The Cleveland Browns hosted their annual Family Fun Night at the stadium on Saturday. I attended the practice, and while it is always fun to have free admission into the stadium to watch the Browns, overall, the practice itself was somewhat boring. Usually, I have several pages in a notepad filled with material that I can report on DBN, but this year, I could barely fill one-fourth of a piece of paper.
This isn't a complaint about the quality of the team or the coaches themselves -- Rob Chudzinski had an agenda of things he wanted to work on, and he stuck to it. As a fan who would like to see more energetic drills (i.e. two-minute drills, red zone drills, or simulated series), I just wish Chudzinski's practice agenda for Saturday had not aligned with Family Fun Night. Oh well; I'll just have to wait until Thursday for that.
Given how practice was structured, I find it easier to just offer some extended commentary on certain positions, so that's how today's report will be structured. Let's get to what happened on Day 9 of training camp for the Cleveland Browns.
CLEVELAND BROWNS TRAINING CAMP REPORT - DAY 9 (8/3/13)
- Setting the Stage
If I may offer a brief stance on concessions, I'm not sure what I find more ridiculous -- the prices of the concession stands, or the fact that people just entered the facility and are already buying a hot dog. What a way to flush six bucks down the toilet.
: The gates were scheduled to open at 5:30 PM, and I arrived near the southwest entrance at 5:21 PM. There was a huge gathering of people, plus a line that extended in a good distance, who were waiting to get in. "Why stand in the sun?" I thought. I stood underneath the trees in the shade, away from everyone else. At about 5:33 PM, the crowd had already rushed in to grab their front row seats, as I then proceeded to walk in and get the seats I wanted all along -- square in the middle at the 50-yard line, but in the very last row of the lower bowl.
- Even Kicking Competition: If one thing was to come out of Saturday night's practice, I was hoping to form more of an opinion about who we should keep at kicker. That did not happen, as both guys turned in pretty even performances. Early on, each kicker -- Shayne Graham and Brandon Bogotay -- were taking basic practice reps, kicking from various depths off of a placeholder.
I thought it was interesting that when Graham practiced his kicks from about 30 yards, he would stand over the ball (he did not run up to it), and would use all leg/turning of his hips to muster the strength to get the field goal through. When he eventually got the ball back to 50-55 yards, he had resumed running up to the ball, but he was hitting them without any issues -- they were clearing the uprights with plenty of room to space.
Then, the Browns held a "kicking competition" drill. Each kicker was on opposite ends of the stadium with a snapper, holder, and non-pressuring offensive/defensive units in there, just like a real field goal. Both kickers attempted from 28, 33, 41, 46, 49 and 53 yards. Bogotay went 6-of-6, but Graham missed the final 53-yarder wide to the left. On kickoffs later in practice, both guys had ones that went short, and then ones that went to the back of the end zone.
- Weeden Sharp Overall, Backups Struggle: The Browns ran some 9-on-9 drills in which there were only three offensive linemen and two fewer defensive people up front. That is when the only interception of the day took place, as QB Brandon Weeden loaded up on a pass over the middle and was intercepted by CB Joe Haden. The pass was intended for WR Josh Gordon, and Haden, like he's been doing all camp, jumped in to undercut the route. This is something that has been a trend for Haden all camp -- getting a better read on the pass and picking it, rather than just turning and batting it away at the last second.
Besides that throw, Weeden looked clear and above backup quarterbacks for the type of throws that were called upon in practice. Weeden had good accuracy and was able to zip the ball to his receivers on a bunch of out routes, each of which would feature very tight coverage. Jason Campbell and Brian Hoyer, comparatively, had a lot of throws that missed receivers by a good amount, or even had me wondering, "who were they throwing to?"
- Not Much New at RB: It's hard to form an impression at the running back position when contact really isn't allowed and your top two running backs, Trent Richardson and Montario Hardesty, are idle with injuries. The Browns continued giving RB Chris Ogbonnaya the first couple of reps with the first-team offense, indicating that he is next-in-line on the depth chart. At the same time, with how often he gets swapped out, and the fact that he's not a big-play guy, I get the feeling that he's not really viewed as a guy who is ahead of RB Dion Lewis on the depth chart.
RB Chris Ogbonnaya goes for a catch in practice drills. Credit: DBN reader Aaron Gibson.
