In the spirit of the Olympics, I made my way out to Berea on Sunday morning via a 10-mile bicycle ride. For the first full pads practice on a weekend, I expected there to be a similar number of fans in attendance as Saturday's opening session, which had just under 3,000 fans.
I entered through the gates at about 8:50 AM and was surprised that the staff did not have any more roster sheets left. Then, I looked around and instantly thought, "man, this looks well over 3,000 fans." Sure enough, it was -- according to the Browns PR, 4,200 fans attended practice, which is the highest total in the eight years that attendence has been tracked in Berea. They had to close the gate and there was a waiting line outside. Fans are definitely itching to get their first looks at rookies like quarterback Brandon Weeden, running back Trent Richardson, and wide receiver Josh Gordon. How did things go down in Day 3 of practice?
TRAINING CAMP REPORT - DAY 3 (7/29/12)
- Richardson Gets to Show Off: Over the first two days of camp, one may have wondered, "where are the reports on third overall pick Trent Richardson?" He wasn't slacking -- he was just waiting for the pads to go on. During the team's first 11-on-11 session, Richardson had two carries for about four yards. In the next 11-on-11 drill, he showed how dynamic he can be. First, it was an 8-yard carry up the middle on a second-down play.
- The Screen of All Screens: Later in the series, facing a 3rd-and-10, Brandon Weeden scrolled the screen play and dumped if off to Richardson, who made some very nifty moves to juke out multiple defenders. Granted, the defense isn't trying to kill people in practice, but it was one of those rare practice plays where you can give legitimate credit to the running back being the difference maker.
- Time to Re-Consider Benjamin: In all of my offseason reports, I have kind of written off Travis Benjamin and his chances of seeing much playing time this season. He was targeted very often in the 7-on-7 drills by the quarterbacks and was catching everything; I wouldn't have believed previous reports that said he had trouble catching the ball. On one play in tight coverage, he outstretched his arms to haul in a pass over the middle. There was a goal-line drill (from your own end zone) where Benjamin had a sick move right off the line that led to a slant, leaving James Dockery flatfooted.
- The Receiver Rotation: Even though Benjamin looked good, the two starting receivers were still Mohamed Massaquoi and Greg Little. If any other receivers saw action with them in three-receiver sets, it seemed to be Joshua Cribbs (early on) and Josh Gordon (later on). Benjamin was in the mix more a little later. Maybe I just missed him, but I didn't catch much, if any, of Jordan Norwood, which was surprising to me. It seemed like the team liked moving Little over to the slot in three-receiver sets. Cribbs didn't see much action at receiver in 11-on-11 drills, but I still don't think Cribbs' receiver reps will go down as much as people think, and Pat Shurmur acknowledged that after practice.
- Quarterback Digest: This was my first look at Brandon Weeden. Reports from the media indicate that this was his best of the three days so far. My impression was that Weeden has better attributes than the other quarterbacks, but [understandably] still has some work to do. On an overall basis, I think Weeden was the most accurate of the quarterbacks when working without the defense on the field. In 7-on-7 drills, he overthrew Josh Cooper twice. When wide receiver Rod Windsor had a few steps on cornerback Tashaun Gipson deep down the field, Weeden still overthrew him.
You also had good plays, like Weeden (on a goal line play from his own end zone) running a playaction fake and making a nice throw to tight end Alex Smith down the left sideline. Unfortunately, Smith failed to haul it in, drawing the ire of the crowd. Weeden seemed comfortable fitting the ball into Greg Little's body on a rope. He also connected with Mohamed Massaquoi on a deep ball down the right sideline after he had beat rookie cornerback Trevin Wade.
- Other QB Notes: I don't want it to seem like I'm ragging on Colt McCoy, but it continues to seem like his first reaction is to dump the ball off short, and his zip on the ball pales in comparison to Weeden. Weeden was been very aggressive getting the ball down the field in practice, to the point where Shurmur said after practice that they'll work with him on learning to hit his checkdown receivers a couple of times. I didn't see many reps for Seneca Wallace and Thaddeus Lewis during practice, other than the 7-on-7 drills. Weeden is clearly getting all the first-team reps, with McCoy getting the second-team reps.
