BEREA, Ohio— When Hue Jackson scheduled a series of practices in Tampa after the NFL Draft, he didn’t know what his team would look like.
As they travel to Florida on Monday, however, the Browns will be about as healthy as possible, missing less than five players with injury.
“It wasn’t any magic solution. It just worked out this way,” Jackson said. “It’s working out in our favor because it is important for us and what we have in the future.”
Though there was no magic solution, Jackson has an idea of why the Browns have gotten so healthy so quickly this preseason.
Amongst the renovations to the team’s facility was a new training room filled with state-of-the-art equipment, which the coach feels has made a massive difference in recovery time.
“I give a lot of credit to Dee and Jimmy (Haslam) for making that a reality and putting back into our players so that we can rehab guys and get them back out here quickly,” Jackson said. “(Head athletic trainer) Joe Sheehan designing this thing, he knew exactly what it needed to look like, feel like in order to get our players back when those things do happen. He’s done a great job.”
With a squad at full health heading into the most important week of the preseason, Cleveland will have two practices with Tampa Bay before playing in the third exhibition game on Friday night at Raymond James Stadium.
According to the coach, the first practice will feature pads and the second will not, while there will be no tackling during either.
Despite the lack of hitting, the team seems excited to finally face another foe.
“It's going to be an interesting dynamic being out there practicing against another team,” linebacker DeMario Davis said. “It's going to be an interesting week, I'm looking forward to it.”
The Browns may be excited for this trip, but they’re excited as well about their suddenly improved health— especially at the wide receiver position.
For the first time this preseason, Josh Gordon and Corey Coleman have a legitimate shot of playing in a game, which Jackson thinks is an important step in their progression.
“I’m looking forward to one having them there, potentially having them all for a game and have them go out there and play with our offensive football team,” Jackson said. It would be fun to watch all those guys and see the different pieces, but we have to get them there.”
The status of the duo isn’t yet definite, but Coleman and Gordon, along with Andrew Hawkins, practiced on Monday, making catches all over the field.
Joe Haden lined up against the trio for the first time and was impressed with what he saw.
“That’s a really, really solid receiving corps,” Haden said. “Teams don’t have two players like that and we have three of them.”
Like the receivers, Haden has yet to play in a preseason game thus far, after offseason ankle surgery kept him from most of the team’s summer activities and the first days of Training Camp.
That absence has Jackson yearning to see the corner on the field as well.
“They need to be out there with their teammates, good practice against somebody different than the guys they practice against a lot, and then have the opportunity to play in a game, too,” Jackson said. “I want to see them play in a game against a different opponent and come out there and prepare and get ready for a game because a couple of weeks from now, it’s real. They need to have that experience heading into our first game.”
As the Browns ready for their preseason dress rehearsal, Jackson is looking forward to evaluating his team against another opponent in practice. While there's nothing like evaluating game tape, practicing against another opponent may come close.
“I like both, to be honest with you,” Jackson said, “but I am going to enjoy this experience with Tampa Bay.”
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