As soon as it counts, the Cleveland Browns had their full team in for minicamp and they at least look loaded.
Not only did the Browns have everyone there for minicamp, the news was encouraging as players like Odell Beckham and Jadeveon Clowney were on the field and practicing. With everyone there, it's dizzying keeping track of all the talent the Browns have, both in terms of new faces as well as those coming back from injury.
Much of the focus was on new defensive line acquisitions Jadeveon Clowney and Takkarist McKinley, in Browns uniforms for the first time since they signed their contracts this offseason. At the same time, John Johnson, perhaps the biggest acquisition this offseason and Grant Delpit practicing without any obvious limitation were drilling in the secondary.
Clowney, who had surgery to repair a meniscus injury, was not limited at all on Tuesday. He was a full participant, including team periods, even if the team periods were not terribly competitive. As head coach Kevin Stefanski pointed out, the only things they are doing full speed are individual drills and then 7 on 7.
That's without mentioning Greg Newsome or any of the other players the Browns added in this year's draft class, who provide reasons to excited independently of anything else. Save for Delpit, that's without noting last year's draft class that was able to contribute a great deal in the Browns playoff run. Ronnie Harrison, who was lauded as a defensive savior last year, was out there working, but wasn't a major focus.
That's not because those players don't matter. They are all important to the Browns chances this year, but that is just how much the team has added this offseason in terms of talent and it's difficult to notice everyone.
For all the talent the Browns have added this offseason, mostly on defense, and despite two years of mixed results, Odell Beckham continues to be a fascination. Whatever he has or hasn't done with the Browns to this point, he still looks the part of a star receiver and game breaker; an ingredient the offense has been missing.
"Looked good to me. Did some individual drills. Did routes on air. He's still progressing through," Kevin Stefanski said when he was asked about him. "I think we'll see. He looked good today, day one of minicamp and then we'll progress and make sure that we're having, obviously, dialogue with the player, with the training staff, the medical staff, etc."
The Browns will continue to look for ways to improve this offense, but nothing can elevate it like Beckham and Baker Mayfield being fully in sync, which has only provided a handful of highlights to this point.
While the Browns have no questions at the quarterback position, that doesn't mean there weren't questions regarding the quarterback. And when Stefanski was asked about essentially catching up with Baker Mayfield, this being the first time the two have met in person for this season, the Browns head coach gave an interesting insight in to just how much can be accomplished virtually.
“I would tell you, yes, this is the first time I am in person with him, but we have been on a lot of Zoom calls together. Throughout the course of this offseason program going all of the way back to April, we have installed the offense, we have watched tape together and we have added new plays and talked about old plays. We have a pretty good feel for where Baker is and really where a bunch of the guys that are returning. We have room to grow. We have work to do. Today was a step in that direction.”
Chris Hubbard, Anthony Schwartz, Tony Fields and Malik McDowell were in attendance but did not participate. They were working on the side with trainers.
Stefanski has his eyes on the prize for the season and is looking to avoid injuries as much as possible.
"We are going to get back to training camp, and early on, we are only going to be in helmets and then the pads will come on and start to progress into what looks like a normal team drill. I just think that is part of us taking in all of the information and making sure we get really, really good work in without exposing any of the guys to undue injury.”
Not only is this simply prudent in the NFL where simply keepings guys healthy is such a big focus in general, but the Browns understand just how talented they are and the smarter they can in June, July and August, the better chances they will have in November, December and January.
This team is going to be fun.