- Schwartz Off, and Winn Thrives: Toward the end of practice, the offensive linemen and the defensive linemen got together to run some one-on-one drills with each other. Most of the offensive linemen were holding their own, but Mitchell Schwartz really seemed to be struggling, getting bullied at least three times. The alternating continued today, with Oniel Cousins taking the first-team reps at right tackle.
Meanwhile, one defensive lineman really stood out in the drills -- rookie sixth-round pick Billy Winn. He was fierce as he, along with John Hughes, played on the second-team defense.
- Weeden's First 11-on-11 Series: Here are my loose notes on a couple of series; the details could be sketchy since I was at a distance. The drives started from the 30-yard line, 70 yards away from the end zone. On first down, Trent Richardson was stopped after a gain of one yard. He picked up three yards on second down. On third down, Brandon Weeden fired a high slant pass to Mohamed Massaquoi. Massaquoi jumped but could not haul in the pass; not sure if the defensive back got a hand on it or not.
- McCoy's First 11-on-11 Series: The first-down play was a handoff to Brandon Jackson for no gain. On second-down, Colt McCoy ran a playaction fake but was pressured immediately. The pass rusher knocked him to the ground as he tossed a pass to the sideline for Travis Benjamin, who couldn't haul it in. The third down play was a draw to Montario Hardesty, who gained some good yards, but not enough for the first down, apparently.
- Weeden's Second 11-on-11 Series: This one went a little longer.
1st-and-10: Weeden passes to Massaquoi for six yards.
2nd-and-4: As described earlier, this is where Richardson scampered up the middle for 8 yards.
1st-and-10: Weeden tried to hit Greg Little on a deep ball down the left sideline, but Little stopped as if it was a comeback route. Little patted his chest as if to say, 'my fault.'
2nd-and-10: There was a false start by Joshua Cribbs. A definite flinch that I spotted from a good distance away.
2nd-and-15: Ricardson carried the ball for three yards.
3rd-and-12: Weeden dropped back and hit Travis Benjamin; not sure on the yardage, but it was enough for a first down and was a contested reception.
1st-and-10: No gain, as there was a fumbled snap by Weeden. The media reports that it was recovered by John Hughes; right place at the right time. The drive still continued as if nothing happened, though.
2nd-and-10: Weeden rolled to his left looking for an open guy, but couldn't find anyway and threw it out of bounds.
3rd-and-10: This was the great screen pass described to Richardson that I talked about in the second bullet point. He definitely had enough for the first down, but the drive ended after this play.
- Smelley vs. Marecic: I can't comment much on how Owen Marecic did in the battle of the fullbacks. All I can say is that I saw #47 more than I did #48, but that is probably because Smelley had a couple of receptions, I believe from the tight end position. Nate Ulrich notes that Brad Smelley had a one-handed catch in 7-on-7's on a pass by Seneca Wallace.
Cleveland ran two fullback handoffs when backed up in their own end zone, but I'm not sure which guy got the handoffs; it was probably Marecic though. I assume he was the blocking fullback on a few run plays, but how can you judge a blocking fullback in training camp practices? I'll judge him in the preseason games.
- Haden, Hagg, and Dockery: Don't throw the ball in Joe Haden's direction unless you want to see your pass get swatted away. While I didn't see the play, safety Eric Hagg intercepted a seam pass by Brandon Weeden that was intended for Mohamed Massaquoi in 7-on-7 drills. The ABJ says that Massaquoi was yelled at for his route after the play, but in post-practice, Weeden complimented Hagg on a good read. I continue to be a fan of CB James Dockery, who leaped high into the air to intercept a rare long pass by Colt McCoy that was intended for Travis Benjamin.
