OTAs & Minicamp

Observations from Browns 2019 minicamp, Day 2

Wednesday saw a pair of colorful cleats from Odell Beckham Jr., almost every skilled position player taking the field in a tinted visor of some sort (and some later ditching them once they realized they didn't help much indoors) and plenty of cameras assembled to roll on Beckham's post-practice press conference.

But what else happened in the two-plus hours of work inside the facility at 76 Lou Groza Boulevard?

You've come to the right place for such answers. Here are five observations from Day 2 of minicamp.

Check out photos from the second day of Browns Minicamp

1. Oh, what the defense could bring

Beckham said it best on Wednesday.

"We talk a lot about this offense but this defense is something special," he said. "This team is really coming together."

It's a belief held by many within the Browns' locker room, that the team's best-kept secret is actually the guys wearing the brown jerseys in minicamp. And with all of the attention paid to the guys throwing, running with and catching the ball, it might just be true. Based on Wednesday's performance, it sure looked to be.

The potential of the defense starts up front when one simply looks at the defensive line. Myles Garrett, Sheldron Richardson, Larry Ogunjobi and Olivier Vernon fill out the four starting slots. Three already have a Pro Bowl under their respective belts, and Garrett said last month he expects Ogunjobi to become the fourth. It's menacing on paper and just as imposing on the field, even without pads.

The experience of the resident veteran linebackers, Christian Kirksey and Joe Schobert, will be paired with the additions of Sione Takitaki (who went down with an apparent ailment, only to return a few plays later Wednesday), Mack Wilson and Adarius Taylor, as well as the return of Genard Avery and others. It will be a group strengthened by its numbers.

But the strongest part might be in the secondary, which was giving Browns receivers all kinds of trouble, starting with Denzel Ward.

Ward's strengths coming out of college were his oily hips and ability to stay in a receiver's pocket. The latter part was a major focus when he was asked back in early 2018 to describe his strengths. He had both hands in Beckham's pockets Wednesday, following him closely along an intricate route toward the sideline before closing the remaining gap and batting a pass away. These words don't quite do it justice.

Baker Mayfield had dropped back, stepped up and shuffled to his left amid a collapsing pocket, keeping his eyes downfield. It was fluid, smooth and looked to be the beginning of a beautiful completion to Beckham, who was painting his own masterpiece with his feet near the numbers on the right side of the field.

Then Ward sliced across the canvas and ruined the whole thing.

"I personally think that he's going to be a top, top corner," Beckham said of Ward after practice Wednesday. "From what I've seen, we're gonna go at it every single day and we're going to get better. That's what me and him talk about when we conversate. I tell him, 'you have any questions, anything, you come ask me, I'm gonna do the same. I'm gonna walk up to you and be like what did you see on that route? What made you do this?' That's how you get better. The quote, iron sharpens iron or whatever you want to call it, all I've known is to compete. There's no hard feelings, we're getting grabby. He might get grabby one play, I might push off the next play. It's about competing. That's what's gonna happen."

For as good as Ward was in his rookie season, he looks that much better in Year 2. The game's best opposition is noticing after three practices together.

2. Greedy's growth

The defense's potential doesn't end with Ward, or Damarious Randall, or Morgan Burnett, or Eric Murray (who is quietly having a nice minicamp of his own). It doesn't end with Greedy Williams, either, but it sure does get a nice boost when the rookie shows why the Browns moved up from No. 49 to 46 to select him in the 2019 draft.

Williams has steadily improved as he learns how to work within the Browns' defensive scheme, and he had arguably his best day as a Brown on Wednesday. Williams did a good job of blanketing the nearest receiver on a majority of his defensive snaps, though there was one play in which the quarterback would have been sacked had it been a live game, but instead was extended long enough to allow for a throw.

As a nearby player shouted "sack," Williams sagged off his man near the end of the play, allowing him enough space to come free along the sideline for a catch. Jermaine Whitehead immediately trotted over and corrected Williams, telling him to "stay tight" through the end of the play.

Some 30 minutes or so later, Williams jumped a pass intended for Antonio Callaway along the sideline and took it back for a touchdown.

"Greedy is getting better every day in everything he does," Browns coach Freddie Kitchens said Wednesday. "As far as what he is looking at, a lot of people don't realize that the game even outside at the corner position is played with your feet and your eyes. He is getting better in both of those areas."

3. Nick Chubb, receiving back

Nick Chubb is in his second season in the NFL and his first as the projected starter at running back. He'll be expected to carry a considerable portion of the backfield load, but he won't be alone in a very talented stable of backs.

One thing he will be expected to do for the first time in his career, though, is catch the football.

Chubb wasn't a receiving threat at Georgia because he wasn't asked to be one. He lacks experience catching the ball out of the backfield because of that fact, but that's changing during this offseason. Chubb caught plenty of passes out of the backfield on Wednesday in both group and team settings, and he's looking much better than he did at the start of OTAs.

"It's different. It's something I've never been asked to do," Chubb said Wednesday. "I'm still getting better every day. It's not natural to me but I'm learning and watching the guys. Kareem and Duke and Dontrell catch the ball very well. (I'm) picking up things from them. Coaches are helping me out. Everybody's just helping me so I can expand my game."

4. The Daily Unheralded

Ishmael Hyman has been getting a lot of reps with the first team to some mixed results. He saw a healthy dose of such opportunities again Wednesday.

But the lesser-known receiver who's had a nice little run for himself as of late is D.J. Montgomery. With Damion Ratley, Blake Jackson and Derrick Willies not participating Wednesday, Montgomery has filled the void well. The 6-foot-1 receiver caught a deep post and took it in for a touchdown late in practice, and made an excellent, bobbled catch over a defender along the sideline earlier in the session. In between, he managed to find space in the defense for open targets and had a solid afternoon.

It will be very tough to crack the final group of receivers on this team, but Montgomery has put forth plenty of necessary effort and has improved since he began his offseason work with the team.

5. Training camp is going to be intense

Minicamp isn't typically the fastest group of practices, seeing as there aren't any pads and it's in late May or early June. Summer vacation awaits. But this group of Browns have shown they're more than ready to get serious about working toward their lofty goals.

We wrote about it Tuesday and it was even more evident Wednesday: This team is stocked with competitors, and it's showing in their pace of play. At field level in the cramped environment that comes with practices forced indoors, it was stunning to see how fast these guys were playing. Pass rushers were not just jogging through the motions and defensive backs were not giving much cushion at all. Receivers were matching their intensity in their route running, too.

Play was also less sloppy than the day before, though there were still a decent amount of drops. That's part of June, which Beckham reiterated afterward Wednesday, emphasizing that the team doesn't play in an actual game until September. There's time to work out the kinks, and they'll be worked out in intense, passionate fashion come August.

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