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Cleveland Browns Training Camp Report: Day 4 - James-Michael Johnson's Big Day

The first weekday session of Cleveland Browns training camp open to the public kicked off on Monday morning. Although there weren't nearly as many people in attendance as the record-breaking crowd on Sunday, fans were amped up and got to see the ever-so-popular goal line and two-minute drills. How did things turn out? After the offensive rookies stole the show for the first three days of training camp, it was a defensive rookie who stood out on Day 4: linebacker James-Michael Johnson.


  1. Johnson's Big Day: Battling with fourth-year man Kaluka Maiava to determine who will start at weakside linebacker for the first three games while Scott Fujita serves his suspension, rookie fourth-round pick James-Michael Johnson ended up having a big day on Monday. During goal line drills, he charged forward to stand up running back Brandon Jackson, denying him access to the end zone. He also had two interceptions during 11-on-11 drills; one from Thaddeus Lewis, and the other from Seneca Wallace on a fourth-down pass.

    After practice, Johnson cited his pass coverage skills as one of his strengths. When asked about JMJ, Shurmur spoke about the linebackers in general, but you get the sense that he is also pleased with what he sees from the rookie.

    "I think the pads tend to separate the linebackers and what we think," said Shurmur, in regards to seeing a difference in players once the pads go on. "And he’s had a couple good days. He really has."

  2. Goal Line Drills: On Sunday, the Browns practiced drills where the offense was backed up in their own end zone. Near the start of practice on Monday, the offense was in the opposite situation: two yards away from the end zone, trying to punch the ball in.

    I couldn't find a complete ordering of how things went down, but the summary is this: the rushing attempts failed (one by Trent Richardson, and two by Brandon Jackson), while the playaction passes thrived. Brandon Weeden rolled to his right off of playaction and hit tight end Ben Watson on a nice pass. Colt McCoy, meanwhile, was able to find tight end Jordan Cameron in the back corner of the end zone for a score. The Akron Beacon Journal notes that fifth-string running back Adonis Thomas had the lone goal line rushing touchdown. To be fair, it doesn't sound like there were many attempts.

  3. Call in the Blocking Specialists: Here was a unique observation from ESPN Cleveland's Tony Grossi on Twitter: he said that fullback Owen Marecic and tight end Alex Smith were brought in with the first-team offense during the goal line drills. Steve Doerschuk from the Canton Repository says that blocking tight end Dan Gronkowski has also seen a few reps with the first-team offense, perhaps to evaluate what he might offer compared to Smith (or Brad Smelley).

  4. Scaled_php_medium
    FB Brad Smelley walked away from a scuffle with LB Craig Robertson (photo credit: Erik Daniel, Flickr)
  5. 47 vs. 47 Get Into a Scuffle: The first "fight" of training camp broke out Monday morning, and it was between two players currently sharing the jersey number 47: fullback Brad Smelley and linebacker Craig Robertson. The pair reportedly got into a shoving match during a goal-line drill, and after Robertson slapped Smelley's helmet, Smelley decided to back off. The Akron Beacon Journal notes that defensive end Emmanuel Stephens also threw a punch at left guard Jason Pinkston during a two-minute drill, but it didn't escalate because they were trying to get back to the line of scrimmage for the next play.

  6. Defense Prevails in Two-Minute Drills: Besides goal line drills, head coach Pat Shurmur wanted to work on the two-minute offense on Monday. Although Brandon Weeden was credited as having a sharp practice, the first-team offense didn't do a great job in their two attempts. Summaries of each drive, as reported by the media, are in the bullet points that follow.

  7. Brandon Weeden in the Two-Minute Drill: The details of Weeden's first drive weren't revealed by anyone, but he wasn't able to get a first down. On his fourth-down attempt, his pass reportedly went out of bounds. To end practice, Weeden and the first-team offense was given one more chance in the two-minute drill. Things went a little better this time around, with a little assistance from the coaching staff.

  8. Gordon Steps Up in "Successful" Drive: Here is the summary I was able to derive after digesting all of the camp reports: on the first two downs, Weeden's passes were batted down by Brian Schaefering and Jabaal Sheard. Weeden's third-down attempt fell incomplete. On fourth-down, Weeden dumped the ball off to running back Trent Richardson. Although he gained some yards, every member of the media made it clear that the coaching staff gave the offense a very generous spot (intentionally) in order to continue the drive.

    With a fresh set of downs, on one of the plays, Weeden completed a pass to wide receiver Josh Gordon on an in-route, according to Scott Petrak. Then, on 4th-and-2, Weeden hit Massaquoi on an out route to move the chains again. The offense still wanted to get into closer field goal range for Phil Dawson, and that is when Weeden was able to connect with Gordon again, this time on a deep out route, with seven seconds remaining.

  9. Cribbscamp_mediumTE Jordan Cameron has taken advantage of reps with Evan Moore out. (photo credit: Erik Daniel, Flickr)
  10. And...The Kick is BLOCKED! According to Jeff Schudel of the News Herald, after the Browns got into field goal range, cornerback Joe Haden raced around the edge and blocked Phil Dawson's ~39-yard field goal attempt. Haden was ruled to be offsides, though, and Dawson promptly connected on the 34-yard attempt to end practice.

  11. McCoy and Wallace's Drives: Things went a little smoother during Colt McCoy's two-minute drill. I'm not sure what order these plays took place in, but he connected with tight end Jordan Cameron over the middle and wide receiver Josh Cooper down the sideline, and running back Montario Hardesty had 2-3 plays of around 10+ yards to help set up a 36-yard field goal by Phil Dawson. The third-team offense, led by Seneca Wallace, had their drive end when Wallace was intercepted by JMJ on fourth down.

  12. Gordon, Massaquoi, and Little: During the two-minute drives for the first-team offense, the three-receiver sets included Josh Gordon and Mohamed Massaquoi as the outside receivers, with Greg Little in the slot. This is the same thing I noticed Sunday, and after Monday's practice, Shurmur spoke highly of those three individuals and seemed to indicate that he liked that personnel group. As a side note with Gordon, he reportedly had three drops during practice, but also made several nice grabs. Massaquoi continued his hot start, catching everything thrown his direction, including nice snag on a low pass that he dove for.

  13. Not So Hot for Schwartz Again: Once again, I'll emphasize that we'll be patient with players like rookie right tackle Mitchell Schwartz and let them develop. I noted that he struggled a bit in individual drills on Sunday. He was back with the first-team offense on Monday, but Waiting For Next Year also noticed that Schwartz had his fair share of struggles against defensive end Jabaal Sheard:

    One rookie that I was excited to see in person was RT Mitchell Schwartz. I’ll say this, he didn’t exactly blow me away. I had to keep reminding myself that this is just his third real NFL practice against live competition. When going against Jabaal Sheard one on one, he struggled. Now, Sheard is a very good defensive lineman with well above average speed and quickness. He made Schwartz look like a rookie on several plays. Sheard worked him outside a few plays in a row, then gave him a hesitation move and ran right passed him. Sheard got his hands on a couple of passes, tipping one for a pick. All working against Schwartz.

  14. Brownies: RB Montario Hardesty continued getting great reviews, and reports say he saw some reps with the first-team offense. ... Nothing new to report on the injury front, as the same players remained idle. ... WR Travis Benjamin continued to be involved, while there was nothing to report on WR Jordan Norwood. ... FB Brad Smelley had a false start. ... The official attendance for Monday was set at 2,343 fans. ... The Browns are off on Tuesday and will resume practice Wednesday afternoon at 2:00 PM.

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