Because of the drills that were run, Lewis didn't have as many opportunities to showcase his talent. With that said, I recall liking what I saw from him at least three times. There was a 4th-and-1 play where QB Brandon Weeden hit him on a swing pass, and he scooted up the sideline for 8 yards. There was a run play mixed in somewhere in which he did a few of his shifty moves to get to the second level. He also fielded a kickoff and seemed to know where to go for the hole better than the other guys.
I have to wonder if re-signing with the Browns is a lost cause for RB Brandon Jackson. I remain a supporter of his, but after a week and a half of camp, he is still stuck as the No. 5 running back on the depth chart. When QB Jason Campbell came in for some brief team drill work, his first play was a handoff to Jackson, who took the carry through the line and bounced his run to the left for what would've been a gain of 25+ yards. He also looked like a good blocker in one-on-one pass rush drills, which is part of his reputation. RB Miguel Maysonet got a little bit of work late, but I didn't really form an impression of him. He was trying to be a gunner during special teams drills.
- A Tale of Two Spotlights at WR: On one hand, you have WR Greg Little -- a guy who has matured significantly and puts in the hard work, but seems to have a knack for knowing how to get the crowd into it. As the team was doing routine stretches to begin practice, somehow Little ended up with a football in his hands. As the rest of the team was stretching, he faked like he was going to throw the ball into the stands, and then proceeded to toss it up there anyway. Little didn't particularly have a lot of looks Saturday night, but there's no denying his ability to use his body to shield off defenders.
On the other hand, you have WR Josh Gordon. A play like this really sticks with you: in a situational drill, the Browns' offense was backed up in their own end zone, trying to get out of trouble. On one of the plays, QB Brandon Weeden finds Gordon wide open and hits him on a strike for what should be a 20-yard gain. Instead, Gordon just flat out drops it. He had a drop earlier too on a play that was slightly behind him, but still within reach. Gordon was also the target on the play Haden picked off Weeden on.
- Bess Knows What Has to be Done: When the Browns had three-receiver sets for the first-team offense, I think they always used Little, Gordon, and WR Davone Bess. Bess' new nickname should be "Mr. Out Route." When I said that Weeden was hitting receivers on out routes despite coverage, many of those throws were going to Bess. The pair seem to already have the necessary chemistry down pat, and it was nice to see most, if not all, of Bess' routes being run beyond the first-down marker.
- Norwood Struggles, Gurley Has a Mini-Spotlight: I almost hated having to write down, "point blank drop by No. 10, Jordan Norwood," on a pass thrown by QB Jason Campbell. "Can't I just sweep this under the rug?" I thought. Nope, I have to be fair. Norwood was wide open on a crossing route, and just booted it. He also had another drop around the same time, and there was a third play in which either he dropped it, or the diving defender barely tipped it away. Sadly, those drops erased a nice move and diving catch he had for a touchdown in 1-on-1 drills on S Josh Aubrey.
WR Tori Gurley, the well-traveled player who is desperately looking to land a final roster spot somewhere, had his most standout practice of camp. In 1-on-1 drills, he streaked down the right sideline and made a nice over-the-shoulder falling touchdown catch in the corner of the end zone with CB Leon McFadden in coverage. During 11-on-11 drills later in practice, while playing on either the second- or third-team offense, a pass was thrown up the left sideline to Gurley. He used his tall size to leap up and grab the ball, only to have CB Buster Skrine cut out his legs while he was in the air still. Gurley landed full force on a freefall on his backside, but held on to the ball. He got up and tried pumping the crowd up, as they were cheering him on. He was targeted on the very next play again and caught a pass over the middle.
As for a few other quick notes: WR Travis Benjamin had a nice stop on CB Joe Haden that had the veteran cornerback still retreating backward as Benjamin planted his foot in the ground. WR Josh Cooper seemed buried on the depth chart, as did everyone else besides the players already mentioned.
- Not Much at Tight End: Based on the two practices I have attended, if you had not known that Rob Chudzinski was a tight end lover, there would be nothing on the field to indicate that tight ends are supposed to be a big part of this offense. I can't force myself to be concerned, because again, the coaches have an agenda for these practice sessions, and that doesn't necessarily include, "let's make sure each tight end has a chance to shine."
