Fresh Takes from Training Camp

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Fresh Takes: Observations from Day 8 of Browns training camp

Friday is what everyone is working for during the week, so its arrival was greeted happily by Browns fans -- especially the ones who skipped out on work to attend Day 8 of #BrownsCamp.

They were treated to an assortment of excellence on both sides of the ball in Berea. With the first preseason game less than a week away, you can almost smell the mix of grass, hot dogs and frosty beverages that's always present inside FirstEnergy Stadium. We'll see you there Saturday for the Orange & Brown Scrimmage.

Here are our observations from Day 8.

1. Hello, Mack Wilson

Mack Wilson's selection in the fifth round was immediately viewed by many as a steal for the Browns.

Here was a player projected to go as high as the first round landing in the Browns' lap in the fifth. Wilson has since come to Berea and quietly worked toward becoming a contributor to a Browns defense that has talent all over, but could use some reliable depth at linebacker.

Doing things quietly doesn't get you much attention, even if you do them correctly. Just ask Derrick Willies.

That changed Friday for Wilson.

Dropping in coverage, Wilson spotted a route he'd likely seen before and jumped it, diving and fully extending his body to intercept a pass from Drew Stanton. He topped it off by quickly rolling off the ground, untouched, and taking it back the other way for a touchdown.

It was the best defensive play made by anyone in this camp.

Wilson is one of two drafted rookie linebackers, but his counterpart, Sione Takitaki, has received more of the attention. It's natural because Takitaki plays with more visible energy, makes the calls for the second-team defense and is louder. None of that means Wilson isn't deserving of some credit. 

He's stuck his nose into the action on more than a few occasions, delivering solid hits and also receiving a few. His best play as a Brown should earn him some likes on social media and a few more fans just in time for Saturday's Orange & Brown Scrimmage.

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

2. Offense continues to trend upward

Friday was yet another efficient day for the offense, which really seems as though it's finding its footing within Freddie Kitchens' vision.

The final session of the work week was additionally encouraging because of the amount of different personnel shuffling in and out of the action. Sure, Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry were front and center, but so were Antonio Callaway, Rashard Higgins, Derrick Willies, Dontrell Hilliard and even D'Ernest Johnson.

With a handful or two of key Browns sidelined by typical camp ailments, it's good to see the team continue moving forward without some of its key components. It was also inspiring to see Mayfield connect with Landry and Beckham for more highlights, including this incredible catch:

"Yes. Everything takes time," Beckham said when asked if he can see chemistry developing between he and Mayfield. "Everything that is great comes with patience and takes time. We are still developing. The best part about it is it is still training camp, it is not the real season right now, we are all trying to get on the same page and get everything down. It has been a lot of fun working with coach Freddie (Kitchens), Bake and everyone else. I am trying to just get better each and every day."

Landry made a nice grab of his own over the middle earlier, but what I believe was the best example of how well this team can play together came when Mayfield had the offense inside the 20 and looking to score.

The quarterback dropped, looked left and fired a pass to Willies on a post for a touchdown. It was well-timed, accurate and successful -- everything you'd want out of a play in that situation -- but the best detail was that Willies clearly wasn't Mayfield's first option.

Mayfield scanned the field before throwing, looking to Landry, who was running toward the front left pylon when Mayfield instead decided to move to his next option for a touchdown.

"Good job, Bake!" Landry shouted back toward his quarterback while raising his thumb in the air. "Good job!"

That type of understanding will bode well for this talented unit.

3. It's the little things

Kyle Kalis saw his latest chance with the first team on Friday, and he needed a good day after a less-than-stellar run earlier in the week.

His improvements, however incremental, were evident on one particular play.

Earlier in the week, the Browns handed the ball to Nick Chubb for a run inside the left tackle. Tight end David Njoku was supposed to get a piece of Myles Garrett before a pulling Kalis would arrive to finish the block. Kalis arrived late and Garrett blew up the play in the backfield.

On Friday, the offense ran a similar play. This time, Kalis completed the long pull in time, kicking out the edge defender and clearing a lane for Johnson, who ran off his block and bounced it outside for a gain of 10.

It was one play, but it proved how these countless reps will pay off if the effort is provided.

4. Physical practice continues

The same Johnson carry off the aforementioned Kalis block produced one of the loudest pops of the day, and a reminder that no one on these fields is turning the intensity down even a single notch.

As Johnson neared the sideline, three Browns defenders converged on him. T.J. Carrie arrived to clean up the play, laying a shoulder directly into Johnson that elicited an "ooh" from the fans seated nearby

There's not much else to add to this point other than what we've already said, but the key is this team isn't turning down the intensity one bit. Sheck Wes' "Mo Bamba" lets everyone know it's time to hit, and it doesn't end until practice is over. This team will be prepared come September and unafraid to battle with any opponent.

5. Dawson's day

Phil Dawson arrived in Berea to sign a one-day contract and officially retire as a member of the Cleveland Browns on Friday. He took in practice and met with the current kickers among other players before formally announcing his retirement in the afternoon.

Naturally, he was asked if he could play one more season. He replied by saying he might have a good game or two left in him, but not 16 of them, which convinced him it was time to retire.

With that possibility out of the window, the next question was: What did you tell the kickers?

"I didn't get to the snow part yet. Let's start with the basics," Dawson joked. "But those guys are pros, so it's fun to talk to fellow pros. I was just able to share a few things I've learned through the years and some routine and habit type things, how to approach the game. They'll figure the rest out on their own but it was a nice conversation and I'm excited to see those guys."

Dawson later elaborated on the Best Podcast Available how he told the kickers to get out of their head and into the physical side of kicking, explaining that muscle memory gained from a high volume of made kicks will eventually take the lead in pressure-filled situations once the regular season arrives. (To hear the entire Dawson interview on BPA, click here.)

It was a nice way to end the work week, reflecting on the career of one of the greatest Browns of the last 20 years. It also served as a reminder of how far this franchise has come in a short time. Should the team figure out the kicking situation, it will only improve from there -- and Dawson will be cheering them along the entire way.

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