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OTA Notebook: Clowney returns as Browns begin to lay groundwork for 2022

The Browns took the field Tuesday for Day 2 of OTAs


The Browns started Day 2 of Offseason Team Activities on Wednesday by finalizing one of their biggest moves of their offseason in the re-signing of DE Jadeveon Clowney, who officially inked his new deal with the Browns and was all smiles as he joined his teammates on the field at CrossCountry Mortgage Campus.

Clowney and Myles Garrett will give the Browns another year with one of the top pass-rush duos in the league — the two combined for 25 sacks last season, the second-most a Browns edge-rush tandem had achieved since Reggie Camp and Clay Matthews Jr. totaled 26 in 1984. Clowney contributed nine of them and brought a veteran presence that contributed to a strong finish for the defense, and the Browns are expecting the group to carry that level of play for a full 17 games after only a few changes were completed on that side of the ball this offseason.

For now, the group is primarily back in Berea to build chemistry, help new players and rookies find their steps and begin preparing for the grind of training camp. That's why it was good to have players like Clowney, who occasionally pulled some of their younger D-linemen to the side Wednesday to provide technique tips, re-signed to the roster and present in OTAs.

The Browns re-signed DE Jadeveon Clowney. Click through to see some of his best moments as a Cleveland Brown.

"It's great to have JD back," Stefanski said. "He is a very active player. He was very productive for us last season. He is very popular in this building, so having him in the meeting room and having him around the building you felt his energy and the guys were excited that he was here."

The Browns will have three days of mandatory minicamp starting June 14-16 and another eight voluntary OTA practices in the three weeks until then. Not every player was present Wednesday, but the Browns still had a decent chunk of the roster available to run 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills. 

Here are some of the observations and takeaways from Wednesday's practice:

– Deshaun Watson has been a full participant in every step of the offseason program, and the goal for him and the offense now is to get a head start on building chemistry with his new receivers and learning the offense. As expected, his targets in team drills were mostly to WRs Amari Cooper, David Bell, Jakeem Grant, Donovan Peoples-Jones and Anthony Schwartz. TEs Harrison Bryant and Miller Forristall also caught a few passes.

During a special teams portion of practice, Watson went on a separate field to work through progressions and threw passes to Cooper. 

"Deshaun had another good day," Head Coach Kevin Stefanski said. "I thought he was really sharp yesterday as well. I think all of that work matters — the work they do together in this building and the work they do outside the building — it all adds up. It's added reps, so he's doing a nice job."

– One of the most notable takeaways from the defense was from Greg Newsome II, who primarily took reps in the slot. The inside role in the CB room was opened after the Browns traded Troy Hill to the Rams, and Newsome, who occasionally played the role last year as a rookie, appears to be the first candidate in line to take it.

Newsome is taking several steps to prepare for the spot. He said he's hoping to gain about three pounds — boosting his weight from 192 to 195 — to play a bit heavier and has also kept in contact with Hill to keep gaining tips.

"I think (the role) is a benefit towards me," Newsome said. "I'll be able to be around the ball a lot more, so I'm definitely liking the inside. It's going to be fun. I think I'll be able to make some more plays, sacks and things like that. I'm definitely embracing that new role."

Stefanski said the Browns will still rotate and test players in the slot through the offseason, but after a quality rookie year, Newsome could be the Browns' top defensive back to take it.

– Centers Nick Harris and Ethan Pocic were both present, and Harris was the one delivering snaps to Watson in first team drills. The two will likely head one of the top position battles in training camp and vie for the starting job left from the departure of longtime Browns center JC Tretter. It's never smart to assume one is ahead of the other so early in OTAs, though, so it'll be worth monitoring any changes to where they're allocated throughout the rest of the offseason program.

– The Browns will also have competitions at both defensive tackle spots. Again, it's not a good idea to rank players ahead of others at this point of the offseason, but Taven Bryan and Jordan Elliott were the two DTs on first team reps. Competition at both those spots will be thick come training camp with Tommy Togiai, Sheldon Day and fourth-round rookie Perrion Winfrey also in the mix.

– The loudest moment of practice came after a completion from Jacoby Brissett to undrafted rookie WR Mike Harley Jr. to end a spirited 7-on-7 session. Both sides were exchanging playful chirps before the final throw, a 20-yard floater from Brissett, who was rolling to his right as he put the ball in the air. Harley made the catch and both sidelines jumped and yelled.

Undrafted rookie WR Isaiah Weston also made an impressive one-handed catch from Watson in individual drills. Third-round rookie WR David Bell also hauled in a deep lobber from Watson and hung onto the ball as he tumbled to the grass.

– Stefanski has stated multiple times over the last month that building team chemistry is one of the top priorities of the offseason program. One of the best examples of that so far has been through a basketball hoop, often parked by the practice field and used by several players after practice. Stefanski said he bought the hoop at a Dick's Sporting Goods in Minnesota three or four years ago. 

Wednesday's hoop session featured a game of knockout including Watson, Cooper, John Johnson III, Greedy Williams and LB Anthony Walker Jr. Johnson won, and Stefanski took a playful poke at Walker's shooting skills in his post-practice interview when he was asked why the hoop was there.

"It's out there to watch Anthony Walker brick shot after shot after shot," he joked. "When we moved out here, I was living in these condos over here, and I had the hoop delivered to the condos. This was two years ago during COVID times. We brought the basket and had it here in the parking lot, so me and the kids would come over here and shoot while we lived here. When we moved, we left the basket here.

"Don't break it, A-Walk."