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Fresh Takes from Training Camp

Fresh Takes: Observations from Day 5 of Browns training camp

Monday brought us a new week and our fifth straight day of practice in Berea.

It was a hot one, but the play on the field wasn't burning as much as it was smoldering. Here are our five observations from Day 5 of #BrownsCamp.

Check out photos from the fifth day of Browns Camp by team photographer Matt Starkey

1. Bring on the break

Day 5 was also the fifth day of practice in a row for these Browns, who have worked in pads for the last three of those days. It was 85 degrees in Berea in the middle of practice Monday, and it was evident a day off was needed.

Luckily, that's exactly what the schedule calls for with Tuesday's break.

Practice was punctual, but wasn't nearly as crisp as earlier sessions in the week. Targets all over the field dropped passes, ranging from starters to third-teamers. Blocking assignments were missed, and coaches were upset. Odell Beckham Jr. and Olivier Vernon did minimal work before spending most of the practice standing alongside their teammates. Hitting was also toned down until the final periods of practice, though head coach Freddie Kitchens said afterward that wasn't by design.

It was a bit of a sleepy practice, with the fans only getting active a few times. Jamie Gillan sent a punt deep that drew oohs, and some near-highlights got fans excited, but overall, it seemed as though they, too, needed a day off.

They'll get that Tuesday.

2. Takitaki speaking with his words ... and actions

Sione Takitaki rubbed some players the wrong way early in practice when it became evident he didn't know how to practice without full pads. He definitely irked Duke Johnson when he attempted to wrap him up with his facemask on the first day.

"I'm a high-energy guy, so I just go out there and try to talk stuff and do everything right," Takitaki explained. ... "I kinda got chippy, but that's just me being a rookie not understanding what the NFL is and coming out here and practicing right."

Four days later, Takitaki is a making his name known for the right reasons.

You'll likely hear him before you see him. He's the man in the middle with the second unit, making all of the calls, flying around the field and tackling the ball carrier before letting out a yell or two. On Monday, he was there early and often, carving out space in the consciousness of everyone observing.

"He's gonna run around, he's gonna talk, he's a high-energy guy, he's out there making plays," linebacker Christian Kirksey said Monday. "I like Taki, man. He's gonna be a guy that just gets the team riled up. He's a young rookie but he has a lot of energy. It's good to see him go out there and make plays."

He also took up some space in the heads of the offensive staff when he blitzed on a pass later in practice and flattened D'Ernest Johnson, who had stepped up into the hole to attempt to block. Running backs coach Stump Mitchell had some choice words for Takitaki after the play.

"It's football. Guys want to talk back and have fun," Kirksey said of the interaction. "I think (Takitaki) made a great play out there and the running backs coach was like 'you know what, let's talk some trash.' So it was all friendly fire ... that means we're doing something good."

This team had a clear need at linebacker as it entered the draft, and Takitaki looks to have what it takes to fill a depth need, if not eventually ascend into the starting role. He's the perfect type to focus on once the pads come on, and so far, he's proving to be true to his film.

3. Willies keeps on keepin' on

We've discussed the back end of the receiving corps plenty and haven't come near a consensus on who might fill out the final two spots on the roster. That's not unusual at this point in a camp, but Derrick Willies is making a strong case for one of the jobs.

Willies is a quiet individual, but at 6-foot-4, he's still tough to miss. Quarterbacks in this Browns camp aren't having a tough time finding him, and he's reciprocating, catching everything near him. He snagged a touchdown pass on a drag route run during an early red-zone period Monday. He's also a reliable special teamer and would fit such a role on this team, too.

Fans might forget Willies was in line to be the No. 3 receiver entering Week 6 last season before he suffered a broken collarbone that effectively ended his campaign. He seems to be building off that momentum left on the field in 2018.

There's only one player who might have had a stronger start to camp, and we'll discuss him in the next point.

4. No backs? No problem

Nick Chubb talked earlier in camp about how he had to mentally prepare himself to shoulder a heavier load after Kareem Hunt and Duke Johnson were both sidelined with minor injuries. He's doing an excellent job of it.

On a rough day for the offense (much of which being caused by Myles Garrett's pressures and a lack of effective blocking up front), Chubb again found space to make plays. He got the crowd going when he caught a well-timed screen on the left side and weaved through his convoy of linemen for a touchdown, and he managed to rip off a few lengthy runs afterward.

Chubb's place on this team is intriguing because he's not a loud person. He doesn't allow many people into his circle of trust. It takes a bit to get something out of him.

But while he isn't a vocal leader, he's doing everything right on the field. He's the most consistent player on this team through five days of camp, and if it serves as any indication, he'll pick right up where he left off at the end of 2018.

5. Callaway getting his feet under him

For the first few practices of camp, Antonio Callaway hummed under the radar.

He didn't receive a single rep with the first team until Day 4 of camp and wasn't in position to make a memorable play until Sunday. If Monday is any indication, it appears as if Callaway is starting to get his feet under him.

Callaway ran largely with the second team again Monday, but he took advantage of his opportunities. The wideout made a pair of nice grabs on slant and out routes, found the end zone on an end-around reverse during a red zone period and managed to snag a pass while Greedy Williams was draped over him along the sideline. He's also been receiving kicks at a position at which most expect him to compete for a job.

"He's doing good. He's doing what's expected of him," Kitchens said Monday of Callaway. ... "We're a long way away, but he's going to be one of (the team's punt returners)."

There aren't any viral highlights associated with Callaway, but it's encouraging to see him get into the mix.

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