The Browns held their first training camp practice in full pads this morning. Here are some highlights:
Running backs shine
All eyes were on rookie running back Trent Richardson, the third overall pick in this year’s draft, as players began hitting for the first time. Displaying his rare combination of quickness and power, Richardson didn’t disappoint.
He started a nine-on-nine drill with four consecutive carries. Defensive tackle Brian Schaefering threw him down near the line of scrimmage on the first one. He then found a hole off Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas for a gain of about 5 yards and another crease on the left side for a run of about 8-10 yards. In 11-on-11 action, Richardson broke off a long run up the middle, and he turned a short reception in the flat into a big gain.
The 5-foot-9, 230-pound Richardson was excited to put the pads on for the first time in the NFL. The 4,200 fans in attendance got a chance to see the Browns’ new feature back in his element.
“I get to do what I do best,” Richardson said. “I get to bounce off guys, get to try to run guys over, break tackles. When I get in full pads, it's a whole other me.”
He wasn’t the only running back who stood out. Perhaps no one was more impressive than Montario Hardesty, who’s hoping to prove himself after missing his rookie season with a torn ACL and sitting out six games last year as he dealt with a torn muscle in his right calf. He had a few long runs, including one on a draw off left guard.
“He looks healthy and fresh right now,” coach Pat Shurmur said of Hardesty. “So I think that’s helping him flash.
“That’s as quick as I’ve seen [him]. … That was as good as I’ve seen Montario look.”
“This is the best I’ve felt since I’ve been here,” Hardesty said. “This might be the best I’ve ever felt. I just want to make sure I continue to keep it like that and just continue to come out here and show up every day, and once we hit the games, show up every day. I feel like I’ve really got a lot to prove. I’ve got a chip my shoulder, and I’ve just got to go out and play every day. I’m just ready to keep going out there.”
Brandon Jackson and Chris Ogbonnaya also had some impressive runs, an encouraging sign in the mind of rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden.
“We had some explosive plays in the run game, which is really good,” Weeden said. “That helps me as a quarterback, and it helps call plays for coach Shurmur. I think we’re deep. We have a ton of running backs, and they can all play. It’s exciting for this offense.”
Learning from mistakes
Weeden didn’t have a perfect practice by any means, but he performed better after two rough outings the previous two days. Shurmur said Weeden is progressing.
“I think he’s doing very well,” Shurmur said. “Again, part of this process is getting to know the receivers. Part of the process is now executing with the addition of the run game. And I think he’s doing a nice job.
“I can think of a handful of mistakes he made today that he’ll never do again. But he’s had a chance to practice it, so it won’t show up again. What I’ve seen from him, if he does something and if he hasn’t done it right, then he’s in there right now looking at it, and he’ll come out and that mistake won’t happen again.”
Weeden’s best pass of the day was a perfect throw to tight end Alex Smith on a deep flag route. The play was spoiled, though, because Smith dropped the ball after it landed in his hands. Weeden also completed a few sharp passes to receivers Mohamed Massaquoi and Travis Benjamin on out routes despite tight coverage.
“Day One, my timing was just a little bit off with the guys,” Weeden said. “It’s just getting back into it. So I think after watching the tape, watching how they were route adjusting, doing certain things, I made some mistakes that I usually don’t make but I think if you watched yesterday’s practice and today’s practice, the balls are getting there on time and they’re more accurate and they’re where my guys can make a play. So I think that just comes with getting used to the guys, getting back in the flow of things and like coach said not making the same mistake twice. That’s when you know something’s wrong – if you make the same mistake more than once.”
On the other hand, Weeden fumbled a snap, and rookie defensive tackle John Hughes recovered it. He also threw a deep pass to Massaquoi on a seam route that was picked off by free safety Eric Hagg. Senior offensive assistant Nolan Cromwell angrily yelled about Massaquoi’s route after the play.
“At this position, you’ve gotta have thick skin and you’ve gotta be able to move on to the next play,” Weeden said. “Some guys are better at it than others, and I like to say that that’s one of my strengths is moving onto the next play if something does go wrong. I threw a pick today in seven-on-seven. Hagg made a great play. It was really the right read. He just made a great play. But what can you do? Move onto the next play.”
Weeden also said camp is the right time to take risks, though he might need to scale back some.
“You’ve got to pick your spots,” Weeden said. “For me, that’s seven-on-seven. Just take your shots. Take shots down the field. Try to make those throws that are difficult throws. Fortunately there’s no one in the stands and there’s not a scoreboard so you can kind of be aggressive.
“I’m an aggressive thrower. Coach Shurmur told me after practice, ‘I don’t want to take away any of your aggressiveness, but there’s some things if it’s not there, you’ve got to check it down.’ And I understand that. I completely get it and I knew I made the mistakes. But, yeah, you’ve got to take shots, and if you’re an aggressive player – look at Brett Favre – there’s gonna be mistakes every once in a while, but there’s also gonna be some big plays.”
Defensive tackles Ahtyba Rubin (pelvis) and Phil Taylor (pectoral muscle), fullback Eddie Williams, tight end Evan Moore and wide receiver Carlton Mitchell (leg) did not practice.
Rookie cornerback Trevin Wade (leg) returned to practice after sitting out Saturday.
Rookie Mitchell Schwartz practiced at right tackle with the second-team offense a day after Shurmur said he expects Schwartz to start in that spot. Oniel Cousins worked with the first-team offense at right tackle.
Shurmur said he’ll continue to monitor the competition between the players and will name a starter soon.
Josh Cribbs said his role is changing because he’ll be more involved on special teams – coverage and return units – and less involved as a receiver on offense. Shurmur, though, downplayed the change.
“He’s a special-teams player,” Shurmur said. “He didn’t get many reps out there today. No, his role’s not changing. He’s a special-teams player that plays receiver.”
The Browns said 4,200 fans attended practice. It’s the largest single-session total since the team began tracking attendance figures in 2005. The previous record of 3,673 was set during the first practice open to the public in 2010.