Freddie Kitchens announced in his first press conference of training camp that he wants the Browns to be the most physical, hard-hitting team in the NFL.
The new head coach will receive a good test of how far the Browns have come toward that goal this week with two joint practices and a road preseason game against the Indianapolis Colts. Starting Wednesday, the Browns will practice with the Colts back to back days leading up to the second game of the preseason Saturday at 4 p.m. in Lucas Oil Stadium.
The Browns have battered and bruised each other during padded practices since the third day of training camp. Now, they’ll get to hit someone else.
“This has been a pretty tough camp for these guys,” Kitchens said. “I think it has been kind of a culture shock, but I think they have embraced it. Now, it’s just a matter of going in and seeing what you got against someone else. Wednesday and Thursday are not going to make or break our season, but it is going to give us a little barometer of where we are at from a physical standpoint.”
Check out photos from the fourteenth day of Browns Camp by team photographer Matt Starkey
Joint practices often lead to a higher intensity from players. Sure, both teams will still look out for each other and hope to avoid injuries, but a big play might impress coaches just a bit more when it’s made against a different opponent.
Practices against the Colts, however, are a bit more special after they made the playoffs last season. The Colts went 10-6 and advanced to the AFC divisional playoff round with an offense that finished top five in the league.
“It’s always good to change the competition a little bit,” wide receiver Jarvis Landry said. “It’s good to see where you are throughout the week. They played in a playoff game (last year). That’s where we want to be, and we get a chance to do some stuff against them.”
For the Browns, the joint practices will be a great test for their defensive line. Defensive end Myles Garrett has been nearly impossible to block thus far, and now we’ll see if the 2018 Pro Bowler can still be as dangerous against the Colts’ offensive line, which ESPN recently named the best pass-blocking unit in the league.
Aside from Garrett, defensive tackles Sheldon Richardson and Larry Ogunjobi will have their hands full with Quenton Nelson, a 2018 Pro Bowler who also received First-Team All Pro honors as a rookie last season.
How good is Nelson? Just ask Joel Bitonio. He finished on Second-Team All Pro, one spot behind Nelson, and was teammates with Nelson at the Pro Bowl.
“(Nelson) is a lineman at heart,” Bitonio said. “He fits in well with other linemen, but he plays mean. He is a good player, and it was fun to watch him a little bit last year.”
Offensively, the Browns will finally receive reps against a defense different from Browns defensive coordinator Steve Wilks’ 4-2-5 alignment. The Colts run a more traditional 4-3 base scheme, and it should provide Browns coaches with a different look in their evaluation of the offensive line and the ongoing competition at right guard.
“You get tired of seeing Wilks’ blitzes everywhere and hitting the same guys every day,” Bitonio said. “It’s exciting, and we get to see where we’re at.”