The Cleveland Browns practiced at the stadium in front of over 19,412 fans Wednesday for Family Fun Night. This was the first time the team has held the stadium practice at night, and it was also the first time that practice was reduced from 2.5 hours to 1.5 hours.
I was one of those fans in attendance, and while I appreciate the opportunity visit the stadium (for free) to see the Browns practice, compared to the previous years I have been there, I found it to be somewhat of a letdown in terms of excitement. Part of that might have had to do with the fact that just before I left home to head downtown, I had learned about Trent Richardson's surgery and Joe Haden's possible suspension. My recap of the event is after the jump.
TRAINING CAMP REPORT - DAY 13 (8/8/12)
- Setting the Stage: As usual, I got to the event early and went to the back-row of the lower section near the 50-yard line in order to get a good wide view of the entire field. Because practice was at night this year, most fans were in the shade and the weather was very pleasant -- much cooler than the past few years. Head coach Pat Shurmur was out on the field early, signing as many autographs as he could for fans. A little later, when he walked by the Play 60 kids, it seemed like all of the kids were more interested in the camera than shaking his hand.
- Position Drill Notes: DE Frostee Rucker was doing some light jogging on the sidelines, while DT Phil Taylor, TE Ben Watson, and S Usama Young were idle. There were a lot of things going on at various positions, so these notes will seem kind of random. The receivers were in line doing simple turnaround routes after about five yards, and I noticed someone drop a pass: it was Carlton Mitchell. LB James-Michael Johnson missed a ball thrown at him in linebacker drills, and he punished himself with some pushups.
The quarterbacks then started throwing to the receivers with no defense there. I'm not sure who the quarterback was, but they threw a flag route and Carlton Mitchell ran a post route. A little later, Brandon Weeden placed the ball perfectly onto WR Josh Gordon in the end zone. I noticed someone being stretched out on the ground, and it was Mitchell. I promise you, I had no intention to stare at or pick on Mitchell. Every time I saw something "out of place," I searched for the jersey number and saw No. 18. This was only his second practice back in action. Mitchell was not alone, though, as tight end Alex Smith also dropped two simple passes (I'm referring to the ones where the coaches just toss you the ball at a short distance).
- Red-Zone Drills (11-on-11 Drills): This is going to be broken down into four parts: productivity from the 20, 15, 10, and 5-yard lines, for both the first- and second-units. In each scenario, the first-team offense was given two opportunities to score. The second- or third-team offense was also given two opportunities to score. No matter the outcome of the play, the next snap came back to the original spot.
- Red Zone (From the 20): Things started with a bang when Brandon Weeden looked to the left corner of the end zone and connected with Greg Little for a touchdown. On Weeden's second attempt, he dumped the ball off to Owen Marecic in the flat and he tried to scamper up the sidelines. Next in was Colt McCoy. His first play was a handoff to Brandon Jackson, which doesn't make for much entertainment in red zone drills. On McCoy's second play, he threaded the needle to Rod Windsor off of playaction.
- Red Zone (From the 15): With Brandon Weeden in at quarterback again, he ran a screen play to Brandon Jackson off the right side. As a side note, I think Weeden gets rid of the ball well on these screen passes. Weeden's second play was a quick wide receiver screen to Greg Little at the line of scrimmage. Both plays were ones that weren't designed to get the ball into the end zone right away, and the intended receiver was predetermined.
Colt McCoy came in for his second set, and he handed off to Montario Hardesty. Since the players were in shells/shorts this year instead of pads, run plays were pretty pointless in terms of judging performance. McCoy's second play saw him hitting Hardesty on a screen play. Two screen plays in the red zone already for the Browns? Is that a sign of things to come for Mr. Brad Childress?
- Red Zone (From the 10): For his two plays in this set, Brandon Weeden dropped back in Shotgun. He dumped off the first pass to Chris Ogbonnaya, who was seeing some more action with Trent Richardson out. On the second play, Weeden stared left right at the snap, waited, and then tried to squeeze a pass into the end zone to Josh Gordon, but it was broken up by linebacker Craig Robertson.
Instead of Colt McCoy coming in, Seneca Wallace received his first opportunity of the day. His first pass was a beautiful one to Jordan Cameron in the back of the end zone; it was probably the "coolest" looking play of all the red zone drills. Wallace's second pass was thrown by the left sideline to Carlton Mitchell, who tried to race around the edge and dive for the end zone. I don't consider it a touchdown because it is one of those plays where the defense goes for the "touch" rather than the tackle in a shells/shorts practice.