- Frostee Rucker Gains Approval: Because I was away from the field, I wasn't able to hear this comment from Frostee Rucker during practice. I will defer to 92.3 The Fan's report:
[After plenty of cheers for all of the offensive players], defensive end Frostee Rucker heard enough. He turned and yelled to the fans, "you can cheer for the defense too." After the next 2 snaps, Bronx cheers reigned down from the bleachers that lined the field for the D.
- Hardesty and Gordon Obligation: I feel obligated to mention the following two points, since almost every other reporter made them their 'highlight' notes of the day. Everyone praised Montario Hardesty for his quickness again, including Shurmur after practice. Unfortunately, I simply didn't get to see many of his reps, but I'll take their word for it. Everyone liked Josh Gordon too. I couldn't find him anywhere early on in practice, but then I saw him make several catches. He looked solid -- I didn't get the impression that he was raw or anything like that.
- Injury Report: Not many updates on the injury front, as DT Phil Taylor, DT Ahtyba Rubin, Eddie Williams, TE Evan Moore, and WR Carlton Mitchell remained out. Rookie CB Trevin Wade returned to action.
- Chatter From the Fans: Here are some of the silly things that I heard from fans. ... "Why are they doing so many fullback handoffs?," not realizing that we are practicing drills from our own end zone. ... "The defense isn't even tackling the running backs, why are they just trying to strip the football?," not comprehending the etiquette of practicing against your own players in camp. ... Someone thought practice squad eligibility went away after four years of action. ... Commenting about Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos, a fan said, "one hit from Jabaal Sheard, and Manning is done," to which I am thinking, "yeah, that really makes sense -- Manning is going to make it all the way to Week 15, only to get crippled on one hit from Sheard all of a sudden."
Someone was surprised to learn that Brad Maynard was gone, as they expected him to compete with Reggie Hodges. ... On a good carry from Adonis Thomas, one fan yelled out, "way to go, Trent!". ... Some people go a bit overboard trying to find praise for Weeden; three quarterbacks threw the same-looking ball in warmup drills, but Weeden was praised by the two fans for having a better arm on the passes. ... Due to the large attendance, shortly after trying to get closer to the field the quarterbacks were on, the same fan came back the other direction uttering, "elbows and assholes, damn, they won't let you in over there!"
- Brownies: ESPN's John Clayton was at camp today, so we should be hearing his report on Monday. ... CB Trevin Wade broke up a pass intended for WR Bert Reed in 7-on-7's, and also had a breakup on a pass intended for Joshua Cribbs. ... With CB Joe Haden in shutdown coverage, he broke up a deep pass by QB Thaddeus Lewis intended for WR Rod Windsor. ... CB Antwuan Reed had a pass breakup. ... S Eric Hagg broke up a slant pass. ... The defense got penetration in one of the second-team goal line drills for a safety. ... The next practice will be Monday morning at 8:45 AM in full pads.
RB Trent Richardson shoves off defenders during drills (photo credit: Erik Daniel, Flickr)
This is just an awesome picture at the line of scrimmage (photo credit: Erik Daniel, Flickr)
(photo credit: Erik Daniel, Flickr)
Link Collection / Training Camp Sources
- News, notes, and observations from first practice in full pads (Akron Beacon Journal, Ulrich)
- Eyes on Berea, July 29 (ESPN Cleveland, Grossi)
- Camp news and notes: first practice in full pads (92.3 The Fan, Ruiter)
- The fastest man in Berea, and the bunnies (Canton Repository, Doerschuk)
- Richardson, Hardesty stand out in first padded practice (Chronicle-Telegram, Petrak)
- Browns notes from July 29 (WTAM, Knott)
- Cribbs says role will be reduced, Shurmur says otherwise (News Herald, Schudel)
- Observations from Sunday's practice (FS Ohio, Jackson)
- Observations from Day 1 in pads (Official Site, Carucci)
- Check out Erik Daniel on Flickr for more photos from camp.