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Alex Wright learned how to 'play smart and play fast' at NFL level in joint practices with Eagles

Wright has learned from DE Myles Garrett throughout training camp, and he stepped up in his absence against the Eagles to take big strides in his game


Alex Wright saw an opportunity to clear one of his biggest hurdles in adjusting to the NFL last week in joint practices against the Eagles.

The speed of NFL talent is often one of the most difficult changes for rookies, and Wright, the third-round rookie DE from UAB, could attest to that after a month of training camp. No practice speed was going to be faster for him than the two joint practices, and he was eager to receive first-team reps to adjust to that speed after Myles Garrett was excused for four days for a personal reason.

"With him being out, I had to tell myself and I had to build confidence — 'I am with the ones,'" Wright said. "I want to look like I belong with the ones."

Wright certainly looked as though he belonged in the two practices. 

He beat his man during a few of his reps and looked disruptive off the edge, which is all the Browns can ask from him as he competes for a spot in the rotation. He carried his momentum over to Sunday's preseason contest by leading Browns defensive ends with five tackles in 32 snaps.

Wright has progressed the way the Browns had hoped, and he feels more fit than ever to produce in the fast speeds of the NFL trenches after arguably the most important four-day stretch on the Browns' preseason calendar.

"It taught me just to play smart and play fast," he said. "At training camp, we're always practicing against each other. Now we have a chance to practice against another team, and I get to see what that looks like not playing the game. It helped me tremendously going into Sunday."

Check out the best photos from the Browns game against the Eagles yesterday by the Browns photo team

Wright appears set for a role in the defensive end rotation because of his productive work in training camp. Even though his reps on the first-team were short-lived, he still sees plenty of opportunities to keep learning by watching Garrett, who returned to practice Friday and participated in individual drills. He'll eventually slide back into his normal role in practice with the first team.

Wright, however, hasn't taken his eyes off Garrett in practice, and that won't change as Week 1 approaches.

"I'm always watching his every move," Wright said. "If I have a question, he has never shied away from me. He is always the type to where if you have questions, just come ask him. He has always helped me and he has continued to help me so I am forever grateful for that."

Wright has peppered Garrett with questions after film sessions, and most of them are about different looks and moves he hasn't seen yet as a professional. 

Garrett's been open to answering all of them and has been impressed with his technique.

"He's athletic and he's explosive, but (he hasn't seen) different types of blocks," Garrett said. "He hasn't seen the 'who do I attack, and where?' Some of those positional and assignment work that I know a little bit more of, I'm trying to make it simple for him so he doesn't have to slow down and think. He'll just be able to go and fly off the ball."

Slowing down, however, is what Wright knows he must do to accelerate his development. The NFL operates at a much faster pace than what Wright saw against Group of 5 opponents at UAB, but the Browns drafted him because they believe he can make that adjustment.

Wright certainly showed flashes of it against the Eagles, but more hurdles are ahead for him, and he's ready to attack them at a pace that feels just right.

"When I know what I do and when I am confident in what I do, I feel like it slows down," he said, "but when I start to panic a little bit, that is when I feel like the game is rushed. Me being a rookie, I just want to slow everything down and just calm myself down, and I feel like the game will slow down itself."

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