Day 2 of #BrownsCamp is in the books, and we're starting to hit our stride as the pads whisper of their impending arrival on the practice field.
Seriously, we can't wait for some contact.
In the meantime, though, the Browns spent their second session of camp continuing to work on offensive fundamentals, timing and tightening up their defensive schemes. The latter unit won Friday, but not by much, especially in the red zone, where an offense led by Baker Mayfield found ways to paydirt in the latter period of the day.
Here are our five observations from Day 2:
1. The defensive line is a moving picket fence
The first two days of camp have been dominated by oohs and ahhs related to Odell Beckham Jr., and a defense that has played quite well as a unit. The second part begins with the defensive line, which has looked downright menacing.
Larry Ogunjobi and Sheldon Richardson have taken turns pushing the offensive line back, while Myles Garrett and Olivier Vernon have applied pressure off the edges. The interior duo has left an impression on their offensive counterparts.
"They work well together, they communicate well together," Browns center JC Tretter said Friday, "kind of the type of games and moves they want to do, and they're two really talented guys that can do a little bit of both. You know, the power, the speed. They've done really well. Obviously, we're going to see when the pads come on what else they have in store for now. You don't do too much bull-rushing in no pads so we'll start to get that feel as an offensive line of what Sheldon and Larry can do."
The main reason they've attracted the attention of nearly every onlooker in Berea, though, is the amount of passes they've batted down at the line of scrimmage. It happened at least three times on Day 1, and twice as much if not more on Day 2. At one point, Mayfield asked loudly if he could just get a pass beyond the defensive line (he did, plenty of times).
That might cause some concern for those who lean toward scoring points as a path to victory. Head coach Freddie Kitchens isn't worried.
"I'm not concerned ... I am happy that the defensive is batting balls down. Sometimes in shorts, you have to deal with that," Kitchens said. "Offensive linemen have to have pads on before they can do anything about keeping pads down."
Pads come on Saturday, which is when things really turn up and we can get our first actual look at both lines. After two days of watching them in jerseys and shorts, though, I can guarantee it'll be a helluva battle. Garrett's get-off is so quick, he almost appears to be offsides fairly frequently. It's the stuff of nightmares for opposing tackles, which is good for the Browns, because their tackles get to face Garrett's incredible mix of speed and power daily.
2. Rotation continues at right guard
Day 2 saw a new starter at right guard: Kyle Kalis, a local kid who found himself on the Browns' practice squad for most of last season.
The rotation has stayed true to how the staff handled the open job at the position during minicamp, with Austin Corbett getting the first-team reps Thursday and Kalis on Friday. One might wonder whether the rotation is limiting an individual player's development, but with how often the teams cycle in and out, the difference is negligible.
"We've gotten so much time during OTAs going with all three of the guys," Tretter said of the rotating guards. "Everybody kind of has a different set, different feel and different way to interpret calls so you kind of have your own communication with all three of them of 'if I call this, what are you thinking?' Just kind of getting on the same page. They don't do much rotating through in a single day. Each day is kind of their own; every guy gets a chance a day. So you kind of get used to working with that guy all day and then you start back over the next day with a new guy. So that hasn't been a problem for myself and for (right tackle Chris Hubbard)."
Presumably, Saturday should be Eric Kush's day. Kush has shown himself to be very stout as a backup center and saw reps at second-team right guard Friday while Corbett manned the center position. They're all seemingly interchangeable at this point, though Kush is the only one who has legitimate experience at center.
It's also the first day of pads, and Kush has shown himself to be on the nastier side of interior linemen. That could be fun to watch.
Check out photos from the second day of Browns Camp by team photographer Matt Starkey
3. Duke getting plenty of touches
After two days of camp, it appears as though Kitchens' and general manager John Dorsey's words about Duke Johnson weren't just lip service.
Johnson has seen a ton of reps in a variety of uses, both as a runner and a receiver out of the backfield. He and Nick Chubb were closer in the latter department Friday than Thursday, but it's very, very clear that the staff plans to utilize Johnson. He's definitely leading the running backs in volume of work so far.
He was even one of the guys back returning kicks during special teams periods Friday. For a player as talented as Johnson, it makes perfect sense to play him as much as possible.
4. Receivers trending upward
We know about and pay plenty of attention to Beckham and Jarvis Landry, but there are three or four receiver spots still left. It's fairly safe to say Rashard Higgins (who had a good day Friday) and Antonio Callaway have two of those jobs secured, but that leaves one or two open for the taking.
It seemed as if the staff was high on the play of Ishmael Hyman, an offseason addition who last played for the now-defunct Orlando Apollos of the AAF and earned a contract with the Browns via tryout. He's maintained that steady pace with two good days of work, but he's not alone.
Jaelen Strong has spent the offseason reshaping his body and looks much more spry in his leaner form. The hands that made him a third-round pick out of Arizona State are still there and look perhaps even better than they were when he last stepped on an NFL field, and his body control is excellent. He's made multiple grabs in tight spaces and looks to be improving his stock.
The last of the trio mentioned is Derrick Willies, who earned himself a spot on the team last year in part because of his play on special teams. We've covered how important special teams is to this staff, so that adds some value to Willies' chances, but he's also found spaces to make plays as a receiver. At 6-foot-4, the quiet Willies has used his size to advantage and can continue to build his case for the final 53 with more effective play.
5. The hype is warranted
While we spent yesterday's top bullet point discussing Mayfield's and Beckham's chemistry and early connections, we'd be remiss if we didn't mention what Beckham did to close practice Friday.
As the team huddle broke to finish the session, Beckham moseyed over toward a few returner hopefuls who were gathering to catch simulated kicks off a JUGS machine. He seemed to just be observing, until he motioned toward the JUGS operator at the other end of the field.
The JUGS spit out a football, high into the sky, end over end. It arced and Beckham tracked it, waiting, waiting...and snagging it with one hand.
The remaining crowd roared in disbelief. Just another day in the life of Odell Beckham Jr.
Watching Beckham on a daily basis is a treat for multiple reasons, even when he doesn't make the circus catch. His footwork is as rare as a precious gem. His hands are top notch. And the possibility of him doing something incredible at nearly any moment makes these practices must-see action. The suspense is invigorating.
"(Beckham) caught the pass on the sideline," Landry recalled, "then he comes back and juggles one on the sideline and gets his knees down … with those type of plays, with each play, other guys around, myself included, understand that the level of play just went up that much more. And we've got to pick it up. Around especially a guy as elite as he is, you will stick out some kind of way if you're not doing your part when you get your opportunity.
"Seeing it, it's like damn," Landry said. "That's what you can expect. Any ball that touches his hands, most likely it's going to get caught, to the fact where like, if he don't catch it then everybody is like 'aww.' That's the standard, though. And that's the level that everybody needs to come up to."
The annual Orange & Brown Scrimmage will take place on August 3rd at FirstEnergy Stadium. Click for information and tickets.