Chomps says hello, Browns fans! I got up bright-and-early Friday morning to head on out to Berea for my second training camp session of the summer. The attendance was announced at 3,391 fans, which is a high amount but actually the lowest-attended camp I've been to since 2012.
Today's training camp report is going to be structured a little different. Usually for the Family Day event every year, I discuss my notes in chronological order. I can't do that this year since I'm not going to Akron on Saturday, but I'll still roll with the chronological report to keep things fresh (except for the "Brownies" bullet point). Let's get to my notes from Day 6 of training camp.
CLEVELAND BROWNS TRAINING CAMP REPORT - DAY 6 (8/1/14)
- Setting the Scene, Part 1: For those who read my personal report from Day 2 of training camp, this "setting the scene" section is an extension of that. I applied for an "easy pass" earlier in the week and got it for Friday's practice. It's supposed to allow you in to practice before the gates open at 8:30 AM; or, even after the gates open, you can still avoid the long lines and just pass through the "express line" on the far left of the entrance.
My brother and I walked on to Beech Street at 8:28 AM. There were two Papa John's vehicles that were leaving the area from where we were headed, which seemed unusual. We saw the huge line of fans in the street, but we stayed on the far left sidewalk, walking freely up to the gate. My brother was asking, "are you sure we can just go past everybody, isn't that kind of ridiculous?" In my head, I was thinking, "I wonder how many of these people think we're cutting them."
- Setting the Scene, Part 2: Right as we got up to the front, the main gates opened. There wasn't a single person in the "easy pass express line." Our bags were checked, ticket scanned, and we were inside right at 8:31 AM. Upon entering, workers were saying, "don't forget to get your free slice of pizza!"
I am a sucker for free food -- I think I made a living off of it in my college years. I scurried over and grabbed a fairly large-sized piece of pizza, courtesy of Papa John's (that explains the two cars I saw earlier). I eat a lot of pizza, but I think that's the earliest I've ever had a slice, and it was oh-so-tasty. Unfortunately, practice was being held on Field 2 again, which is the one where fans are furthest from the action.
We picked a different area to sit with our foldable chairs -- behind the white picket fences, which is more in line with mid-field. Of course, the offense-defense drills ended up being on the south side of the end zone today (away from the building), which is where we sat Sunday. Oh, well -- the view we had Friday morning still wasn't too bad, all things considered.
- Leonhard Getting in Work Early: It's tough to project whether S Jim Leonhard will have a roster spot this year. On Thursday, it was indicated that he plans on retiring after this season. Right before practice started at 9:30 AM, Leonhard was off to the side, away from his teammates. There were a couple of ball boys throwing a football to each other and allowing Leonhard to practice his technique of knocking the ball away each time as a defender.
It's one of those things that reminds me of Leonhard's "veteran status" -- a willingness to kind of go off and do his own thing. He feels comfortable on a Mike Pettine team, but now the question is whether Pettine needs Leonhard anymore or if he sees more upside in keeping the likes of Jordan Poyer and Josh Aubrey.
- Anyone But Edwin Baker on ST: One of the first drills of practice involved players returning simulated punts and/or kickoffs from the JUGGS machine. Some of the players involved included RB Dion Lewis, RB Edwin Baker, WR Travis Benjamin, WR Andrew Hawkins, WR Anthony Armstrong, WR Willie Snead, WR Jonathan Krause, and CB Buster Skrine.
One player stood out in the drill (which only involved fielding the kicks), and that was Baker. Unfortunately for Baker, it was for the wrong reasons. I saw him muff the kick/punt three times. The next closest might have been Krause, who appeared to have one go off of him. All I know is that there is no way in hell Baker sniffs return duties on gameday.
- Whitner Not Afraid to Deliver a Pop: Thursday was a "live tackling" practice, and Saturday's family day will feature "live tackling" as well. The teams were in full pads on Friday, but tackling was not permitted. That didn't stop SS Donte Whitner from squaring up early in 7-on-7 drills to meet RB Terrance West head on. You knew both players were still "taking it easy," but if that were a preseason game, it would've been pretty awesome to find out which player would've come out on top.
- 1-on-1 WR/DB Drills: These drills were taking place on the other field, but because of my seat location today, I could at least see some of the action. WR Nate Burleson made a couple of note catches in which the ball just seemed to stick right on his shoulder with the defensive back on top of him. WR Anthony Armstrong showed off his speed against a defensive back on a deep ball and made a nice falling catch.
WR Andrew Hawkins and WR Taylor Gabriel used quickness to their advantage to gain significant seperation. WR Willie Snead had two plays where the quarterbacks couldn't connect with him, but it was hard to tell if that was due to Snead not making great plays on the ball, or if the passes just happened to be errant when it was his turn.
- Gunner Candidates: The Browns did a drill where literally a boatload of players took turns at the gunner position, attempting to stop Spencer Lanning punts from landing in the end zone (i.e. their goal was to down it at the 5 yard line). Listing everyone wouldn't be useful information, but I did take note of the first two players who began the drill: S Johnson Bademosi and CB Isaiah Trufant. Could they be candidates for the primary gunner positions?
