Dressed in helmets and shorts, drafted players, undrafted signees and tryout players vied for the attention of coaches to keep their dreams of professional football alive. Here are six takeaways.
1) The Browns mean business
On Thursday night, the entire Browns coaching staff, team owner Jimmy Haslam and key veterans players – Joe Thomas, Donte Whitner, Joe Haden, Andrew Hawkins – took the 12 rookie draft picks out to dinner in downtown Cleveland. While the meeting was a fun, get-to-know-you type of deal, Whitner and others stressed to the rookies how vital their roles will be in winning football games for the Browns.
2) The Browns defensive line will have a completely new look
It's only in helmets and shorts, but third-round pick Xavier Cooper was nearly unblockable in 11-on-11 drills. The 6-foot-4, 300-pounder screams potential as both a disruptive run stuffer and threat to quarterbacks. Alongside the gargantuan Danny Shelton – who was practicing his swim move quite often – Cleveland's defensive line is projecting to have much more playmaking firepower in 2015.
"Based off the plays they've given us, it seems pretty simple actually," Shelton said. "With my background, I played in a lot of defenses. It's nothing different. Going off of today, I feel pretty confident in our defense."
3) The Browns are giving 50 players a look-see at minicamp
Last year, impact players Taylor Gabriel and K'Waun Williams were discovered through the rookie tryout process. The Browns haven't officially released their undrafted signees list yet, but the number will be significantly less than the 12 who were signed last year. Cleveland is definitely willing to add a number of these tryout guys to the roster. Here are a few names that stood out today.
• Northwestern wide receiver Kyle Prater (6-foot-5, 231 pounds)
• Ottawa running back Luke Lundy (6-foot, 230 pounds)
• Morgan State defensive back Joe Rankin (5-foot-9, 180 pounds)
4) Nate Orchard looks much bigger in person
Draft pundits surprisingly knocked Orchard for his size (6-foot-4, 255 pounds). On Friday at minicamp, the second-round pick from Utah looked like one of the most NFL-ready players on the field based on his size and maturity. Married with a wife and daughter, Orchard said his version of exciting nights are usually spent on the couch watching Breaking Bad on Netflix.
"We got a lot done in the playbook," said Orchard, who coincidentally worked out with both Cooper and Shelton before the draft. "Ultimately, we just want to bring the team wins and get back to the playoffs."
5) Connor Shaw takes command
Because he was active for just one game in the 2014 season – a game in which he started against the Ravens and played extremely well – Shaw is still considered a first-year player and was eligible to participate in rookie mini-camp. Shaw was at his best on throws outside of the pocket and connected on a gorgeous pass to tryout tight end Kevin Haplea (Florida State) for a 30-yard gain.
Earlier in the offseason, Pettine told reporters Shaw will be considered an option when the Browns evaluate who will player the quarterback position.
Tennessee's Justin Worley and Marshall's Rakeem Cato are the two other quarterbacks participating in mini-camp.
6) WR Vince Mayle injury
The Browns' fourth-round pick from Washington State broke his thumb during the Senior Bowl and was limited to just route running Friday. But Mayle said he brought his signature crossover dribble move from the basketball court onto the football field for his first NFL practice.
"It's the same footwork," Mayle said. "You can set them up by seeing their body movements and you just come back and yank yourself back."