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Browns Training Camp Day 3: Defense continues to hold upper hand

Jul 28, 2014 -- 2:10pm

By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com

 

Photo/ESPN Cleveland

Updated at 3:34 p.m.

Notes, quotes and observations on Browns training camp Day 3 …

* A thud, not a dud: The first day of full pads was supposed to be loud with the sound of pads popping. Maybe it was the high winds that drowned them out because the 9 on 9 inside run drill did not produce the “oohs” and “ahs” of live tackling, which did not occur. Coach Mike Pettine said defenders were limited to “thud and drive back and let go” rather than tackle to the ground. “It was a good start,” the coach said. “I thought our guys were flying around. A lot of teams will just tag off in 11 on 11, or the 9 on 9 we did. We want to get in the habit of thudding. I think tackling is the hardest thing, defensively. You can’t simulate it in practice. There’s no substitute for live tackling and for obvious reasons (read: injuries) you don’t want to do that. So I think thud is the next closest thing, where if I have an aggressive angle to a ball-carrier I’m going to thud him up and wrap him and drive him back and let him go. The better we can get at that in practice I think will pay dividends in games.” Pettine said he will have his first periods of live tackling on Thursday in goal-line and short-yardage run drills. He said the team scrimmage on Family Day in Akron on Saturday will also have live tackling.

* It’s a process: While all eyes are fixated on the quarterback competition, and expectations are naturally raised by that, visitors to camp might be let down by the sight of the defense continually holding the upper hand in team drills on the practice field. Protection breakdowns occurred on Monday. On one series directed by Brian Hoyer, sacks where whistled on three of six plays. There was another sack on Hoyer’s next series. In this same sequence, Johnny Manziel’s series ended when he scrambled to avoid a sack, turned to his left, actually looked behind to see if anyone was chasing him, and then whistled a throw on the run, only to be picked off by rookie linebacker Chris Kirsey, who made it a Pick 6. Manziel completed his second series with a touchdown to fullback Ray Agnew on a bootleg throw. Pettine was not concerned about the offense’s apparent sluggish day. “It is tough sledding for that (offensive line) group because we don’t, defensively, hold back on the install,” he said. “That makes it tough on an offense, that they’re getting a lot of looks they don’t typically see. We do some exotic things (on defense) that probably very few other teams do in the league and it really stresses the protection a little. So there’s going to be some pains early with the protection, but I think once they get used to it and see it … I always felt going against what we do helps them prepare for what most teams aren’t going to do as much. I’d rather practice be tougher physically, tougher mentally, than the game.” Tackle Joe Thomas saw enough to be encouraged. “I think the first day was really good. I was surprised to see the offense click as well as we did today considering all the things that usually go in the beginning of camp and usually the defense is way ahead. It was good to see us put a ittle drive together at the end. Looked like a football team for a little bit.”

* The other J.G.: Justin Gilbert took some reps at kick returner and he seemed a natural runner with the ball, gliding effortlessly through coach Chris Tabor’s coverage unit. Gilbert had six career kickoff returns for touchdowns at Oklahoma State. But Gilbert is not going to be introduced to the pro game as a returner, as was Arizona’s Patrick Peterson, who had four punt returns for touchdowns in his rookie season of 2011. “Not at this point,” Pettine said of Gilbert’s use as a kickoff returner. “I think he might be, in case of emergency, the last kick return guy. I think I’d hold my breath or watch with 1 ½ eyes if he was returning kicks.” Pettine stuck his neck on the line and passed up receiver Sammy Watkins in the draft to secure Gilbert as a press-and-run corner to start opposite Joe Haden. He is not going to risk an injury to Gilbert on special teams. Tabor’s primary kick return candidates are receiver Travis Benjamin, cornerback Buster Skrine, receiver Andrew Hawkins and receiver Anthony Armstrong.

* Take a day: Benjamin and receiver Charles Johnson were held out as a precaution to spare early wear on their respective knees recovering from ACL surgery. Pettine said the team will continue to monitor players coming off surgeries to keep from over-taxing them.

* Offensive line news: Offensive tackle Chris Faulk was released. The old regime saw Faulk as a potential candidate to start at right tackle. He was signed as an undrafted free agent despite knee surgery at Louisiana State and was redshirted as a rookie. Faulk’s release leaves right tackle Mitchell Schwartz virtually unchallenged … The Browns and the agents of guard Jason Pinkston issued a joint statement: “(Pinkston) has not been medically cleared to participate in football activities. The team has been in communication with Jason and his representatives and will respect their wishes to not provide any further details at this time.

* Brownie bits: Kyle Shanahan called two zone-read option plays for Manziel, one for Hoyer … Manziel conducted his final series while the song (You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party) blared from speakers on the field. Players don’t choose the soundtrack at practice, by the way … Linebacker Tank Carder was activated for practice. Still out are nose tackle Phil Taylor, guard John Greco, tight end Gary Barnidge and defensive lineman Billy Winn ... Despite inclement weather over much of Northeast Ohio, the team was able to practice outdoors in dry, but windy, conditions.

 

Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com.

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Use the hashtag #HeyTony on Twitter or email your “Hey Tony” questions to tgrossi@goodkarmabrands.com

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi

 

 

 

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