While the gunners were practicing the downing of punts, WR Travis Benjamin and CB Joe Haden were taking turns fielding the punts or waiving fair catch on them. Benjamin actually muffed one punt, and then immediately seemed to playfully make a motion with his hand as if to say, "where's the flag, the gunner interfered with me."
- First Set of 11-on-11's Begin Ugly: The first set of 11-on-11 drills didn't go too well for either quarterback. QB Brian Hoyer began with a handoff, but then he called a timeout before the start of the next play. When the next play came, there was no where for him to pass the ball, and after a long time (probably would be a game sack), he just tossed the ball into the stands.
The uglier part came when QB Johnny Manziel came in under center. WR Taylor Gabriel wasn't very open -- there were three orange jerseys around him (the defense was wearing them) -- but Manziel forced it anyway and S Josh Aubrey jumped the route with a nifty one-handed interception. Zac Jackson of FOX Sports Ohio, who probably had a better look than I did, said that Manziel was "unhurried and through the ball off of his back foot."
Other notes I scribbled around this time: WR Travis Benjamin had a nice open-field juke off of a swing pass, and WR Miles Austin had a high ball deflect off of him and up into the air. The deflection off Austin hit the ground, but it's one of those balls that normally finds a defender. The quarterbacks also seemed to be a bit erratic during 7-on-7 red zone drills.
- Safety Punts & Kickoffs: I got to see something I've never seen at a Browns training camp session before: the safety punt! Spencer Lanning only did two safety punts, but it's always cool to see a little something new in practice. After that, Billy Cundiff came on and did a bunch of kickoffs. Players were practicing running down the field, but the drill pretty much just involved Cundiff booming the ball out of the end zone every time.
- Offense Gains the Momentum: The special teams drills must have given the offense a much-needed lift, at least when Hoyer was under center, because for the rest of practice, they turned things up a notch and it was a pleasure to watch. I took notes on the 11-on-11 drills, which are listed below. Then, there was a brief water break before they went to 11-on-11 red zone drills. I had to leave at 11:40 AM, so I missed the red zone stuff.
- 11-on-11 w/ Hoyer: Here are the plays I saw with QB Brian Hoyer in 11-on-11 drills:
Play 1: Hoyer attempted a pass to WR Willie Snead on an out route that fell incomplete. It was a good throw, but CB Buster Skrine kind of mugged Snead and was flagged for either interference or illegal contact.
Play 2: Right at the snap, Hoyer didn't hesitate: he whipped a pass to WR Miles Austin at the line of scrimmage from the slot position. It only gained a couple of yards, but I suspect this was one of those run-adjustment type of plays.
Play 3: Hoyer dropped back and fired the ball to WR Anthony Armstrong on a quick slant. It was a tight window, but the pair hooked up for what would've been a nice gain.
Play 4: On Hoyer's final attempt, he got rid of the ball quickly to WR Willie Snead over the middle. Snead was open for a nice 5 yard gain, but he wasn't looking for the ball and didn't make the catch. It seemed like Snead was too busy worrying about OLB Paul Kruger coming into his view.
- 11-on-11 w/ Manziel: Here are the plays I saw with QB Johnny Manziel in 11-on-11 drills:
Play 1: Manziel handed off to FB Ray Agnew for a short gain.
Play 2: Manziel threw toward the left side of the field for WR Andrew Hawkins. I kind of had my head down writing notes, so I'm not certain if the ball was behind Hawkins or if he dropped it. The bottom line: incomplete pass.
Play 3: Manziel tried to get the ball to WR Miles Austin, but the pass fell incomplete.
Play 4: OLB Paul Kruger got some pressure off the edge, and Manziel did a nice job moving around in the pocket to avoid the sack. He rolled out to his right and fired a sideline pass to WR Marlon Moore. CB Justin Gilbert read it perfectly and broke up the pass -- if you ask Gilbert, he'll probably tell you he should have picked it. Not a great day for Manziel, to say the least.
- 11-on-11 w/ Thigpen: Here are the plays I saw with QB Tyler Thigpen in 11-on-11 drills:
Play 1: Thigpen threw a pass to TE Emmanuel Ogbuehi, but S Josh Aubrey basically bear hugged him before the pass arrived, drawing a flag from the officials.
Play 2: I'm not 100% certain what happened here, but after I was writing notes on the previous play, I looked up to see Thigpen running up the field to his left for a few yards. Someone behind me uttered that there was a bad snap or exchange, so I'll roll with that.
Play 3: Thigpen threw was looked to be a Bang 8 route to WR Charles Johnson and the duo connected. I know the Johnson hype is still there, but from the two training camp sessions I've been to, his reps seem quite limited, as if he's part of the third stringers.
Play 4: Thigpen overthrew an out route to WR Travis Benjamin, but the coverage appeared to be there anyway.
