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Browns Mailbag

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Browns Mailbag: What does Mike Hall Jr.'s potential development look like?

Staff Writer Kelsey Russo answers your questions

Mailbag 7.8

The beginning of the 2024 season is slowly inching closer, with training camp approaching in just under a month.

While we wait for the players to return to CrossCountry Mortgage Campus, we opened up the mailbag to answer some questions.

Where is camp this year? – Jim F., Boardman, Ohio

The Browns are returning to the Greenbrier for the first portion of training camp in July – just like they did last year. They will spend nine days in West Virginia to open training camp before they return to CrossCountry Mortgage Campus for the remainder of camp.

The Browns see a benefit in beginning training camp off site, as this is the second consecutive year they have gone to the Greenbrier.

"I believe they recognize that it's good to be under one roof, it's good to be together," head coach Kevin Stefanski said. "It's good that they get x number of ping pong games in. All of that adds up. You can do team building exercises. You could also just put everybody under one roof and organically that those type of things happen. But I don't know that the guys view it any differently. I think it's we're going down there to get our work done, but we also get to be around each other."

Then, training camp will continue through August, with three total pre-season games. The Browns are also once again holding joint practices, but this year they will host the Vikings. They will then play their second pre-season game against the Vikings on Aug. 17.

Is there a 2024 training camp schedule for fans? – Michael T., Fremont, Ohio

Yes, the schedule was announced on June 26 for training camp. There are six open practices available for fans to attend in August. Those six dates are Aug. 4, Aug. 6, Aug. 8, Aug. 12, Aug. 20 and Aug. 21.

Click here for more information about training camp.

Do you think that Mike Hall will become more a full-time defensive lineman and possibly an edge rusher in some situations? Watching him at Ohio State and some of the comments from the sportswriters during minicamp seems to project he may be able to play as an edge rusher as well with his quickness. – John S., Orlando, Florida

I don't think there is a clear answer at this moment just because of how early it is in his career, and Hall has yet to go through an NFL training camp and regular season. However, as Hall develops during his rookie season and the early part of his career, there is always potential to see a shift in focus.

Hall did show strong elements of his physicality, first step, ability to rush the passer and his explosiveness during rookie minicamp, OTAs and mandatory minicamp. His new defensive line coach Jacques Cesaire took note of those elements of his skillset and said that while they spent time tweaking certain parts of his game, Cesaire admires his physicality and speed.

"I love the way he's cornering right now, and he's just scratching the surface of what he can do for us in this defense," Cesaire said.

His new teammates also noted the talent of the rookie defensive tackle. DE Myles Garrett said during minicamp that Hall was explosive on the field and attentive both on the field and in the meeting room.

"I've seen how he watches the game and he's taking notes every time we're sitting down," Garrett said. "He always has a notebook no matter where we're at. And he's already asked some questions about what I'm thinking and how I'm cornering and what's my plan. It's a good start already. You know, asking, trying to get all those things down. I remember Joe (Schobert) had to walk me through those things in the preseason for me. 'What's my plan? How am I attacking this guy? What's different from him to the next guy?' And I'm happy to play that Joe roll. I guess I'm the older mentor at this point."

The Browns have a surplus of young defensive backs. If Myles Harden lives up to expectations as a rookie and Andrew Berry brings back Martin Emerson Jr. and Greg Newsome II, where will players such as Juan Thornhill or Rodney McLeod be after this season? – Rob M., Fairmont, West Virginia

The Browns have solid depth in their secondary with their defensive backs. They have a mix of veterans who have been around the league and young players they continue to develop. Harden has a chance to showcase his potential with a talented group and carve out a role for himself.

There are a couple of elements to consider, though. Thornhill and McLeod are safeties, while guys like Harden, Emerson and Newsome are cornerbacks. While they all fall into the larger category of defensive backs, the positional breakdown allows them to have room in each group. Last year, the Browns had 11 total defensive backs on the initial 53-man roster.

Another element is Thornhill's contract. He signed a three-year contract with the Browns in 2023, so he will not become a free agent until following the 2025 season. He played a solid role among the safeties during the 2023 season, finishing with 54 tackles, two quarterback hits, three total pressures and one pass defensed in 11 games. He dealt with a calf injury for a portion of the season that impacted him over the course of the season and caused him to miss five games. Thornhill will continue to have an important role among the safeties.

McLeod also re-signed with the Browns in March, but then on an appearance of NFL Network's "Total Access" show, McLeod said the 2024 season will be his last.

"This is the last lap for me. It's been a long career," McLeod said during an appearance on NFL Network's "Total Access" show in May. "I'm looking forward to rocking out with my teammates this year, giving it all, and hopefully ending up where we want to be, which is the last dance at the end of the year."

With all that in mind, Harden will have to show during training camp that he can create a role for himself among the defensive backs. Cornerbacks coach Brandon Lynch was impressed by Harden during OTAs and mandatory minicamp with how Harden acclimated to the group. During his rookie season, Harden can find that role on special teams and showcase how he can impact the game.

"He's one of us," Lynch said. "That's the very first thing that I see. We have a certain style of player that we like to bring in. A guy that has very hard edge, somebody that's going to give great effort, somebody that plays with swag and passion. He embodies all that. And then honestly, he's an extremely smart player. He's a guy that as soon as he got in the room, the guys immediately gravitated to him because of his work ethic. And again, he's a smart guy, he puts the team first. So really seeing him really growing in his role as an outside guy, and I know he's going to do really good things with special teams."