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Cleveland Browns Training Camp Report: Day 1 - Let's Get to Work

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Berea, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns head coach Mike Pettine bumps fists with Cleveland Browns running back Terrance West (20) during training camp at the Cleveland Browns training facility.
Berea, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns head coach Mike Pettine bumps fists with Cleveland Browns running back Terrance West (20) during training camp at the Cleveland Browns training facility.
Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

The Cleveland Browns officially opened their gates to training camp Saturday at 8:30 AM. This is the first year that a registration process has been in place in Berea, and registration was supposed to be capped at 4,000 fans.

After practice, the Browns announced that 3,702 fans attended the session, which is higher than any other opening-camp session I can remember. I'd venture to guess that more fans might have showed up had their not been a registration system, but I think it's a good idea to control the crowd size so things don't get more crunched than they already are in Berea.

For those of you who are new readers to Dawgs By Nature, here is how our training camp recaps work: I go around and digest all of the reports and tweets made throughout the day by fans and media in attendance, and then summarize the noteworthy items in bullet point format. The original sources for all of the information used will be linked at the bottom of this post. I will attend a few practices myself, and when that happens, I will give more personal reports.

CLEVELAND BROWNS TRAINING CAMP REPORT - DAY 1 (7/26/14)

  1. Playing it Smart With Gordon: There are a lot of rumors floating out there when it comes to the fate of Browns WR Josh Gordon, but the answers will come soon -- perhaps a little under a week from now. Gordon is a talented enough of a receiver that he can step in any time and deliver, just as he did after his suspension in 2013. That could be a justified reason why he received 3rd-team snaps on Day 1 of practice:
    Whether the Browns are optimistic or not, they need to evaluate the other receivers on the roster as much as possible to see who should make the final roster in the event Gordon misses significant time. Gordon did see some reps with the other units, but reports say that most of his work came with the third-team offense.

  2. Austin Makes an Early Impression: Plenty of eyes will be on veteran wide receivers Miles Austin and Nate Burleson this camp to see if they can contribute in 2014. Austin's reps will be on a pitch count this camp to keep him healthy, but there were no restrictions on him Saturday, and he ended up having a great day.

    After practice, head coach Mike Pettine said, "Miles Austin especially jumped out today." The media in attendance said that he ran his routes well and caught passes in traffic. No one has ever doubted that Austin can be a very good receiver -- the issue has been whether he can stay healthy or not. Right now, he appears healthy, and that's a great sign for Cleveland.

  3. Don't Catch the Greg Little Syndrome: One thing you don't want to do with your new club is start dropping passes right away, but that's exactly what veteran Nate Burleson did in 11-on-11 drills, according to reports. Granted, one day of a couple of drops won't kill Burleson, and Pettine still had good words about Burleson after practice. If they become a recurring issue though and somebody like Anthony Armstrong continues to rise to the occasion, though, you never know what can happen when the 53-man rosters are named.

  4. Terrance West Praised...for the Good Hands? Personally, I've always felt that it's incredibly difficult to judge running backs for their running ability in training camp because contact is limited. Therefore, when running backs make headlines, it's usually because of how they do as a receiving back -- that's how Dion Lewis turned heads in 2013. Well, on Day 1 of 2014 training camp, it ended up being Terrance West who turned heads for his receiving ability.

    In particular, West drew praise for a one-handed catch on a deep pass, and then a leaping overhead catch on another deep pass. Pettine jokingly said that he, "had to double-check his roster card to make sure he was looking at the right number," in reference to him being surprised about West's catching ability.

  5. Some Things Don't Change: I don't have an agenda against ILB Craig Robertson (okay, well, maybe I do), but I will if his coverage ability doesn't show marked improvement this camp. The good news about West's aforementioned leaping grab is that it shows an impressive skill set that he has. The bad news is that it came at the expense of Robertson. According to Kevin Jones of Browns.com, West "put on a shimmy shake with his feet, essentially crossing up Robertson like a point guard would in basketball -- the juke move freed up West, who hauled in the catch from Manziel." Spruce up those coverage abilities, Robertson!

  6. Experience Leads the Depth Chart on Day 1: Two of the biggest defensive position battles in camp will be Craig Robertson vs. Chris Kirksey at ILB and Buster Skrine vs. Justin Gilbert at CB. On Day 1 of practice, the "veterans" remained with the first-team defense.