- Red Zone (From the 5): Time for the final red zone set, this time from just five yards away. On Brandon Weeden's first play, he rolled slightly to the right and held onto the ball. I immediately saw Chris Ogbonnaya wide open as the underneath route, unguarded, just to Weeden's right. I thought Weeden was taking his time to release the ball because of how open he was. Instead, I was surprised to see Weeden try to bullet the ball amidst defenders into the end zone to Josh Gordon. Gordon had a shot at it, but dropped it.
Weeden's second play was pretty ugly. He immediately pump faked to the left corner of the end zone, and then tried to do a quick swing pass in the left flat to whoever the running back was. The problem was that he threw the ball about a full yard behind the running back, so they had no shot of getting it. To make matters worse, the backward pass made it a fumble, and I believe it was Kaluka Maiava who scooped up the ball before it went out of bounds.
Colt McCoy was back in to close out the red zone drills. He was pressured on his first pass (I believe by DE Auston English), and his pass fell incomplete. His second pass was thrown to the left corner of the end zone for Evan Moore. The defender (ABJ says it was Dimitri Patterson) had his back to the play, but Moore appeared to make an awesome one-handed catch almost off of Patterson's back for a touchdown.
- Punting and Kickoff Drills: The players attempting to return punts were Travis Benjamin, Jordan Norwood, and Joshua Cribbs. The gunners I saw on the punting team were Buster Skrine, Dimitri Patterson, Tashaun Gipson, and Jordan Norwood. Never thought of Norwood as being a contender for a gunner. Kickoff returners included Travis Benjamin, Joshua Cribbs, and Buster Skrine. On the kickoff drills, it seemed like several of the defenders "running" prior to the kickoff were offsides, but the replacement officials never threw a flag for it.
- Notes from 7-on-7 Red Zone Drills (Part I): I'm not a big fan of 7-on-7 drills, so I'm going to give more of a "general commentary" version rather than a play-by-play; this was the same format as the red zone drills earlier. The offensive and defensive linemen were busy on the other side of the field doing their own drills together.
Weeden connected with Owen Marecic in the flat, and it seemed like he was doing a few more checkdowns (but not a ridiculous amount like the offense last year) than when I saw him a few weeks ago. Marecic was a beneficiary, catching several passes smoothly out of the backfield. Weeden's red zone success seemed to be the best at the 20-yard line, where he hit Mohamed Massaquoi in the right corner of the end zone for a touchdown. Does that big arm of his pay off when there is more room to work with? In an actual game, you hope that your running game can get it down once you get closer rather than dropping back to pass every time.
A few notes about Brad Childress on the previous two plays. On the one to Marecic, Childress seemed animated with his hand gestures when talking to Weeden, perhaps signaling that their was a better option downfield. On the one to Massaquoi, Weeden initially stared left before coming back to the right. While Weeden was staring left, Childress almost seemed to be gesturing to the right, like he wanted the play to go to Massaquoi. When it did, Childress appeared content and continued flipping through his book. The anchors of the offensive line, C Alex Mack and LT Joe Thomas (photo credit: Jon @ DBN)
- Notes from 7-on-7 Red Zone Drills (Part II): Weeden had connections with Travis Benjamin and Josh Gordon, but Scott Fujita broke up a pass to Brandon Jackson. When Weeden got to the 5-yard line, he tried the fade to the left sideline on back-to-back plays. The first one was for Greg Little, but it appeared to be terribly overthrown. The next fade was a bit better to Josh Gordon, who appeared to make a nice catch from a long distance. The replacement officials ruled him to be out of bounds.
There were back-to-back plays from the 10-yard line in which the team ran the same route with Colt McCoy at quarterback, except on opposite sides. It was like a little button hook to the inside from the slot position just shy of the end zone. Both plays worked well, the first going to Rod Windsor, and the second going to Carlton Mitchell. Windsor had another catch from McCoy later. Seneca Wallace had two plays -- a quick out to Greg Little and an overthrow to Josh Cooper.
- Midfield 11-on-11 Practice Notes: I found the set-up of this drill to be a little odd. Although the downs were kept track of, the ball wasn't being advanced if a first down was reached (the ball would be reset again near midfield). There were two sets of six plays each, with Brandon Weeden getting the first three plays, Colt McCoy getting the next two plays, and Seneca Wallace getting the final play.
- Midfield 11-on-11 (Weeden): On first down, he handed off to Montario Hardesty for a loss of a yard. On second down, Weeden hit Mohamed Massaquoi for a first down on a pass that was right at first-down yardage. On his final play of the first set, Weeden tried a quick slant to Josh Cooper, but it was broken up by Buster Skrine.
