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Fresh Takes from Training Camp

Fresh Takes: Observations from Day 6 of Browns training camp

It wasn't Monday, but it sure was a great time for a mustache on day 6 of #BrownsCamp.

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Our QB > your QB 👨🏻

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That's Baker Mayfield, quarterback of your Cleveland Browns, showing off the facial hair that drew not one, not two, but three questions after practice. Before his presser, he was ripping passes to a variety of his targets, seemingly showing a command of the offense that is only improving with each day. Here are the rest of our observations from day 6 of training camp.

1. Greedy's big day

Greedy Williams' greatest perceived weakness ahead of the 2019 draft came down to one word: tackling.

Williams, a projected first-round pick, slid into the second round before the Browns happily traded up three spots to select him at No. 46 overall. All of the questions surrounding the pick centered on -- you guessed it -- tackling.

Williams got his first shot with the first team in this camp Wednesday and gave us some proof that those concerns might have been overblown.

In a situational drill, the first-team offense broke the huddle facing a third-and-4. Mayfield handed the ball to Nick Chubb, who attempted to run through a hole off the hip of Joel Bitonio. He met contact and stumbled through it before he was stopped by a second defender.

It was Williams, who matched Chubb's pad level and stopped him in his tracks, short of the marker.

"Me, personally, I do not have a doubt that Greedy is going to tackle," head coach Freddie Kitchens said after practice. "Our corners have to tackle. A lot of time people want to run on to corners in the run game and I hope they do us because our corners are going to tackle. Our corners are going to know how to tackle."

That was the good of Williams. The bad came when he got caught going the wrong way on a sluggo run by Rashard Higgins, who left Williams stumbling as he attempted to redirect. The result was a highlight grab for Higgins, whom Williams didn't touch down after Higgins fell to the ground with the ball in his arms.

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Kitchens got after Williams for that one, shouting "this ain't LSU, Greedy!"

"Yeah, these guys have been playing football their whole life and they never had to touch somebody once he is on the ground," Kitchens explained afterward. "It is just a learning process. Everybody is learning. There is a lot of learning going on right now, which should be, because we are doing a lot of teaching."

Williams' path to the starting lineup continues to come into view, though Wednesday wasn't firm proof that it would just eventually happen. Terrance Mitchell, running with the twos, had a very nice day as well.

"Greedy is competing. He is coming along good," Kitchens said. "We are continuing to roll those guys and rotate them in and we will see who comes out at the end."

2. Room to run

Eric Kush started at right guard on Wednesday and got to work early, opening a hole for Dontrell Hilliard to scoot through for what would have been a touchdown if they ran plays to the end in the period.

It was the beginning of a good day for the running game and the run blockers, who largely executed well. Kush also pulled and cleared a big lane for Hilliard later in practice, resulting in another touchdown.

While some will see the running back off to the races and shower him with praise, the men creating the lanes should also be credited. Kitchens' staff has spent a good chunk of the last two practices focusing on the running game, and both Hilliard and Nick Chubb are taking advantage of it.

"Well, Dontrell is going to continue to work," Kitchens said. "I have been pleased with Dontrell. He is not a finished product; he needs to keep working. We will see what have got at the end of all of this."

It's easy to see what he could bring to this team in 2019 and beyond in the offense, and his return ability is an added bonus that only makes his case stronger.

3. Toughness on display in most physical practice of camp

We entered the brief, one-day break from camp with the thought that Monday's practice was the most physical thus far. Wednesday's session put that to shame.

Another run-heavy initial team period set the tone for the day. Linemen from both sides battled all morning, and even wide receiver Derrick Willies got in on the action with a frontside block on a defensive back that created a loud pop upon impact.

Collisions continued throughout the day and the battles in the trenches were fierce, especially after Kitchens got after the defense earlier in the practice. Center JC Tretter got caught up in a mass of large bodies and came up hobbled at the end of an early team period. He sat out of one-on-ones while getting his ankle re-taped before returning to practice.

Some might think Tretter finishing practice was unnecessary, especially after he played through injury in so many games last season. It is, after all, Day 6 of a camp in which Tretter needn't prove his value to the team. But the 28-year-old Tretter is aiming to continue to serve as a model for what the Browns should be at all positions: tough.

Oh, and as Kitchens emphasized many times, physical.

"I would not expect anything other from him than to finish," Kitchens said of Tretter. "I do not know where that expectation level came from that he needed to sit out because he had a little hurt ankle. JC demonstrated last year that he can play hurt. 

"We have to understand as a group collectively, offense, defense and special teams, the difference between being hurt and being injured. I have always heard that my whole life. We are a week into camp, you are banged up, you are coming off an off-day but we just went through five days in a row, three days in pads, I do not expect anyone to feel good and I promise they are not going to feel good at the end of this training camp. I need to see somebody build and bring it through and be the best they can be, even though they may be a little nicked up. 

"I knew JC would do it, he did it all of last year. It was good to see because people tend to follow, they see somebody do that and they tend to follow. We need guys like that."

Mayfield echoed Kitchens' sentiment when asked if this practice has been more physical than last year's, focusing on a key that will likely sound familiar to fans.

"Absolutely. We are expected to when we need to run the ball, run the ball," Mayfield said. "And the defense, when they need to stop the run, they need to stop it. That is what this division is about. I know everybody talks about the receivers we bought in and what kind of offense we could be. We still got the same offensive line and we still got Nick Chubb in that backfield. We got to be able to run the ball physically, put the tight ends in there, put tight end Orson (Charles) in there and be a downhill team when we need to."

4. Kicking struggles continue

Kitchens and special teams coordinator Mike Priefer continue to put the kickers in pressure situations to see which will be able to make kicks in key moments. The results haven't been the best.

Unlike Monday's rough stretch of kicks from various distances, Wednesday's kicking chances came at the end of hypothetical late drives, with the field goal team being rushed on the field to attempt game-winning field goals. Greg Joseph made his attempt, but it didn't count because the field goal team wasn't set because of players failing to get to their proper places in time. Kitchens was not happy about it.

The second situation left Austin Seibert with a chance at a game-winner, but he missed it. The lack of clarity at the position continues.

However, there were some positives earlier in practice. Joseph and Seibert made the majority of their four kicks each from various distances, an improvement on the aforementioned forgettable Monday run.

"They need to keep competing," Kitchens said of the kickers. "That is all I have to say about it right now. They just need to keep competing and forget about today and move on to the next day. I would like for them to move on from kick to kick but let's start with a day-to-day thing right now."

5. Cleveland wins together

The Browns received a visit from members of the NBA's Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday. Larry Nance Jr. brought along a group of rookies that included Darius Garland, Dylan Windler and Dean Wade on the trip to Berea to take in practice from the sideline.

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Nance, an Ohio native who grew up in Richfield while his father played for the Cavs, is a noted Cleveland sports fan. He, and Canton native and Portland Trail Blazers guard C.J. McCollum are among the most outspoken professional athletes who back the Browns.

Kitchens was happy the Cavs stopped by, but he didn't get a chance to chat with them afterward.

"You know what, I think they walked off before I got over there," Kitchens said. "But it was good having them out. We are Cleveland fans."

Indeed we are.

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