluntary practices that did not include the entire roster – the Browns will now embark on three days of mandatory minicamp with the entire roster present at CrossCountry Mortgage Campus.

This minicamp acts as the final three days where every rostered player will be on site before training camp begins in July. It's an opportunity to have the entire team together one more time during the offseason.

So, here are five things to watch during mandatory minicamp.

Deshaun Watson's progress

Throughout OTAs, Watson worked through a throwing plan that had him scheduled to throw every other day. On the off days, he went through the mental reps of each of the drills without throwing the ball.

Head coach Kevin Stefanski said Watson continues follow the plan of the doctors and attack his rehab process each day. When Watson has been out on the practice field throwing, Stefanski said Watson looks like himself.

As the Browns head into mandatory minicamp, they will see how much Watson is able to participate each day as they await the plan from the medical team.

"I think I'm really waiting on medical when it comes to that. If they say he's ready to go, we'll throw him in there. But until then, we're trying to keep it by the day. And he's doing really, really well," Stefanski said. "I think it's all being talked about with the medical groups, and I know you could talk to Deshaun, he wants to be doing everything. But we'll continue to listen to whatever the doctors tell us."

Kickoff rule changes

While the Browns spent time during OTAs working through the new kickoff rules – focusing on the spacing and timing of the play on both sides of the ball – minicamp will be another opportunity to continue putting in the reps for how the new rules will play out during a game.

As the Browns have drilled the new hybrid kickoff and kickoff return play, assistant head coach and special teams coordinator Bubba Ventrone said it's been a trial-and-error process. They've used different types of skill players with different body types – from receivers to tight ends and running backs – for returns.

"Everyone has really gotten more ball-handling than we've had in the past," Ventrone said. "And I think on the coverage aspect of it, you are going to see more defensive players, and I think that you're going to see some bigger body types on that unit."

Stefanski also said one of the key factors they are interested in now is where the ball is placed by the kicker and if they can hit their desired spot.

"Ball placement becomes really important because the ball landing at the ten versus inside the five versus in the goal line," Stefanski said. "Just in the drills that we've done, the closer that ball lands to both return unit and kickoff unit, there's an opportunity maybe to gain yards in a kickoff return. So, I don't think the premium of ball placement has changed for the kicker."

Ken Dorsey's offense

While there have been early glimpses of the concepts the Browns have implemented and what the Browns' offense can look like during OTAs, minicamp can provide a clearer picture with the entire roster present.

With their full receiving corps back in the building with WR Amari Cooper, Jerry Jeudy and Elijah Moore, as well as their other pass catchers in TE David Njoku, they can continue building out what the passing game will look like. After the Browns traded for Jeudy at the start of free agency, minicamp will be the first look at what the whole receiving corps looks like alongside one another.

Depending on how much Watson can throw in minicamp, it's an opportunity for the backup quarterbacks in Jameis Winston, Tyler Huntley and Dorian Thompson-Robinson to get reps in with the offense and build the rapport with their pass catchers.

Dustin Hopkins' return

K Dustin Hopkins was not in attendance during OTAs, so minicamp will be the first look at Hopkins since the end of the 2023 season.

Hopkins missed the final two games of the season and the Browns' playoff game with a hamstring injury, which he sustained during the Week 16 game against the Texans on a kickoff as he attempted to tackle kick returner Dameon Pierce. He also missed the Browns' playoff game against the Texans in the Wild Card round.

Hopkins played an integral role in the Browns' special teams' success throughout the 2023 season, including hitting multiple game-winning field goals. He finished the regular season making 33 of his 36 field goal attempts, and 24 of 26 in extra points.

Full look at the defensive line

The Browns led the league in a number of defensive categories during the 2023 season and look to emulate that level of success – while also improving in certain areas as well. They have their core players to continue their success on that side of the ball.

They brought back key players on the interior defensive line and the edge, as they re-signed DE Za'Darius Smith, DT Shelby Harris and DT Maurice Hurst II in free agency. They kept the continuity of their defense alongside 2023 NFL Defensive Player of the Year in Myles Garrett, DE Ogbo Okoronkwo, DT Dalvin Tomlinson and DE Alex Wright.

Yet, they added a few new faces with draft picks DT Mike Hall Jr. and DT Jowon Briggs, as well as free agent signing DT Quinton Jefferson. They also have a new defensive line coach in Jacques Cesaire. Minicamp will give Cesaire a chance to see the depth of his line in action, while also allowing the new players to build chemistry with the remainder of the veteran defensive line.

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