CLEVELAND BROWNS TRAINING CAMP REPORT - DAY 9 (8/8/16)
1. Live in Berea: The Cleveland Browns were live in Berea on Monday. It’s the first time they’ve had a practice in Berea since Friday, as they were at Ohio Stadium on Saturday and then off on Sunday. The diagram when you first enter practice indicated that the main action would be on Field 4, which is the one closest to the entrance and if you turn to the right. My brother and I camped our chairs in the end zone (as seen in the photo above) an hour and fifteen minutes before practice was set to begin. There was no shade, so we lived through our annual sunburn.
2. Joe Haden Returns from the PUP: I had left home this morning around 11:30 AM, so I missed the news a couple of minutes later that the team had activated him off the physically unable to perform list. My first knowledge of the situation came when practice started and special teams drills were taking place on Field 4. The coaches had small soccer balls (instead of footballs) that they would kick upward and have individual players simulate as though they had blocked the kick, and Haden was one of the players taking part in that drill. I couldn’t get good video from my device, but here’s what Hayden Grove of The OBR got of him doing a drill:
When it came time to stretch, Haden was in the final row, basically by himself. As head coach Hue Jackson made the rounds during stretching and Haden had just finished his set, they embraced and Haden was visibly pumped up — I don’t know exactly what he said, but it was something to the effect of a “Let’s Go!” After that, Haden’s day might as well have been done. During some of the formation-teaching drills, Haden put a colored cap on his helmet to fill the placeholder of a wide receiver, but he’s not doing team drills yet. After practice, Jackson said is still may be a little bit of time before they put him in team drills, as they want to continue to ease him back.
3. Griffin’s First Practice as the Starter: As you should know by now, this morning, Robert Griffin III was officially named the team’s starting quarterback. Reports have had him progressively getting better over the past few practices, so I was excited to see him potentially at his peek. Unfortunately, Monday’s practice was anything but that in my opinion. It wasn’t just Griffin, though, as I saw all of the quarterbacks make inaccurate passes — some high and some low (ball placement), some ahead of the receiver, and some picked or nearly picked by the defense. “This can’t be what I’ve been reading about the past two weeks, is it?” Thankfully, Ken Carman of 92.3 the Fan confirmed that it did appear to be a sloppy practice, compared to what we’ve seen to date:
Been a sloppy day of practice— Ken Carman (@KenCarman) August 8, 2016
4. Cringe Moment for RG III: There was one play in particular that made me almost cringe with QB Robert Griffin III. He took a snap about 15-20 yards away from the end zone, and when he didn’t like what he saw, he tucked the ball and ran it up the middle. When he was about 5 yards away from the end zone, there was a defender coming from the side and somewhat stumbling low. If they wanted to, our defender could’ve dove right at the knee area of Griffin from the side. Of course, our defender pulled up because this is practice, but I am having visions of that happening in a preseason game and then Josh McCown becoming our starting quarterback again by default.
5. Austin Pasztor Gets Work With First-Team: When the Browns were practicing drills with the offensive linemen cracking pads with the defensive linemen, I tried to make out who was playing center and right tackle today. Garth Gerhart was still at center, but Cameron Erving is back to some light work and should be returning to team drills soon.
When I saw the right tackle, I saw No. 67. I scanned my roster shot, thinking it might be Spencer Drango, but I saw that it was Austin Pasztor instead. I double-checked, and sure enough, Pasztor was at right tackle with the ones today. After practice, head coach Hue Jackson said this about the position: “It’s unsettled until I say it’s settled. I don’t mean that in a bad way. We’re just going to keep finding combinations.”
6. Offensive Notes: For much of the day, the offensive drills were taking place on Field 3, far away from me, while the defensive drills were taking place on Field 4. When the sides joined together on Field 4, there wasn’t a lot to take away specifically; I could only be general in my notes:
- The running backs seemed to have success getting to the outside, but this might be due to a lack of defensive backs to one side on certain drills.
- Terrelle Pryor looked the part of a wide receiver. One of my favorite sights of practice was seeing him line up beside Taylor Gabriel in a formation, because you’ve got one guy at 6-4 and the other guy at 5-8.
