Cleveland Browns Training Camp Report - Day 15 (8/15/17)
1. Live in Berea: Tuesday was the day I made my annual trip to Berea to be on-hand for a session of Browns training camp! To my recollection, this is the latest into camp that I’ve ever been to a session, and the first time I’ve been to one after a preseason game was already held.
My complaints about the setup in Berea in previous years are well-documented. There weren’t enough bleachers for people to sit in, so I started bringing a camp chair. But in order to get a good spot in the grass, that meant I’d have to get there when the gates opened, which is a full hour before practice begins. Baking in the sun for an hour, and then the two hours of practice, made me start thinking, “Why the hell did I even come here again?”, not to mention that the low level of seating, and players often obstructing my view, made it difficult to catch the actual action.
But that was the past! All of the changes made to Berea this year looked and sounded wonderful, and boy did they deliver for the most enjoyable camp experience I’ve ever had.
2. Arriving in the Nick of Time: Practice was set to start at 3:25 PM, and that’s exactly when I arrived. The first 1,000 fans were set to receive a free “United by Stripes” Browns T-Shirt, sponsored by University Hospitals. I’m a sucker for free stuff, so I was hoping that my “late” (by my standards) arrival wouldn’t cost me the shirt. After our tickets were scanned at the entrance, I got a double dosage of good news:
- There was a dwindling, but still enough, supply of large and extra large shirts.
- Practice was being held on the field with the new 1,200-seat grandstand.
We were hoping to get a seat at the top of the grandstand, just in front of the standing room area. To our surprise, the top row had the most spots, despite it (in my opinion) having the best view with the most legroom. The cherry on top of the cake? After about ten minutes of sunlight, the clouds completely obscured the sun for the remainder of practice, making it the coolest-temperatured afternoon practice I’ve been to. I came away from camp without a sunburn for once!
3. Light Practice Still Sees Some Hits: After hearing how the Sunday and Monday practices were physical, I had a feeling things would be taken easy on Tuesday. Sure enough, the team was not in full pads, and there were no siren drills.
Perhaps the most disappointing thing was that there were no series or situational drills. By that, I mean that there were no two-minute, red zone, or goal line drills. There were some 11-on-11 drills, but if one play began at the 25 yard line (the one far away from the end zone), the next play also began there, regardless of the previous plays’ outcome. So that’s what I mean by there were no “series” for the quarterbacks.
Despite all of that, there were still some hits during practice, with players pulling up before delivering an actual blow. The practice structure was always up-tempo too — once stretching was done-and-over with, everyone had something to do, and players moved in-and-out of drills quickly. Gregg Williams could be heard from all the way across the field when he was shouting commands.
Oddly enough, it was difficult to find head coach Hue Jackson during practice. Granted, he was definitely there and obviously working, but he didn’t stand out among the other coaches. Offensive line coach Bob Wylie could be seen from a mile away.
4. Managed Days Off: The players sitting out included: WR Kenny Britt, LT Joe Thomas, OG John Greco, OL Matt McCants, C Austin Reiter, DE Desmond Bryant, DL Caleb Brantley, DE Cam Johnson, and CB Joe Haden. Haden was the most noticeable of the “out” players, wearing a red sun hat and conversing with other defensive backs.
4. Cam Erving’s Slow Lap: Let’s move forward into some actual practice notes, shall we? These notes will be a combination from myself and the local media tweets. I only recall seeing one false start during practice, and it was called on left tackle Cameron Erving (filling in for the idle Joe Thomas). A run play was called, and Erving flinched. They still let the run play go on for practice purposes, but afterward, Erving did a lap.
Cam Erving false starts, runs the slowest lap ever. pic.twitter.com/KpgInPPbkd— Dawgs By Nature (@DawgsByNature) August 15, 2017
The clip above is only 0:45. In actuality, I shot Erving’s “lap” for 1:37 before I stopped the video...and he was still only about half-way done. Every comment in response to the clip I posted on Twitter pleaded with the Browns to cut him already. During practice, there also appeared to be a couple of altercations in which Erving and a defensive player were jawing at each other.