  7. The QB Report: Rather than leading off with the quarterback stuff, I thought I'd let it build up until later in the report. QB Brian Hoyer took all of the first-team reps on Day 1 of practice, and he drew nothing but positive reviews. At the start of practice, "Let's go Hoyer" chants broke out, and the local product reportedly drew bigger cheers from the crowd than Manziel did.

    Hoyer was wearing a brace on his surgically-repaired knee, and he said that he's going to wear it all year. The good news was that he practiced without limitation and "looked comfortable standing in the face of a pass rush." On one play, Hoyer faced pressure from ILB Chris Kirksey, but still threaded a pass down the middle to TE Jordan Cameron.

    It wasn't all good for Hoyer, who had a couple of interceptions, but the edge he has over Manziel is that he's a quick decision maker. That's the same asset he brought to the Browns a year ago, which helped alleviate some of the protection problems the offensive line faced when QB Brandon Weeden would hold on to the ball too damn long.

    As for QB Johnny Manziel, he showed some of your typical rookie rust, but the media noted that his strength was using his mobility to make plays outside the pocket with his arm, which kept linebackers off-balance. Both quarterbacks are running the same set of plays right now, but Pettine says that will change over time:

  8. Pettine's Bold Conditioning Decision? The Browns began training camp with several key players on the active/non-football injury list for conditioning reasons: NT Phil Taylor, DE Billy Winn, TE Gary Barnidge, and FB MarQueis Gray. Until they pass the tests (which Tony Grossi describes here), they won't be activated. The bad news about such a practice? It might have led to an injury to Winn, who reportedly might have a partial tear in his hamstring for "pressing" in an effort to pass the conditioning test. Winn is the only significant injury concern at this point in time.

  9. Mingo Makes Early Impact: Who is ready for a sophomore breakout? According to Pat McManamon of ESPN, OLB Barkevious Mingo was the defensive star on the first day of camp. He intercepted a pass thrown by QB Connor Shaw after having good coverage on a tight end. McManamon also says that Mingo's pass rush in practice led to another interception (for ball-hawk S Tashaun Gipson), and he also batted a ball away. Mingo reportedly received reps at right outside linebacker -- where he was last year -- while Jabaal Sheard and Paul Kruger had a rotation going on the left side of the field.

  10. Offensive Line Reps: It hasn't been disclosed what's wrong with him, but OG John Greco isn't practicing. He's on the non-football injury list, but not for conditioning reasons. With him being out, Joel Bitinio worked at left guard, showing that he's recovered from the ankle sprain he suffered earlier this offseason. Garrett Gilkey took reps at right guard, which again seems to confirm that it's between Gilkey and Greco to see who starts at the position. In terms of other depth positions, OT Chris Faulk reportedly saw second-team reps behind right tackle Mitchell Schwartz.

  11. Concluding Early: Practice ended 30 minutes early, and Pettine explained why: "We script a certain amount of plays within the time periods and when we’re not repeating them and the tempo's good and getting in and out of the huddle, that'll trim some time off."

  12. Non-Typical Observations: Some of the best reports to read are the ones that come more so from fans rather than the traditional media. Brandon Howard posted a lot of nice nuggets on Twitter, but here are two that stood out, praising CB Pierre Desir and WR Taylor Gabriel:

  13. Brownies: CB Buster Skrine sprinted behind RB Ben Tate and knocked the ball away for a fumble. ... WR Anthony Armstrong was among the first four receivers seeing reps. ... WR Travis Benjamin and WR Charles Johnson were both practicing, as nobody had to begin camp on the physically unable to perform list. ... One day after somersaulting over the finish line of his conditioning test, SS Donte Whitner was right back to practicing. ... Grossi says that the first fan in line waiting for the gates to open was camped out at 2:30 AM.

    After WR Chandler Jones caught a pass from QB Brian Hoyer near the sideline, both Jones and CB Joe Haden spilled into the first row of fans. ... Tom Withers of the Associated Press noted how fast CB Justin Gilbert was since he was able to stay pace with WR Andrew Hawkins on two fly patterns. ... I was desperately seeking out any tweets about RB Dion Lewis, but they weren't there to be found. ... CB Isaiah Trufant was seeing some nickel back work in 7-on-7 drills. ... The defense in general had the edge on Day 1, as defenses typically do on the first day of camp. ... Day 2 of practice is scheduled for 9:30 AM on Sunday (gates open at 8:30 AM).

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