- It’s unfortunate that I couldn’t see Corey Coleman in action, as he was being rested (hamstring) again. In his place, Rashard Higgins looked just as billed: a guy who is getting open and catching everything thrown his way. I could see him giving Andrew Hawkins a run for his money and potentially even his roster spot if he continues to have a solid camp.
- I was waiting to see Connor Hamlett or E.J. Bibbs targeted, but I didn’t see much of that. Gary Barnidge looked to be a favorite target of the quarterbacks again, and he was often being targeted in traffic.
7. Plays to Watch For: I couldn’t tell if it was RB Duke Johnson or one of our smaller wide receivers, but Cleveland ran a slip screen with the far outside receiver coming in to catch the pass and the other receivers on that side blocking, and it worked well. Could it be something we try against the Packers this Friday?
Also, near the goal line on one drill, when the Browns broke the huddle, QB Robert Griffin III motioned to the far right (next to where I was sitting) and WR Terrelle Pryor lined up at quarterback in Shotgun. Pryor took the snap and ran it up the middle for the “touchdown” (I put TD in quotes because the defense wasn’t trying to kill Pryor).
8. Mingo an Impressive Specimen: After all of these years, it’s still just awe-inspiring to see OLB Barkevious Mingo up close and personal. His size and speed combination is unlike anyone else on our team, which he showed off in individual drills. He used his length to swat away a sideline pass at the line of scrimmage from QB Robert Griffin III at one point.
9. Coons Misses 3 FG’s in Competition: Last year, Travis Coons and Carey Spear could not miss a single kick in practice or the preseason. It was actually quite remarkable. This year, the pressure has been on Coons, especially with Patrick Murray in camp. We’ve already seen a few recent slip-ups by Coons, but it was nothing compared to the egg he laid on Monday.
After 11-on-11 drills were done, the Browns ended practice by having a field goal competition between Coons and Spear. I’m not quite sure what distances they started and ended at, but I’ll guess it was around the 35-yard line and ending around the 55-yard line. Coons missed his first attempt. About two kicks later, I’m guessing around 45 yards, Coons missed again. When they got to the long-distance one (someone online reported it at 54 yards), Coons missed again. After the third miss, they let him try again, and he made his final kick to end practice on a “high” note. Murray didn’t miss any of his kicks.
You hate to put so much weight into one practice day, but this is a make-or-miss league. Imagine if this was Sunday and Coons cost us the game with an off day. Right now, I’d have to imagine that Murray has the edge in the competition.
10. Camp Chatter: For the first hour or so of practice, there wasn’t any chatter around me. It was very quiet. Then, a little behind me and to my right, a father (presumably) and his two kids had arrived and were driving me and a couple of the (female) fans to my left nuts.
First, it was clear the kids didn’t want to be there, yet the father kept berating them for it with quotes like, “come on, I would’ve killed to see this stuff when I was little,” or, “I bet you know all the players’ numbers in your video games but you don’t know anyone here.” Then, because the kids weren’t paying attention, every time an 11-on-11 play was about to happen, the father would say, “The guys in orange are the quarterbacks, look!” or “They’re about to run a play, look guys!”
Every time a breeze came by, the father would say, “oh man, that breeze feels so good!” He was also telling his kids to pay attention because they needed to learn whether they were going to play wide receiver or tackle. The comments in isolation aren’t so bad, but it was the collective, non-stop, and repetitive nature of the comments. When they left temporarily at one point, the ladies to my left quietly said to themselves, “The guy just won’t shut the fuck up.”
Other chatter came from the players. At the start of practice, some Bon Jovi (Livin’ on a Prayer) and other similarly-themed music, which is different than the typical rap music I’ve heard blaring in past years. Some of the Browns’ safeties were laughing, saying, “man, what are we listening to?” One of them starting following along with the lyrics, to which another jokingly quipped, “man, you know the lyrics to this?”
Someone else said that in Baltimore, there is a lottery system to determine who gets to see practice. The father from earlier then kept harping to his kids how lucky they were to be this close to the action. Off-and-on, he’d mini-snap and somewhat yell to them to pay attention to the action. After practice, I could tell that he was basically using his kids to get autographs for him too, including from Doug Dieken, who was right next to us after practice.