BEREA, Ohio (92.3 The Fan) – Like quarterback Deshaun Watson, receiver Amari Cooper is on the bring DeAndre Hopkins to Cleveland bandwagon.
“Who wouldn’t,” Cooper said rhetorically. “DeAndre has been a very great player in this league. Obviously they have a lot of chemistry. If I was [Watson], I’d want the same thing.”
The speculation of the Browns interest in Hopkins remains with the relationship between Hopkins and Watson being the catalyst for it.
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Watson and Hopkins played three years together between 2017-2019 with the Houston Texans where Hopkins was first team All-Pro all three years and the duo combined for 3,433 yards and 25 touchdowns over 38 games with the Texans.
“I mean there’s more than one way to skin a cat,” Cooper said. “I think our skillsets are a little different, but we both get the job done. With DeAndre, he’s pretty unstoppable with the way he uses his hands and his body to position himself well to make the catch. So it will be pretty good.”
Cooper didn’t sound all that concerned about the potential addition of Hopkins costing him catches, yards and maybe touchdowns.
“You add a great receiver like that, that's probably going to happen because there’s only one ball,” Cooper said. “Everybody’s got to get their touches. So I mean as long as it’s helping us win, I wouldn’t have a problem with it.”
Here are some other top Brownie Bites from day one of mandatory minicamp.
Let it rip – Watson looked as good as any quarterback could Tuesday morning and early afternoon throughout practice with very few footballs ending up on the ground. During a late practice red zone seven-on-seven drill, Watson threw four touchdown passes in five throws – one of them to Cooper, two to Elijah Moore and another to David Bell. The only incompletion was thanks to Greg Newsome II breaking up a pass. “He looks in a bit of a better groove,” Cooper said. “Just having that long layoff, of course, you know you’re going to lose some rhythm, some form of rhythm, but he looks like he's really getting that back.” Before everyone starts booking trips to Las Vegas next February, head coach Kevin Stefanski kept things in perspective. “I think you always got to be real careful,” Stefanski said. “Former defensive back speaking now, seven-on-seven is geared to the offense. You should complete balls in seven-on-seven.” In fairness to Watson, who came back and threw a few more touchdowns before practice ended, it was the best seven-on-seven drill we have watched in a very long time.
Pro plays – Watson certainly got some help with receivers doing their job and catching footballs Tuesday. Donovan Peoples-Jones made a pair of spectacular toe-tap catches in the back of the end zone during seven-on-seven. “Donovan is such a trustworthy target for the quarterbacks,” Stefanski said. “He’s always exactly where he needs to be from a route perspective, from a depth perspective, and then to have ball skills like he does and throw it to a spot where only he can get it, and he has the wherewithal to get his feet down. So Donovan, I think we talk about him like he’s a young player. He’s a pro now, and that's kind of what pros do.”
Returning to form – Cooper looks fully recovered from core muscle surgery this offseason as he returned to team 11-on-11 work on day one. “Since he got out there and started doing [individual drills], he honestly looked exactly like the old Amari to me, which is a guy that works really hard, comes off the ball with explosive movement, catches everything,” Stefanski said. “He's looked like himself. We’re just are going to be real smart about how we bring him along.” Cooper made a beautiful one-handed catch and went up to haul in touchdown. “Just to come out here and be able to feel good again, it's a great feeling,” Cooper said. “You know, you never really want to play hurt. It's not very pleasant but you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.”
Official confirmation – Defensive end Myles Garrett was thrilled but didn’t believe the Browns traded for Za’Darius Smith when he saw the first report. “I was happy,” Garrett said. “At first I was like, I don't believe TMZ, but when I heard it from my dad I was like, ‘Alright, now I can't believe it.’ So I was excited.” Garrett and the defensive line continue to workshop a nickname for the upcoming season for the group. “Not yet,” Garrett said. “That was one of the talks yesterday, so we’re still working on that. We got a little bit of time. Before preseason.”
Remembering the GOAT – Garrett was asked about the recent passing of Hall of Famer Jim Brown. “Jim Brown was everything here. It’s in the [team] name,” Garrett said. “And at the end of the day he was, I believe, the very first person that called me to tell me that I was coming here and that they were glad to have me be a Cleveland Brown and be a part of this organization and that still means a lot to me because that’s as great as it gets as a football player, as a man, as a spokesman for inequality, for civil rights. He’s done it all. I think he’s been the blueprint, he’s been the role model for a lot of us players and as men. So we look up to him. We’re very sad about his passing and we still are going to try and do our best for him.”
The Schwartz is strong – New safety Rodney McLeod admitted that new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz made the Browns very attractive to him this offseason. “Really his passion, his energy each and every day holding everybody accountable, demands the most out of you,” McLeod said. “He holds everybody to a very high standard, and that’s what you need in this business to win. And so I think he's already established that here, and you could tell he’s a culture shifter, and so I feel like that's needed. He’s going to demand excellence and just an amazing guy.” McLeod, who played under and won a Super Bowl with Schwartz in Philadelphia, signed a one-year contract as a free agent this offseason to come to Cleveland. “So excited to be here, man. This is a great deal of talent,” Mcleod said. “It brings the best out of you each and every day.” Garrett already feels a difference under Schwartz with what will be asked of him and his teammates. “I think he just helps simplify things and I don’t think that’s a knock on Joe [Woods],” Garrett said. “I think you really have to be intent on knowing your personnel and trying to tune in what their skillsets and their abilities and capabilities are. And if you put too much on somebody’s plate rather than someone else’s, that can lead to disruption and really a disconnection between sometimes groups on the field, and I think we saw that early in the season with some of the big misreads that we had in the back end. And I think he's really helped break it down for some of the guys in the back end. And I think he’s done the same up front, allowing us to really play free. Studying the playbook while I was gone, it’s pretty deep, but it’s all still pretty simple.”
Return man – Jakeem Grant, who is recovering from a ruptured Achilles suffered early in training camp last year, was back on the field and included in some select light work, including fielding a few punts. “He’s coming along,” Stefanski said. “He works really hard, still working hard in the meeting room. Even though he’s not taking reps out here, he’s still a major part of it and then able to slowly bring him along with the return game. And Jakeem is a pro. I love having him around, and he’s working really hard.”
Getting chirpy – Team policy prohibits us from quoting things that are said on the field during practice but what we can tell you is that the trash talk is in midseason form, led by new safety Juan Thornhill. “It’s just the competitive edge, and that’s what you want to see from guys,” McLeod said. “It means something to them. And over the course of these OTAs, we’ve been a little reserved. So guys are just looking forward to actually getting out there, competing versus one another, making each other better. Iron sharpens iron. So it’s good competitive, fun. I love some good trash talking. So you saw a little bit of that today.”
Roll call – LB Anthony Walker, LB Sione Takitaki and OG Dawson Deaton worked on the side Tuesday. DT Perrion Winfrey worked inside according to the team.