There's only been a week's worth of practices, but here's what has surprised me so far about Cleveland Browns camp.
1. Danny Shelton can really move. I was skeptical when the Browns used such a high pick on a 340 pound defensive lineman. With today’s up-tempo, no-huddle offenses I was frightened that the Browns could have been drafting a part-time player that could potentially be a liability on passing downs.
So far that is definitely not the case with Shelton.
For a player his size, Shelton has a very high motor. That isn’t just football-speak. He has tremendous energy. Again, it is just a week into camp and we haven’t seen him in a game situation, but so far you have to like what you see from the 12th overall pick.
2. The addition of Tramon Williams is huge. Williams has been very impressive, especially the way he attacks the ball. At 6’0” he also fits the new prototype for corners a little better than Buster Skrine did.
This is how you add depth to any team or organization by the way, you add to the top and let competition make everyone better. Justin Gilbert and Pierre Desir are battling for the back-up spot instead of starting opposite Joe Haden. K'Waun Williams is still the nickel back, a role in which he was excellent in last season. Injuries are certain to happen. Adding Williams made the whole secondary better.
3. The offensive line could easily start the same five as last year. This is a mild surprise to me because I thought Cameron Erving or Michael Bowie would really push for one of the starting spots on the right side. It could still happen obviously, as there haven’t been any preseason games to use as a measuring stick. The truth however, is that John Greco and Mitchell Schwartz have been very steady so far on that right side.
Bowie has been very good, and should there be an injury to one of the tackles it wouldn’t be as devastating as in years past. I think Bowie could start for several teams in the league right now. Erving is making the typical rookie mistakes in camp. It seems as though he draws a false start penalty once a day, and you're also likely hear Andy Moeller or one of the offensive assistants shout Erving’s name in practice about something else. This isn’t uncommon though for a rookie, especially one trying to learn multiple positions.
If I had to guess based on the first week of camp, I’d say both Bowie and Erving will be reserves week one unless there is an injury.
4. My final surprise has nothing to do with an individual player or position battle. It is how laid back and dare I say ‘easier’ camp seems to be. First off, there is no circus like the last couple of seasons. There isn’t an army of out of town media waiting to swarm Johnny Manziel. There is no Josh Gordon to be found, or questions lingering about how long he will be out. The only real outrageously overblown story so far has been Terrelle Pryor’s transition and whether or not he will become the last member of the wide receiver group.
More than just the sideshow media circus stuff, the practices themselves have been a bit shorter and players are getting time off to rest-- in the first week. Mike Pettine talked on day one about not coming out and doing too much too early, making sure the players’ bodies had the proper recovery time and so on.
Players come to camp in shape, but the hill just behind the MVP area of training camp serves as a reminder of another time in the NFL. Camp used to be brutal. Those days are gone. Perhaps it is a good thing, but it certainly is different. Yes, it has been trending that way for years, but something about this camp appears more relaxed. It could be the tone Pettine himself is setting. This being his second camp as head coach has to be easier than the first.