BEREA, Ohio (92.3 The Fan) – That’s all folks.
Training camp is in the books, at least for the fans.
It’s been a quick 11 open practices but here are our Top 11 Takeaways as camp moves into the next phase.
1. First, a salute to all the fans that showed up every day. The new camp set up was more spacious thanks to the Browns expanding their footprint in Berea and as their facility – now CrossCountry Mortgage Campus – continues transforming in the coming years, it will be exciting to see how the team continues to enhance the experience for you.
2. The players were fantastic after every practice signing autographs, taking selfies and pictures with and for fans. That’s what the training camp experience is supposed to be, and it was nice to feel a return to normalcy.
3. He hasn’t kicked in a real game yet, but Cade York looks to be the real deal. The ball booms off his foot – literally – and he’s capable of making a 65 yarder with ease. Unofficially, York hit 28 of 30 in competitive 11-on-11 special teams periods with his only misses coming from 50 and 58 yards. If York continues banging footballs through the uprights with regularity, he’ll be one of the best fourth round picks the team has had since returning.
4. We’re not fitting anyone for gold jackets here, but the Browns have some intriguing young talent in their rookie class that bears watching. Cornerback Martin Emmerson and running back Jerome Ford show the potential to develop into significant contributors down the road. They’ll likely be role players for now. Prior to Michael Woods II injuring his hamstring, he was showing up quite a bit during practice. Much seems to be expected of David Bell in the slot and all eyes are on him as his workload increases now that he’s recovered from the foot injury from minicamp that kept him off the field early in camp.
5. The secondary appears to be deep, and good. Denzel Ward’s sore foot is feeling better, and he’ll be ready to go when he’s needed – in Week 1. Greg Newsome II is coming off a strong rookie season and the sky appears to be the limit for him. They are keeping Greedy Williams’ reps in check and AJ Green had a fantastic first few weeks of camp. John Johnson III, Grant Delpit and Ronnie Harrison continue to make plays in practice.
6. For as much as the secondary has impressed, there are concerns at receiver. Injuries early in camp slowed the progress of rookies David Bell and Michael Woods II. Rookie Mike Harley Jr. has shown up a few times Amari Cooper isn’t flashy, but he lets his play do his talking. Cooper’s route running is impeccable. His professionalism and attention to detail impossible to ignore but behind him, the questions are numerous. Anthony Schwartz has had an uneven camp. Will Donovan Peoples-Jones make plays when opportunity knocks? Can Bell and Woods carry a big load as rookies?
7. Stefanski has transitioned the offense to begin preparations for the season with Jacoby Brissett as their No. 1 quarterback. He’d love to continue with Watson, but you know. Brissett is a solid backup and expect the offense early in the season to resemble the one used with Baker Mayfield. Tight ends and running backs will figure to be critical to the game plan and precision routes from receivers will be required.
8. Fans seem excited that Stefanski is ready to use Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt on the field more than we’ve seen before. It’s not like a light bulb has magically gone off. Running backs coach Stump Mitchell pointed to availability and injuries as to why they haven’t done it much the previous two years. Chubb isn’t slowing down and if Hunt buys in, maybe we’ll finally get to see what we’ve been imagining
9. The joint practices with the Eagles will tell us a lot. This camp has been pretty light, by design. The intensity will be ramped up along with the level of competition later this week. Both teams are expected to sit their starters Sunday with the joint camp practices serving as more beneficial work with the controlled environment and focused, situational reps.
10. Once again, injuries took their toll. So far four players have been lost – starting center Nick Harris and returner/receiver Jakeem Grant having the most impact along with reserve center Dawson Deaton and defensive end Stephan Weatherly, who were all placed on injured reserve. The loss of Grant has thrown the return game into chaos for the Browns to sort out over the next few weeks. Ronnie Harrison is getting looks and they claimed Easop Winston off waivers from the Saints. With 40 starts under his belt, Ethan Pocic can handle things in place of Harris, and the Browns won’t be calling JC Tretter anytime soon.
11. The Watson situation continues to hover over everything. Stefanski and the players have remained focused and not allowed the daily questions from reporters to get them off stride, but it has been impossible to ignore. The Browns are doing their best to make fans forget all about Watson’s tarnished image and their efforts have produced positive results. There were no camp protests of Watson. Watson signed autographs and took photos with fans after almost every practice. He issued his first apology during a team-controlled pregame show interview. He’s not had to answer a single question from a reporter that covers the team and neither have ownership or Andrew Berry. When they do all talk, there will be much to cover, including the contents of that scathing report from Sue L. Robinson and the final punishment once a settlement is reached or Peter Harvey feels like doing his job and ruling on the NFL’s appeal.