Following Friday's practice, all of the emphasis for the Cleveland Browns has shifted towards Saturday's scrimmage in Akron.
For the last week, head coach Mike Pettine has reiterated himself in several different comments: we notice players who stand out in scrimmages more than we do in a practice setting. There will be live tackling and no scripted plays. Saturday will feel as close to a real game as possible.
"We're essentially taking the training wheels off," said Pettine. "Some guys can handle the transition easily. Some guys you'll see step up and maybe some guys fade away."
"It'll be a good judge to see guys realizing the stakes are little bit higher," said wide receiver Andrew Hawkins.
Competitions will put under the microscope at quarterback, running back, inside linebacker and at cornerback. Big plays will be praised on Twitter and mistakes will be amplified. And that's precisely why the Browns have been implementing spirited competitions at the end of each practice. Pettine feels like his players are more ready for live action this way.
Pettine revealed a loose format for how the scrimmage will operate. There will be no kickoffs or kickoff returns. The offense will start with the football somewhere between the 20 and 30-yard line. Then the Browns will call several plays, either ending in a touchdown, field goal or a punt. The Browns will simulate a halftime and then focus more on red zone work in the final portion of the scrimmage.
The coaching staff is holding meetings Friday to determine the number of repetitions and matchups between different slots of the depth charts.
For offensive line coach Andy Moeller, this scrimmage is going to provide a pretty accurate measurement for where his unit stands.
"It'll be very valuable," said Moeller. "It's good from the experience standpoint of adjusting, learning, talking and communicating. Because I'm new to these guys as well as them being new to me."
Notes and quotes
- More up and down performances from the offense on Friday. Both Hoyer and Manziel made some mistakes in 11-on-11 drills – timeouts and turnovers to be specific – but both also shined during the red zone work.
- Why is Kyle Shanahan's offense so acclaimed? Hawkins provided a fascinating take on the Browns' playbook, and why it's taken some time to get into the swing of things during training camp.
- "This playbook is a lot more detailed," said Hawkins. "It takes a lot of the gray area out. That was kind of our thing in Cincinnati. We had some gray area things. This sures up everything. There's just very, very fine details as far as alignment, and exactly where you are supposed to be. When you run your route, you are supposed to be at this point in the field. That way the quarterbacks know exactly where to throw it. They expect you to be in a certain spot. You expect the quarterback to put the ball in certain spot. That's literally every play. And that's the way you want it to be. Now we have a definitive answer if something goes wrong, and we know why."
- Earlier in the summer, Nate Burleson and Miles Austin called a team dinner for the wide receivers in Hyde Park. The entire unit was invited.
- "It was the first time we talked to each other without our helmets on," said Burleson. "That right there kind of broke the ice. We all exchanged numbers. It was good to get that breather outside of the sport. Me and Miles split the tab (laughter). Let the guys eat and have some fun. Young guys feel the stress of the world on their shoulders. For me and Miles to bring them out and say, 'Hey, relax. You're here for a reason. Just go out there and do what you've been doing your whole life.'"
- "Leadership, hard work, enthusiasm," said Hawkins in describing what Austin and Burleson bring to the Browns' locker room. "There fun guys to be around. They really get the room going. They teach us so much."
- The Browns ended practice by having assistant coaches field punts from Spencer Lanning. Like all things at the end of practice, it was offense verse defense. Kyle Shanahan was so pumped up after catching his punt, he did some "combination of Michael Jackson – he spun around and spiked it," said Pettine. The best part about the whole drill was the boisterous reaction of the players. The offensive coaches caught the most punts, winning the orange jerseys for their players for Monday's practice.