The 2021 Orange & Brown Practice started with a storm and ended without a cloud in the sky.
Welcome to Cleveland.
More importantly, it was a warm welcome back to FirstEnergy Stadium, where the Browns practiced in front of thousands who patiently waited through a 45-minute weather delay caused by an unexpected thunderstorm that blew through the area. It was a great atmosphere and a nice change of pace for a Browns team that held its first nine practices at the CrossCountry Mortgage Campus.
Sunday provided some extra "juice" for the Browns as they enter their first game week of 2021 with a trip to Jacksonville on the horizon.
"This was incredible. No surprise," Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said. "This is a uniquely loyal fanbase and I appreciate that. Great seeing all the kids out here, people bringing their families out here so that was outstanding. They brought the energy, they definitely brought the juice out here. I know the players responded to that."
Here's what else happened on a fun day by the lake.
— The highlight of the day came midway through the practice, as Case Keenum found Rashard Higgins on a pass that sent Higgins diving into the end zone. Higgins was quick to pop to his feet, adjust his shoulder pads and treat the fans to the first red carpet walk of 2021. Baker Mayfield ran in from the sidelines to pantomime some photographs alongside David Njoku.
— Keenum was sharp throughout the day, throwing the aforementioned touchdown pass to Higgins and a couple more to TE Harrison Bryant. He's an incredible asset for this team to have and has been an ideal backup to Mayfield.
— Bryant's first touchdown grab was particularly good, as he reached over top of rookie S Richard LeCounte III's head to secure the ball and snatch it up and away from LeCounte's hands.
— Mayfield's best sequence came near the end of practice, when he fired a quick out to KhaDarel Hodge, who sprinted untouched into the end zone. He followed on the very next play with a touchdown strike down the middle to Njoku.
— The second-team defense got the best of the first-team offense during the 2-minute drill period to end practice. The second-team offense picked up big yardage after CB Greg Newsome II was flagged for pass interference and scored on a touchdown pass from Keenum to Njoku.
— Donovan Peoples-Jones kept his early training camp momentum rolling at FirstEnergy Stadium with a few more big catches. He continues to find lots of space in the middle of the field on slants, and he did just that on two of his catches, one coming in an early 11-on-11 period and another in a 7-on-7 session.
— Every time Nick Chubb touched the ball, the crowd went wild. Run plays are tough to judge because the team isn't hitting the ball carrier, but there were a handful from Chubb that were definitely set up to pick up significant gains. It goes without saying the Browns, who ranked third in the league with 148.4 rushing yards per game and were one of the best at closing out games with their two-headed monster at running back, should be pretty darn good at running the ball in 2021.
— RB Kareem Hunt had a no-doubter long touchdown run during a team period, as he took an inside handoff, bounced to the left and outraced everyone toward the end zone.
— DT Malik McDowell left midway through the practice because of an oblique injury. Others who did not participate Sunday included S Grant Delpit (hamstring), CB Denzel Ward (rest), WR Anthony Schwartz (hamstring), S Ronnie Harrison Jr. (hamstring) and LB Anthony Walker (knee).
— Without Ward in action, the Browns deployed Newsome and Greedy Williams as their top CBs.
— P Jamie Gillan had a nice period where he appeared to be working through a number of different punts as he looked to pin the ball inside the 20-yard line. JoJo Natson and Ryan Switzer fielded them.
— Speaking of special teams, the Browns had one period of field goal kicking, as Cody Parkey went 3-for-4, missing his last and longest attempt, while Chase McLaughlin made all four of his kicks, including a 49-yarder.
— The Browns are off Monday and will be back in action Tuesday at the CrossCountry Mortgage Campus. They'll practice Wednesday and Thursday, too, before hitting the road Friday to Jacksonville.