- Skip Connor Shaw: Let's just skip QB Connor Shaw, because he's not important (no, seriously -- they just moved right from Thigpen back to Hoyer).
- 11-on-11 w/ Hoyer: Here are the plays I saw with QB Brian Hoyer in his second attempt at 11-on-11 drills:
Play 1: WR Miles Austin had a mismatch against a linebacker, and he made him pay. Austin faked a move to the outside and then went back to the inside. Hoyer timed the break beautifully and already had the football on its way for a nice completion.
Play 2: Hoyer went deep for WR Andrew Hawkins, who had a step on his defender. I thought it was going to be a completion, but the ball just barely fell out of the reach of Hawkins.
Play 3: Hoyer's final play of 11-on-11's was a strike to WR Anthony Armstrong on a deep slant route. If we total Hoyer's performance in the past two 11-on-11 drills, he was 4-of-6 for pretty good yardage.
- 11-on-11 w/ Manziel: Here are the plays I saw with QB Johnny Manziel in his second attempt at 11-on-11 drills:
Play 1: This play was actually kind of a negative for Manziel. CB Joe Haden immediately fell down at the start of the play, and the fans gasped as WR Jonathan Krause was wide open down the field. Manziel didn't see it whatsoever though -- he was looking to the left, while Krause was on the right. Eventually, after some scrambling, Manziel saw Krause and lobbed the ball up to him for the easy completion. What was Haden doing in, anyway? Per Tony Zarrella of 19 Action News, he was subbing in for CB Justin Gilbert for a play.
Play 2: Manziel threw a smooth pass from the pocket on an out route to WR Miles Austin. The crowd let out a cheer, but I don't think it was one of those sarcastic cheers -- I think they just overreacted to finally seeing a good throw from Manziel.
Play 3: Manziel rolled out and hit WR Willie Snead for a short gain. After going 0-of-3 in his first set, he went 3-of-3 in this set to finish 3-of-6. Hoyer was the more polished quarterback, but it'll still be fun to watch Manziel grow as the preseason comes along.
- One More Slice & Coaches Fielding Punts: As I stated earlier, I had to pack up and leave at 11:40 AM, about 20 minutes before practice was scheduled to end. The Browns were doing some 11-on-11 red zone drills, and from the sounds of things, I believe the offense was performing well.
As I was exiting, Papa John's was begging fans to take the remaining slices of pizza that they had. You bet I took another slice! Local media reports state that after I left, the Browns had another competition for the orange jerseys. This time, it involved assistant coaches fielding punts from Spencer Lanning. Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan must have done a better job than the defensive side, because the offense will wear the orange jerseys for the first time this Monday.
- Camp Chatter from the Fans: I always try to listen for the logical or absurd "camp chatter" from opposing fans around me. Here is a sample:
(1) There was more logical talk than absurd talk among the section of fans around me Friday. One kid was asking his dad (or guardian) why the Browns needed so many players in camp who won't make the team, and the elder fan explained that teams want to see if they can find any diamonds in the rough. Good answer -- although I would've also added that you need the bodies to eat up minutes during the preseason games.
(2) One fan said that the Browns' defense has always been pretty good -- at least better than the offense every year. I assume he was talking about the post-1999 Browns, in which case both statements are not true. We've had some horrid run defenses, and in 2007, the Browns' offense lit it up with QB Derek Anderson, while the defense was terrible.
(3) This one had me laughing out loud, from the same father-son pair from earlier. Out of no where, I just heard the kid exclaim, "Is that Seneca Wallace!?!" to which the father laughed too and replied, "No, that's Brian Hoyer, you goof."
(4) Fans were confused again, wondering who was throwing those high kickoffs/punts (it was the JUGGS machine).
(5) "Hey look, there's Tony Grossi," said a fan nearby. I whipped out my camera and snapped a shot just before he got out of the frame. I also saw Ken Carman and Adam the Bull at practice, and a fan did Carmen's signature "yeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhh!"
- Injury Updates: NT Phil Taylor remained out. OT Martin Wallace, WR Chandler Jones, ILB Darius Eubanks, and ILB Tank Carder were also idle.
- Brownies: With LT Joe Thomas having the day off and Wallace being idle, Paul McQuistan filled in at left tackle. ... Media reports say that OG John Greco received some of the first-team reps at right guard over OG Garrett Gilkey. ... A brief confrontation broke out near the start of camp, but didn't amount to much. ... QB Johnny Manziel was flagged for flipping the ball over the goal posts after a touchdown. ... WR Anthony Armstrong tossed the ball into the grandstand after he caught a touchdown. ... The orange jerseys look cool in person. ... QB Johnny Manziel had the neon shoes on early, but took them off again. ... The zip line was right behind me, which I took a photo of below before I left.
The view from our seats on Friday at Browns training camp.
Evidence: Tony Grossi!
Link Collection / Training Camp Sources
There are no sources today; anything that I sourced, I found on Twitter and tried to give appropriate credit. The next training camp session I am scheduled to attend is this Wednesday, August 6th.