Anthony Schwartz can list several reasons why he feels he's a better receiver now than a year ago.
The first is health. Injuries sidelined Schwartz for most of the offseason program and parts of training camp last season, which put him behind in acclimating to the NFL after he was drafted by the Browns in the third-round. He missed valuable reps often given to rookies before the season began, so he couldn't become an immediate impact-player in the offense.
The second is experience. Schwartz knows how hard it is to get open against cornerbacks at the NFL level, and a year of facing that competition has helped him better understand how he can use his skills — specifically, his elite speed — in becoming a better receiver.
The third is confidence. Because he's injury-free and feeling more like a veteran than a rookie, Schwartz is able to think less and perform naturally, and it's led to a much better start to preparations for the regular season.
"I'm just happy to have a healthy offseason and be able to connect with the team," Schwartz said Wednesday at CrossCountry Campus. "I'm able to be out there and compete every day, whereas last year I wasn't able to do that."
Check out photos of players and coaches working throughout the offseason
Schwartz totaled 10 catches for 135 yards and one touchdown last season, production he knows he'll need to increase to fulfill the role the Browns want him to have in Year 2. That role hasn't been solidified yet, but the Browns believe Schwartz, 21, can prove in training camp that he's ready to take one of the top jobs at a position headed by Pro Bowler Amari Cooper.
The Browns will be looking to fill just about every spot on the receiver depth chart with a group that includes Schwartz, Donovan Peoples-Jones, David Bell, Jakeem Grant Sr. and others. By showcasing improvements to his game, Schwartz will have a path toward winning one of those top spots.
"He's come back in great condition," wide receiver coach/pass game coordinator Chad O'Shea said. "He's working really hard and making a lot of improvements. We have a list of things for all of our players that we prioritize that they need to improve on, and I think he's done a good job with some of the areas we've targeted."
Areas on Schwartz's list included more precise route-running and improved catch abilities. He showed progression in those areas during OTAs, catching an array of passes at all levels of the field from new QB Deshaun Watson.
The challenge for Schwartz, of course, will be to keep it up during mandatory minicamp and training camp, when practice intensity will increase and he'll likely be given more opportunities to make contested catches.
"I've been trying to just catch, catch, catch every day," he said. "(I've been able to) come here and put it all together, and it also helps me knowing the playbook now. I can just go out there and not have to worry about, 'Oh, am I going to mess this up or mess that up?' I'm just going to go out there and beat the guy in front of me."
Schwartz showed flashes of his potential last season, and his biggest spark happened in Week 1.
He recorded a season-high three catches for 69 yards, including a 44-yard deep ball, against the Chiefs, but he couldn't replicate the performance in any of the next 16 games. He missed three of them with a concussion and battled other injuries throughout the year that didn't stop him from playing but made it hard to perform at his peak level.
He's tried to boost his durability this offseason by putting in extra work in the training room, and he feels as though the work has paid off as he pieces one good practice after another.
"Every week, (I) was just fighting to get through it to get to Sunday," he said. "My goal was to just be out there and play on Sunday, and this year my goal is to win on Sunday and do the best that I can to help the team win."
Schwartz can do just that by grabbing one of the top receiver roles in training camp. It's open for him, if he can stay healthy and continue to catch everything thrown his way.
All signs from OTAs suggest he's improved in both those areas. Schwartz knows he needs to provide more proof when training camp begins, but he's already had a better offseason by simply being available each practice and making the most of them.
It's something he couldn't always do last year and why he feels like a better player this year.
"It's been a blessing to be out here and play with the guys I'm playing with," he said. "This year, it's about flipping the whole script, getting a fresh start and showing people what I can do."