Weeden's second set began with a handoff to Hardesty. Hardesty ran backward about a yard or two at first, but he had enough speed to get around the edge for a couple of yards. On second down, Weeden quickly dumped the ball off to Hardesty. On his final play, he checked down to Brandon Jackson.
- Midfield 11-on-11 (McCoy/Wallace): On the first set, Colt McCoy connected with Jordan Norwood on a nice touch pass down the left sideline. His next play was a handoff to Brandon Jackson. Seneca Wallace then came in, ran a playaction fake, and found Rod Windsor down the field.
On the second set, McCoy began with a playaction and Josh Gordon was wide open about 20+ yards down the middle of the field, coming from left to right. When I say wide open, I'm talking about, "probably could've walked the rest of the way into the end zone open." The crowd groaned when Gordon dropped the pass. It was a pretty wobbly pass by McCoy, but there's still no excuse for dropping that pass. On McCoy's second play, Josh Cooper went in motion before the snap and ended up being the targeted receiver. Wallace then came in, ran a playaction fake again, and lofted a pass down the left sideline to Josh Cooper. Cooper juggled it, but still hauled it in before stepping out of bounds.
- Simulated Series (Weeden, Part I): This was not a two-minute drill, just a regular 11-on-11 series from your own 30 yard line (70 yards away from the end zone). This was the first time during the practice session where the ball was being moved after each play, which was "exciting."
1st-and-10 @ own 30: Weeden hands the ball off to Montario Hardesty for a yard.
2nd-and-9 @ own 31: Weeden throws to Hardesty in the flat, and Joe Haden delivers a firm hit on him to knock the third-year running back out of bounds. What is it with everyone delivering big hits on Hardesty in camp this year?
3rd-and-4 @ own 36: I couldn't tell which defender did it, but Weeden looked left and had his pass batted down at the line of scrimmage. Instead of doing a fourth down, the series reset back at the 30 for one more shot.
- Simulated Series (Weeden, Part II): Remember, we're back at the 30 now. This drive went a little better...until the end.
1st-and-10 @ own 30: Weeden threw the ball for an out route on the right, but Buster Skrine jumped it and came away with an interception. A flag was thrown for some reason, though, so the play ended up being negated.
1st-and-5 @ own 35: Weeden handed off to Montario Hardesty, but CB David Sims came up ride him out of bounds for no gain.
2nd-and-5 @ own 35: Weeden handed off to Hardesty for a good gain, one of the better looking holes of the day. According to the scoreboard, he was credited for a ten-yard gain.
1st-and-10 @ own 45: Weeden ran a playaction fake and hit Josh Gordon past midfield for a first down.
1st-and-10 @ opp 39: Some form of a blitz came, and Weeden dumped it off to Owen Marecic again. I never imagined coming to Browns stadium and see so many Weeden-to-Marecic connections. He was open, though, and it moved the chains after an 11-yard gain.
1st-and-10 @ opp 28: Another playaction fake for Weeden, and he looked about 15 yards down the field. A receiver was running a post route, but Dimitri Patterson read it all the way and came away for an easy interception. Bad way to end what was probably the most exciting portion of practice for me.
- Simulated Series (McCoy, Part I): In next was Colt McCoy, and his first series ended pretty quick as well.
1st-and-10 @ own 30: McCoy found Jordan Norwood for a gain of six yards.
2nd-and-4 @ own 36: Travis Benjamin immediately had a step on Trevin Wade, and the crowd immediately saw McCoy winding up to take a shot downfield. Benjamin continued getting separation down the field, and McCoy launched it about 40 yards. The pass was a couple of yards out of bounds and ahead of Benjamin, though.
3rd-and-4 @ own 36: McCoy tried a swing pass but it was knocked away at the line of scrimmage by CB Antwuan Reed.
- Simulated Series (McCoy, Part II): Like Weeden, McCoy's second series lasted a bit longer than his first.
1st-and-10 @ own 30: McCoy handed off to Brandon Jackson for a three-yard gain.
2nd-and-7 @ own 33: We noticed that Evan Moore was on the field after spending a good portion of practice on the sidelines. Right away, McCoy found him over the middle for a first down.
1st-and-10 @ own 42: For the second straight play, McCoy found Moore, this time on a quick out to the left and a gain of five yards.
2nd-and-5 @ own 47: I'm not sure what happened here, as something distracted me and I wasn't able to record the play. Someone had a gain of 11 yards for a first down.
