Jamie Collins looked every bit himself in the Browns' intrasquad scrimmage.
The veteran linebacker was all over the field, headlining a strong showing in which Cleveland's defense offered glimpses of what it might become.
After suffering a season-ending knee injury last fall, Collins showed neither rust nor trepidation Friday evening as he intercepted a tipped pass and broke up a would-be touchdown to tight end David Njoku in the back of the end zone.
It's what people have come to know from the former Patriots star, who developed a reputation in New England for making those kinds of game-changing plays.
"That's the Jamie we saw last year before he got hurt," said second-year defensive end Myles Garrett. "I expected nothing but great things from him, and that's what he's shown."
Indeed, Collins is expected to play a critical role on a defense that could take one giant leap in 2018. Paired with Garrett (the first overall pick in 2017), defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah, linebackers Christian Kirksey, Joe Schobert, free safety Damarious Randall and rookie cornerback Denzel Ward (the fourth-overall pick), there's a belief the Browns could have the makings of top-shelf unit — at least on paper.
Critical to that mission is Collins, who missed most of Cleveland's dismal 2017 season. Before being to Cleveland two Octobers ago, he helped New England win Super Bowl XLVIII and established himself as one of the league's premier defenders.
"He's an instinctual player. I think he sees the game a lot differently than everyone else," Browns coach Hue Jackson said. "That's his skill set. Not that he roams or anything like that, I think within what we allow him to do is he has an idea of maybe where the ball is going and he is able to make those plays."
Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams has described Collins as one of the most intelligent players he's ever coached while Kirksey, a team captain, recently expressed relief to see his teammate back on the field.
"It's nothing but love," Kirksey said. "Whenever you see your teammate back at full force — especially one of the dominant players in this league and on this team — it's definitely nice to be able to see. So I am glad he is back. That is one of my great teammates, friends off the field, so I'm happy to see him."
Garrett expressed a similar sentiment as the Browns prepare for their first preseason game against the Giants next week in New York. He's eager to see how he, Collins and the rest of Cleveland's defense continue coming into form.
"He's got that slow — I wouldn't say goofy — but relaxed demeanor like I do," the soft-spoken Garrett said. "He can go out there and turn it on and be a big-time player."
And it showed Friday night.