Still, the visibility of all of the tight ends Saturday night was pretty much nil. TE Kellen Davis, known for being a blocking tight end, actually had a nice diving touchdown grab in the corner of the end zone late in practice from QB Brian Hoyer. Davis seems to be the third tight end to me, based on how his practice reps have been going.
- Down in the Trenches, and Front Seven: Again, I hate evaluating offensive and defensive linemen, and pass-rushing linebackers in practice. There are several instances in which a pass rusher looks like they may get to the quarterback, but they then completely stop in their tracks, as instructed, to protect the cornerback. That means you also don't get to see whether the offensive lineman actually got beat, or if they would've been able to recover and intentionally let a player swing out wide (so their quarterback can step up in the pocket). Therefore, my notes on the offensive line and the front seven are rather slim again.
John Greco and Shawn Lauvao continued operating at the starting guard positions, while Jason Pinkston was on the second-team line at right guard. OLB Quentin Groves was one of the guys who looked to have the natural ability down pat for pass rushing against tight ends and running backs in 1-on-1 drills. He was also one of the guys trying to get fans into the action during stretching routines, and recognized a screen pass coming later on.
I'm intrigued by what I see in terms of quickness from OLB Barkevious Mingo and OLB Paul Kruger in terms of pass rushing, but again, the "stopping so I don't hit the quarterback" routine prevents any further assessment of them. One thing that stood out, and only because of the "hole" he seemed to be in pre-camp, was that ILB James-Michael Johnson got completely stonewalled in 1-on-1 blocking drills by RB Brandon Jackson.
- Pleased With the Cornerback Depth: Please, do not let anything happen to CB Joe Haden. The guy continued having a great camp in front of the masses on Saturday, challenging every receiver, and recording the only interception of the night, as mentioned earlier. CB Chris Owens and CB Buster Skrine are neck-and-neck for being the other starting cornerback. Not that he's been bad or anything, but based on the lack of reps CB Leon McFadden is receiving, I would say that he's not even in the mix for an opening-day starting role.
During team drills, CB Buster Skrine jumped an out route thrown by QB Jason Campbell that was intended for WR Jordan Norwood. Skrine deflected the ball but really wishes he could've snagged the ball, because it would've been a walk-in pick six. I also got to see the physicality and fearlessness from Owens that I had heard other reporters comment on throughout camp.
- Bademosi's Hands Aren't His Friend: Even though he has been in the mix for the vacant kick returner role, I won't think S Johnson Bademosi had the leg up. He booted the handling of two kickoffs, and we've already heard numerous reports in camp about him dropping a bunch of potential interceptions. With SS T.J. Ward still out and FS Tashaun Gipson doing team drills on a limited basis, Bademosi and Aubrey again for the bulk of the work at safety.
- Highlight of Practice: You have probably already heard about this, but the highlight of practice truly was the Browns closing out practice with QB Brandon Weeden handing the ball off to a 5-year old kid who has had complications with cancer, and the team marching their way down to the end zone for him to score a touchdown. The play also involved NT Phil Taylor diving scarily at the kid, causing him to fumble the ball before picking it up and continuing his march down the field. Watch the whole play and story unfold here.
- Brownies: Before practice, I thought it was funny to look through my binoculars and see ESPN Cleveland's Tony Grossi signing jerseys. ... Players doing some gunner work on special teams included WR Jordan Norwood, CB Chris Owens, CB Johnson Bademosi, RB Miguel Maysonet, and WR Naaman Roosevelt. ... CB Abdul Kanneh had a nice pass break-up in 1-on-1 drills, and I also caught a good block by TE Travis Tannahill in 1-on-1 pass blocking drills.
QB Jason Campbell had a chance to hit WR Cordell Roberson for a nice completion, but he sailed it over him. ... DE Billy Winn seemed to jump offsides on one play. ... FB Owen Marecic seemed to miss a block on an early run play, and about three defensive players just ate up the running back in the backfield. ... The next session open to practice is Monday at 4 PM EST in Berea, and the Browns play the Rams this coming Thursday. ... Attendance at the stadium reached 24,131 fans, which was up from the 19,412 fans who attended in 2012.
Photos & Videos from Twitter
The official team site posted their recap video here.
Link Collection / Training Camp Sources
- This was my personal account today. I will try to make it out to Berea one more time before camp comes to a close.