1st-and-10 @ opp 42: McCoy tried to fit the ball into Rod Windsor, but CB Jonathan Bademosi stepped in for the breakup.
2nd-and-10 @ opp 42: McCoy looked left and threw the ball in the direction of WR Owen Spencer. The pass was high to the point where Spencer needed to leap for it, but it looked catchable. Spencer didn't seem to track the ball well, and it went right threw his hands to the dismay of the crowd. I'm telling you: No. 17 is a curse!
3rd-and-10 @ opp 42: McCoy threw the ball toward the right sideline for Rod Windsor. It was a bit of a lofty pass, but it would've been enough for first-down yardage. However, CB Antwuan Reed had a hand on the play right away, and he ended up ripping the ball away from Windsor for a nice defensive play. You can either chalk it up as an interception or a quick strip-recover-and-run. Either way, it ended McCoy's drive.
- Simulated Series (Wallace): Like the other two quarterbacks, Seneca Wallace had his first drive end rather quickly.
1st-and-10 @ opp 30: There was a handoff to Adonis Thomas. I'm not sure what happened; a flag was thrown, and the next play seemed to start at the 30 still.
1st-and-10 @ opp 30: Wallace dumped the ball off to Thomas for a gain of seven.
2nd-and-3 @ opp 37: Wallace dropped back and lofted the ball down the field and to the left in the direction of FB/TE Brad Smelley. Right after Wallace released the pass, Smelley fell down. To the late observer, it would've looked like Wallace floated the ball to four defenders. Ray Ventrone was playing way deep to begin with, so he just went forward and let the ball hit him in stride for an interception.
- Simulated Series (Wallace / Lewis): This drive appeared to switch half-way through it from Seneca Wallace to Thaddeus Lewis.
1st-and-10 @ opp 30: Wallace found Adonis Thomas in the flat for seven yards. Kind of similar to the previous drive.
2nd-and-3 @ opp 37: Wallace handed off to Thomas, who gained enough yards to get a first down.
1st-and-10 @ opp 40: Wallace handed to Thomas, who only gained a yard this time.
2nd-and-9 @ opp 41: There was a false start by WR Bert Reed.
2nd-and-14 @ opp 36: It looked like this is when Thaddeus Lewis entered the game. Because I started scribbling in my notes about Lewis entering the game, I don't know what happened on the play. Somehow, five yards were gained.
3rd-and-9 @ opp 41: Lewis dropped back and found Bert Reed for a first down. One thing to note on this play: About one second into the play, one of the defensive linemen had Lewis dead from the blind side. He pulled up and just literally stared at Lewis' back for about two seconds, obviously so he didn't kill his own team's quarterback in practice. Whichever lineman it was, he made his point.
1st-and-10 @ own 42: Lewis connected with Brad Smelley for a five yard gain.
2nd-and-5 @ own 37: There was a handoff to a running back, probably Thomas, for a gain of three yards.
3rd-and-2 @ own 34: Lewis had what appeared to be a terrible pick as he threw deep over the middle. The only player in sight seemed to be Ray Ventrone, who notched his second interception. I tried looking for some receiver who he might have been throwing to, but the next three guys closest to the ball were all wearing white (the defense). I'm not too sure what happened. It was the final play of practice.
- Brownies: DT Billy Winn continued to look like a beast in individual drills and getting a bull rush. ... During individual drills and team drills at tackle, rookie Ryan Miller kept getting beat fairly quickly by various defensive linemen on quick swim moves. ... I know he hasn't stood out prior to this, but in individual drills, CB Antwuan Reed looked very fluid, and it showed in team drills with a couple of big plays. ... LB James-Michael Johnson didn't seem to have very good hands in individual drills when coaches were throwing passes to him. ...LB D'Qwell Jackson did not practice as he "had the day off." ... Jimmy Haslam talked to Tom Heckert at the 20-yard line for a good amount of time toward the end of practice, and Heckert looked to be yapping away (the benefit of bringing binoculars). ... Pat Shurmur's notes/sheets on the field had a little Browns logo on it (again, me trying to pull of a Spygate). ... Team president Mike Holmgren was no where to be seen.
New owner Jimmy Haslam observes the end of practice with general manager Tom Heckert
(photo credit: Jon @ DBN)
Please note that there could be a lot of errors in the reports above. I try to write down player jersey numbers as quick as possible while jotting notes too, but the action moves quick at times.
Hope you enjoyed. The Browns' first preseason game is Friday against the Lions. Word of advice to the Browns' organization in the future: don't schedule the stadium practice right before a preseason game. Make it so practice can be 2.5 hours in full pads, just like it is in Berea.