Apparently I wasn’t the only one who thought Monday’s practice lacked the competitive fire that we’ve been hearing about.
The dial on the intensity knob got turned up on Tuesday. There were bodies flying around. There were footballs thrown at heads. There was pushing and shoving. There was a skirmish that included at least 15-20 players.
The tone for the day was set by coach Pettine, who told the players that he didn’t want a flat practice with the off day coming on Wednesday. He wanted some enthusiasm. He wanted some fire. He got it.
The team was in full pads again on Tuesday, and worked heavy on the run game just like Monday. This time the ball was moving toward the sidelines more, and the defense was making sure that the ball carriers were stopped and were constantly swatting at the ball trying to force fumbles.
The offense took exception to the intensity with which they were punching at the ball.
Running back Ben Tate found himself wrapped in the arms of several defenders on one particular running play, and ended up firing the ball at Ahtyba Rubin’s head. Now Rubin doesn’t quite have the temper of Phil Taylor, but he certainly isn’t going to stand by and let a running back fire a ball at him. A scrum ensued. I think some of the players that were involved were kind of caught up because of their proximity.
I would say that the offense was likely ready to release some frustration. The defense most definitely had the better day Tuesday. Coach Pettine would say after practice that while you don’t like to see these skirmishes, sometimes it can be good for one unit of side of the ball to stick up for each other, to avoid being bullied around at practice.
There was also a competition set up between the offense and the defense for the last scrimmage session of the day. The winning unit would get to wear orange jerseys for practice on Thursday. The defense won.
— CB Justin Gilbert continued to show why Ray Farmer and Mike Pettine thought so highly of him in the draft. He made several plays on passes, including getting great position of Miles Austin and picking off a slightly underthrown ball from Brian Hoyer. Gilbert also fell down during a 7-on-7 drill (I did not see if there was a collision or he tripped) and was favoring his right leg after he got up and walked off the field. He did return after checking with the staff on the sidelines, without missing any reps.
— Another defensive back that had a good day was Johnson Bademosi. The safety made at least two nice pass break-ups as well, and up-ended WR Travis Benjamin on one played.
— With all of those defensive backs having nice days, it goes without saying that the quarterbacks didn’t really shine. Johnny Manziel was intercepted a few times, I believe all while working with the second unit. Twice he threw picks when there was no receiver in the neighborhood of the ball. You can’t automatically assign blame to Manziel without knowing if the receiver ran the right route.
— Lost in the Hoyer/Manziel battle is the fact that there are two other quarterbacks on the roster. Conner Shaw is the rookie from South Carolina battling Tyler Thigpen. Thigpen has a ton of experience on Shaw, and was in Buffalo with Mike Pettine. There was one play in particular that showed Shaw’s inexperience reading an NFL defense. He has a wide receiver coming open deep across the middle, but rushed the ball to the sideline for an incompletion.
— Marlon Moore was in uniform and participating in practice after signing with the team on Monday. He is wearing number 15.
— I talked to a scout from the Canadian Football League. With some 30+ extra players on the roster, a number of these guys will be looking for work in a few weeks. The CFL will be there with open arms for several of them. This scout had his eyes on rookie WR Taylor Gabriel. If the Browns don’t keep him around on the roster or practice squad, he’ll get offers.
— Machine Gun Kelly was at practice Tuesday, apparently as a guest of Joe Haden. That’s all I have to say about that.
— Phil Taylor, John Greco, and Billy Winn remain on the non-football injury list. Jason Pinkston remains on the roster, but nowhere to be seen. The Pinkston situation is strange. In the meantime, Garrett Gilkey and Joel Bitonio take all the reps with the first unit.
[Related: Looking at Kyle Shanahan’s zone run game]