5. Change in QB Rotation: Perhaps as a sign of things to come, I couldn’t help but notice that it was DeShone Kizer, not Cody Kessler, who was receiving quarterback reps right after Brock Osweiler. After practice, head coach Hue Jackson said that he would name a starting quarterback on Wednesday for the next preseason game. I’d expect the depth chart to go Osweiler-Kizer-Kessler, with Kevin Hogan in fourth.
During one-on-one drills, Osweiler had more overthrows downfield than you’d like to see. But later during team drills, the passes for all the quarterbacks were intermediate routes, which is something that is really his strong suit — throws in those 15-yard range. I also still have an appreciation for how he seems willing to throw a ball up for a big target to let them fight for it one-on-one, but I’m still apprehensive about those plays being picked in a game.
6. Osweiler to Njoku: I see that one of the more talked-about plays on social media was QB Brock Osweiler hitting TE David Njoku over the seam for a long catch-and-run. Forgive the blurriness of the video, but fans who tuned in to our 4-minute Facebook Live video got to see that one, and you can too at the 1:42 mark.
Note: I don’t say a word during the video, for those wondering.
Browns training camp!Posted by Dawgs By Nature: For Cleveland Browns Fans on Tuesday, August 15, 2017
The Browns brought seven players on pressure, with only four players in coverage, including the deep safety. Four receivers went out for a route, so that left Njoku uncovered as Osweiler hit him right away. After the play is over, you can see a little scuffle being broken up between WR Corey Coleman and CB Alvin Hill. Feel free to check out the rest of the plays in the video, although I doubt you’ll be able to make out who the players are.
7. Poor Hogan: After having a good day at the scrimmage a week and a half ago, QB Kevin Hogan’s reps during training camp are far-and-few between. He actually got a some 11-on-11 plays here and there Tuesday, and let’s just say that the result of them would make you go, “yep, he’s definitely getting cut.” One of them came on a terrible decision when he threw the ball to a hoard of defenders over the middle, and MLB Tank Carder was the fortunate player to come away with what was basically a pick six.
8. Jordan Payton Moving Up? Several reporters made note that WR Jordan Payton appeared to have gotten an uptick in reps. He made this nice catch in the individual drills, which I do recall seeing from a distance but wouldn’t make out who it was (those drills were on the other field).
9. Kessler Finds McNamara: Despite the bad quality still, I had actually zoomed in on one video I took, and you can see QB Cody Kessler hitting TE Taylor McNamara on a nice throw with MLB Tank Carder in coverage.
Cody Kessler with a nice throw to TE Taylor McNamara, beating MLB Tank Carder. pic.twitter.com/R6x0TVTDd9— Dawgs By Nature (@DawgsByNature) August 16, 2017
At other times in practice, though, I just cringe on some plays — even the short ones -- at how long Kessler’s passes take to get there. You can just see how the defenders are begging for one of those short, sideline softballs to come their way so they can jump it and try to make a play on it; it happened several times in practice, with players just missing INTs.
10. Zane With the Kicking Edge: The Browns held a kicking competition to end practice. I looked at my notes from when I attended last year, and it was a day where K Travis Coons missed several kicks, possibly signalling the beginning of the end for him. I don’t want to quite say that about K Cody Parkey, because he’s been having a fine camp so far. But, Parkey went 3-of-5 in field goals while Gonzalez was 5-of-5.
Parkey had one of his shorter-range kicks boink off the left upright from 40 yards, and then he came up short from 56 yards. Gonzalez’ 56-yard make can be seen in the clip below, to a round of applause.
