The Browns had a rather spirited practice this morning, complete with some goal-line drills, two minute offense and even a couple of minor scuffles. A couple of rookies stepped up, while others struggled and a veteran receiver looked good.
LB James-Michael Johnson looked very good in drills and in the two minute situations. He picked off two passes, one of which was tipped. He was in the right place at the right time, and whether that was good fortune or by design he made the plays when they came to him. Including a big time stop on a goal line situation. He stood a running back straight up and held him there for his teammates to polish off. When I asked him who it was that he stood up, Johnson said “I don’t know, someone had their head down and I blew him up.”
While talking about his first interception, Johnson said “When I caught it I froze. I knew I was supposed to be doing something but I couldn’t think what, then I heard my teammates yelling run. It was a rookie moment.”
His play did not escape the eye of head coach Pat Shurmur “When you put on pads it separates linebackers. James-Michael has had a good couple of days.”
Johnson has been getting work as a MLB in the nickel packages and outside in the base 4-3. He said like all rookies his goal is to start, but he realizes he has his work cut out for him. “I’ve never been a bench player, I always want to be out there competing.”
One rookie that I was excited to see in person was RT Mitchell Schwartz. I’ll say this, he didn’t exactly blow me away. I had to keep reminding myself that this is just his third real NFL practice against live competition. When going against Jabaal Sheard one on one, he struggled. Now, Sheard is a very good defensive lineman with well above average speed and quickness. He made Schwartz look like a rookie on several plays. Sheard worked him outside a few plays in a row, then gave him a hesitation move and ran right passed him. Sheard got his hands on a couple of passes, tipping one for a pick. All working against Schwartz.
Shurmur would spin that as good protection from Schwartz, but the fact is Jabaal was too close to the QB on those plays and got to him on several others. He also bull rushed Schwartz to the ground on one play.
“The better the player you go up against in practice, the quicker you develop.” said Shurmur about Schwartz. Let’s hope so. Shurmur would add “He came in with good technique. Fundamentally, he came in pretty ripe.”
Perhaps the best judge will be how Schwartz reacts and adjusts to today’s lessons.
The player that may have surprised me the most (at least on offense) was Mohamed Massaquoi. MoMass had several nice receptions over the middle and I didn’t see him drop a single ball. I’ll be the first to admit I had written MoMass completely off. I thought with the concussions and what we’ve seen from him the last couple years he may find himself the odd man out.
I know I’m not alone.
However, with Little and Gordon on the outside, and Watson, Moore or Cameron at the Tight End spot, MoMass could look really good in the slot. He didn’t look like he wanted to have anything to do with the press after practice either. Perhaps he has a chip on his shoulder this year? That could be a good thing for the Browns.
-Trent Richardson is a very impressive specimen in person. Frostee Rucker may have said it best- “If No. 33 is in the backfield, we have a chance. He’s gonna do a tremendous job for many years.”In addition to hard running and a couple nice plays in the passing game, Richardson picked up a corner blitz in the two minute drill.
-The corner back position could be really deep. Behind Haden and Brown, Buster Skrine, Patterson and rookie Trevin Wade looked good.
-Alex Smith was talking trash several times to the defensive backs. It started on a play where he was popped pretty good, but bounced up and said “You better bring more than that little DBs.” He then repeated the ‘little DBs’ bit in the general direction of Joe Haden and TJ Ward standing on the sidelines.
-Josh Gordon had some rookie moments, including a few drops. “He is eager and smart, but he has a long way to go.” was the quote from Pat Shurmur about him today.
-Finally, when told by a reporter that Joe Haden called his season last year “Amazing except for four plays”, Pat Shurmur said “Everyone has room to improve. We need him to be Super Amazing this year.”