WESTFIELD, Indiana -- The Browns returned to Westfield on Thursday for the second and final day of joint practices before their Saturday preseason game against the Indianapolis Colts, and it was perhaps their best day of the entire camp.
The energy was high from the start and the Browns found success in all phases of the game. Head coach Freddie Kitchens seemed quite pleased at the end of a successful practice.
Here are our observations from Day 2 of joint practices with the Colts.
1. Never back down
The first of two joint practices with the Indianapolis Colts felt more like a typical session than a unique chance to compete against an actual opponent.
That was not the case Thursday.
From the very first period in which the Browns and Colts competed down to the last, things were competitive, fiery and downright physical.
That was precisely the environment the Browns wanted, considering they've spent the last two and a half weeks hitting each other.
The energy in the air was intensified early by a chippy one-on-one red-zone period in which Browns cornerback Terrance Mitchell and Colts receiver Krishawn Hogan essentially wrestled each other while moving and attempting to track a thrown football before coming close to blows, as evidenced by their intense trash talk. Every defender involved immediately stepped up their play and the jawing continued through the period.
It was a complete change from the start of Wednesday's session.
"We just have a way that we are going to treat our practices," Kitchens said after practice. "That is how we are going to practice. That doesn’t ever change. It doesn’t matter who we are going against. It doesn’t matter if we are going against ourselves. I think we learned a lot about ourselves from the standpoint of that’s how you have to approach it. You keep your tempo. Let everybody else adjust to yours, not the other way around.”
Thursday felt like the first (or second, if you count Damon Sheehy-Guiseppi's punt return) galvanizing moment of a Browns season that has the chance to be special. Instead of simply coming out to practice, the Browns came out with a clear goal: To win, and if challenged, never back down.
Consider that accomplished.
Check out photos from the second day of joint practices with the Colts in Indianapolis by team photographer Matt Starkey
2. Again, the defensive line dominates
If the Browns' front four wreaks as much havoc as it did on Thursday, every opponent on their schedule will have cause for concern.
Larry Ogunjobi and Sheldon Richardson dominated on the interior, getting a frequent push off the line and stunting swiftly. The Colts were again without Quenton Nelson, which undoubtedly hurt them, but the defensive line of the Browns made them look nothing like the group that propelled Indianapolis to a 10-6 finish and wild-card win.
Brissett was pressured relentlessly, taking at least four would-be sacks and sailing a few passes just to get the ball out of his hand before a Browns defender arrived.
The success extended to the reserves, too, with Daniel Ekuale and Trevon Coley also finding success. The collective victories up front were so frequent and effective, Colts offensive linemen were clearly rattled, drawing three false start penalties and two holds in a period.
The Browns even held firm in a hurry-up period, forcing a stop on fourth down on a play that drew another holding flag that would have been declined.
Kitchens seemed pleased afterward. Just wait until he sees the defensive film.
3. Building the chip
Thursday's aforementioned tone-setting period sent the Browns cruising into team period bent on winning at the point of attack, and win they did. While the defensive line strung out zone runs, cornerbacks played tight, physical coverage. Linebacker Christian Kirksey shot a gap on a run and put a nice lick on a Colts running back, illustrating the stinginess of the unit. Brissett was frequently forced to dump passes in the flats because of defensive line pressure or tight coverage.
The lone clear victory on the part of the Colts was via receiver T.Y. Hilton, whose route-running prowess taught Greedy Williams a lesson on the play of NFL stars. And even Williams came away with an interception, thanks to pressure caused by Ogunjobi that forced Brissett to let a pass fly beyond his target.
All the while, as skirmishes broke out left and right, these Browns seemed to only grow tighter as a group. They were there to support one another in conflict and seemed like a true brotherhood, one that carries a fiery attitude loaded with unified competitiveness.
"It's been instilled in us since Day 1," receiver Odell Beckham Jr. said after practice. "Coach Freddie talked about it's going to be tough, and we're going to see, when it gets tough, how bad you really want it. To be able to see that, I just know what direction we're heading in. I'm just happy to be here."
This team doesn't have a bunch of individuals, and appears ready to take on all comers. The message on the gate entering the facility reads "out of yourself and into the team."
This group is a team and won as a team plenty Thursday.