Zane Gonzalez good from 56 yards earlier to end Browns practice. pic.twitter.com/cRrfONPTg2— Dawgs By Nature (@DawgsByNature) August 16, 2017
11. Camp Notes & Camp Chatter: In this section, I relay various non-football notes from my personal experience in Berea.
- First, let’s start with the story of the media member that took an unexpected twist. Waiting at the rapid transit station earlier to take an RTA bus out to Berea, I saw a person with a “Browns” media badge on waiting for the same bus. I didn’t recognize them, so I assumed they must have been a photographer or something.
The bus pulls up to the stop where fans, and I’d presume media people, would get off. He stays on. “Was he lost?” I wonder. So we get to the top row of the grandstand, and there are a little more than a handful of people in the restricted “standing row only” that is behind us. After a few minutes, I turn around and see that guy in the restricted area.
Fastforward to the end of practice, and he’s the only guy still up there. Fans are starting to file out of the grandstand, and I’m thinking about some other photos I can take. All of a sudden, one of the FirstEnergy security workers in the restricted area goes over to the guy and says, “Hey, you’re not on the media list,” and practically seem to chase him off the grandstand. As they’re walking, they did say something that he’s on the Thursday list, but you know me, I like to relay those quirky stories from camp.
- Another one relates to the media. Tony Grossi went to the top standing room only section for a good portion of practice, but he was all the way to my right. Later on, he made his way down to the field with some of the other reporters. Mary Kay Cabot, to the best of my observation, remained at the field level. When the first mini-scuffle broke out during practice, the guys behind me were looking at her to see if she was going to whip out her phone and tweet about it. She did not, but was writing in a notebook during practice.
- Someone ate a whole damn bag of peanuts two rows in front of us. I know because when the crowd dispersed, there was one of the biggest piles of peanut shells I’ve ever seen.
- There seemed to be fewer kids there, which could be because most schools are back in session.
- All of the chatter came from some guys in the restricted standing room row behind us, and I have to say that I loved their commentary throughout practice, as I found myself chuckling throughout. Unfortunately, that means there aren’t the “stupid comments” or “obsessive dad” stories to point out like there have been in past years.
- It’s become a tradition of mine every year to go to the corner convenient store right outside training camp and buy a bag of pretzel rods to eat on the way home. I’ve gotten the same, clear bag of rods (with no company label) on them for four years, and they’ve always tasted great. When I went in after practice, they did not have them this year. (sad face). I got ice cream bars instead.
12. Brownies: LG Joel Bitonio was slow to get up on one play, but is OK. ... Former Browns WR Josh Cribbs was at practice today and signed autographs. ... CB Jamar Taylor had an interception in one-on-one drills. ... DL Caleb Brantley sat out due to a shoulder injury. ... WR Corey Coleman had several nice catches and RB Matthew Dayes had some good runs. ... At the beginning of practice, the Browns practiced nothing but running back screens. ... During punt drills, I didn’t understand why some gunners would camp near the one yard line, and then watch the ball bounce at the 5 yard line and go any which way. ... After practice, Hue Jackson said he was proud of how the guys were practicing so he gave them the night off from the normal team meetings, but the strict 11:00 PM curfew was still in full effect.
Here are your unofficial #Browns QB numbers from today's practice: Kessler 6/9, Osweiler 7/10, Kizer 4/5, Hogan 5/10 INT.— Jason Gibbs (@BGSUGibbs) August 16, 2017
Through training camp here are my unofficial #Browns QB numbers: Kessler 92/143 64%, Osweiler 119/200 60%, Kizer 80/141 57%, Hogan 39/67 58%— Jason Gibbs (@BGSUGibbs) August 16, 2017
13. Next Up: The Browns return to practice on Wednesday from 3:00 PM to 5:30 PM. Once again, the first 1,000 fans will receive the same T-shirt that I received Tuesday.
14. Post-Practice Tour: For anyone interested in a tour of sorts of Berea, here is a five-minute narrated clip I shot after practice, trying to give perspective of the grandstand, amenities, and fields.