Excitement filled the air in Berea, Ohio at the anticipation of the first day of Browns’ training camp. As the veterans took the field alongside the newly acquired rookies, Pro Player Insider was there to witness what many perceive as the dawning of a new age in Cleveland Browns’ football.
Hoyer Vs. Manziel
Brian Hoyer took all of the first-team reps, and did a very good job getting rid of the football at the top of his drops, and generally made good decisions with the football. Hoyer did however force the football into a tight window, which resulted in an interception by Tashaun Gipson. Overall, Hoyer threw the football with very good velocity and showed a level of mastery of the offense that the other quarterbacks, frankly, currently do not possess.
Manziel had a very good day, but he will need to improve upon one of two things to consistently complete the 10-yard out: his anticipation, or sheer velocity on the football. On multiple occasions, the ball lost steam on the way to its intended target on out routes. Conversely there were positives. Manziel did complete a couple of throws across the middle of the field, fitting the ball into tight windows. He also connected on a long bomb to talented rookie wide receiver Taylor Gabriel from Abilene Christian University. Manziel will continue to make strides throughout camp, and his play will improve as he becomes more comfortable with the playbook.
Miles Austin appears to be healthy as he made a couple of plays in the Browns’ first practice of training camp. He beat Justin Gilbert across the middle and later made a leaping grab on a 10-yard out against Buster Skrine.
Hawkins did an outstanding job getting off the ball during one-on-ones and looked exceptionally quick after the catch.
Taylor Gabriel showcased his quickness during one-on-ones as defensive backs could hardly lay a hand on him. He also exhibited tremendous long speed when he put the entire defensive secondary in a trail technique on his way to hauling in a long pass from Manziel. Look for Taylor Gabriel to continue to flash his talents throughout camp.
Charles Johnson is still rehabbing from his ACL injury and there is no exact date set for his return.
Terrance West had a very good day in one-on-ones as well as during team period. During one-on-ones, he displayed ball skills akin to a wide receiver, hauling in two one-handed catches during the period. His vision and cutting ability were also on display during the team period of practice. He routinely found and exploited cutback lanes that the other running backs simply were not seeing.
Ben Tate is slated to be the starter, however he did not look sharp today. On two occasions he was late to recognize cutback lanes and as a result left yards on the field. Tate was also caught with his shoulders perpendicular to the line of scrimmage entirely too long and was chased down from behind by Buster Skrine. Skrine was able to knock the football away from Tate and cause a fumble.
Edwin Baker had a strong finish to his 2013 campaign as he rushed for 122 yards, and 1 touchdown in his final two outings. He’s eager to prove that his late-season performance was not a fluke, and it’s safe to say he’s off to a good start. Baker displayed exemplary patience behind the line of scrimmage and excellent burst through the hole. Baker’s vision and quickness will likely put him in position to make the Browns’ final roster.
The Browns have a plethora of talented players in the defensive secondary and one of them will become the starting cornerback on the opposite side of Joe Haden. Buster Skrine and Justin Gilbert both made plays today, but neither player did much to separate themselves in the running for the No. 2 cornerback position.
Skrine worked with the first-team defense for the majority of the day. It was Skrine who tipped the ball that subsequently led to the Tashaun Gipson interception. He looked very fluid in his backpedal and did a nice job sprinting forward and separating the wide receiver from the football.
The mantra for Justin Gilbert the remainder of the camp should be, “Keep your feet.” Gilbert lost his footing on multiple occasions, and allowed Anthony Armstrong, Andrew Hawkins and Miles Austin to gain separation as a result. When he kept everything in front of him, he was able to drive on the football and occasionally knock the ball away from the quarterback’s intended target.
Larger cornerbacks are en vogue and Pierre Desir certainly fits the mold at 6-foot-1, 198 pounds. Desir is aware he has to work on staying low out of his transition from his backpedal in order to maintain sound technique. Nevertheless, his need to continue to improve upon the nuances of his game didn’t stop him from flashing his talents for coaches on the first day of practice.
Desir jammed Chandler Jones at the line of scrimmage, prohibiting Jones from releasing off the ball, which drew oohs and ahhs from his teammates as well as the fans. Much was made about Desir’s “lack of speed” during the pre-draft process, but the concerns were not warranted. Desir ran stride-for-stride with Taylor Gabriel on a fly pattern, which should go a long way toward eliminating many of the purported worries regarding his speed.