There was again a nice crowd for the Sunday afternoon session at training
camp, although it was noticeably smaller than Friday's group and most of the big
tents are down.
Still, it's a nice-sized group of fans.
Having a media pass is helpful because journalistic low-lifes are allowed to
sneak in under the rope and sit on the edge of the field rather than craning for
a good view from the back of the crowd.
While the ostensible reason for this is to provide writers with a better
view, it's always in the back of my mind that Gerard Warren or Paul Zukauskas
might be sent on a kamikaze mission to "accidentally" leap into the midst the
press corps and wipe us out in the event of negative press coverage.
I also always worry that I'm inconveniencing folks who sit on the bleachers
and blocking their view, so I usually try to mash myself into the smallest
available volume. This is not a simple task for a man in the deep headlock grip
of middle age.
I have to admit, though, that covering the team on a daily basis has its
perks. A nice seat is one of them, and the least I can do is share with you
everything I was able to see.
Today, the good view allows me to see clearly that LaTarence Dunbar is having
a bad day.
As usual, practice began with the units involved in individual drills. The
wide receiver drills typically get the most attention from fans and the media,
simply because they're fun to watch.
The second-year vet from Texas Christian has been brought in, or so I
suspect, because of his kick return skills. I haven't had a chance to see him
return kicks, and the writers I talked to weren't sure if he returned any the
Dunbar's pass catching skills appear suspect, though, as the Sunday practice
gets underway. Perhaps nervous, the 2003 sixth-round choice by the Falcons drops
four or five passes in a row during receiving drills. After a few drops, the
crowd starts shouting encouragement, and Dunbar responds by motioning to fans to
pump up the volume. He finally pulls one down (a very nice catch over his head)
and the crowd explodes with applause.
Dunbar gets "adopted" by the crowd through the afternoon, frequently getting
applause whenever he gets a catch. The string of dropped passes isn't repeated.
While the receivers run short routes and snare passes, the running backs are
doing drills similar to the ones I described during the May/June quarterback
school. This day, however, the overturned trash cans that they are running
through are supplemented by fullbacks holding square pads. Ben Miller and Corey McIntyre are the obstacles.
The team's offensive linemen also are running drills. At this point, we can
see that Ross Verba's left hand is heavily bandaged, as is his right. Verba had
broken a thumb on his left hand, but is on the field and participating in
drills. Later he tells reporters that it's no big deal, because he "holds with
his right hand".
The left side of the line participates in drills, starters Verba and Beasley
first, following by Enoch DeMar and Scot Osborne. Other challengers for the LG
job are elsewhere. Craig Osika and Melvin Fowler work with Jeff Faine, and Paul
Zukauskas is working on the other side with the Kelvin Garmon and the right
Seven On Sevens
At this point, the team moves to the other side of the field to start on some
seven-on-seven scrimmaging. The press corps gets up and trudges around to the
other side of the field.
I make sure to walk near Mary Kay Cabot, because I figure I'm less likely to
have things thrown at me that way. For some reason, I'm a frequent target for
people hurling rocks and garbage. I have been my whole life. I can't explain it.
By the time we get there, the third unit is scrimmaging. In this case, that
involves TE Chad Mustard (whose fan club is again audible), QB Luke McCown, RB
Dee Brown, and FB Corey McIntyre. The defensive line, which I'm guessing is the
third team as well, consists of Felipe Claybrooks, Cedric Scott, John Nix, and
One memorable moment is seeing massive OT Sterling Harris come out to put a
block on smallish LB Josh Buhl. Proving any remaining doubters of Newtonian
physics correct, Harris pushes Buhl flattens the much smaller Buhl.
When the first team comes back out, I'm surprised to see Aaron Shea at TE. He
also appears when the third team comes out, so I'm assuming the TEs are in some
sort of rotation with both Winslow and Heinrich unavailable. Shea makes a number
of catches on the day and does little to confirm the common notion that it will
be tough for him to make the roster. The remaining TEs, including Heiden,
Sanders, and Mustard, are also taking advantage of the extra reps and look good
catching the ball all day.
Chaun Thompson and Andra Davis are doing what head coach Butch Davis says
he's been glad to see this year. They both fly to the ball. After practice, we
talked to Kevin Bentley (audio file to be posted later today) and he tells us
that the second year in Campo's offense is much easier since it's more ingrained
and the linebackers can react more instinctively. It's familiarity shows itself
in the appearance of improved speed by the linebackers.
After the linebackers swoop in on the second play, defensive coordinator Dave Campo exhorts players on the sidelines to be more vocal: "Come on... this is our
When the second unit comes onto the field, Kelly Holcomb is looking at Andre King, Frisman Jackson, and Dennis Northcutt as his receivers. Nick Maddox is
pushing his way up the depth chart, and comes out early while the second unit is
on the field. He grabs a pass and turns the right corner on the first play.
When the third unit comes out, WR Eddie Galles, who I had figured to be an
early cut based on the initial QB school practices, continues to show
improvement. He holds onto a McCown pass about fifteen yards from the line of
scrimmage. On the next play, Chad Mustard grabs a pass and the massive TE
rumbles through the middle of the field. McCown tries to throw long to Jason Geathers, but Michael Grant stays with him and breaks up the pass.
When the first unit returns, Chaun Thompson gets upset by a missed
opportunity and Dave Campo immediately runs onto the field to talk to his
starting strongside linebacker. Garcia throws a couple of short passes, one to
William Green and another to TE Darnell Sanders.
Within about ten minutes of each other, both QB Kelly Holcomb and WR Andre Davis jog off the field. Holcomb returns, but Davis does not. Davis is not
noticeably limping as he leaves the field, although we're told later by Butch
Davis that he has a turned ankle.
Special Teams Drills
The Browns break up again for special teams drills, at least on the closest
side of the field.
If you ever get a chance to watch training camp, don't come expecting to be
bored by a seeing a lot of repetition. The coaching staff moves the team quickly
through a series of drills, and you can watch players practicing all kinds of
different techniques. Even when the team is not scrimmaging, it's more
interesting to watch these drills than you might suspect.
The defensive linemen are practicing getting up into the air to block a pass
or kick. The drill has them hitting a blocking sled and then jumping up to block
a volleyball tossed in the air by one of the punters or kickers. Gerard Warren
does not show a Jordanesque ability to stay in the air, but Ebenezer Ekuban is
able to get pretty far off the ground.
Meanwhile, the team is running some blocking drills where a designated player
runs around the lines clashing at the line of scrimmage and jumps in the air to
block a kick. The team has a nice, thick pad for the leapers to land on. Among
the designated blockers are Dennis Northcutt, Kentrell Curry, Michael Grant and
David Young. Curry, in particular, looks effective in getting to the ball.
Another drill involves defenders starting in a three point stance, moving
under a stick held about three feet off the ground, and grabbing a rag a few
feet behind the line of scrimmage. The player eyes a football on the end of a
stick about four feet to his right, and takes off as soon as the ball moves,
runs under the stick and grabs the rag with one hand.
Full Squad Scrimmage
The practice ended with a full-squad scrimmage, which always seems to put a
little more charge in the air as the contact gets a little more physical and the
crowd starts buzzing.
The first unit comes in and Jeff Garcia immediately hits Quincy Morgan with a
bullet that brings a cheer from the crowd. On the next play, Garcia finds TE
On the third play, the Browns again get Green and Suggs on the field at the
same time and try to run a play similar to one they ran the day before. Kenard Lang, however, jumps offside and the play is nixed. Dave Campo finds the
positive: "I love the enthusiasm, but we can't go off-sides", he shouts.
Garcia then hands off to William Green who finds a seam and bolts through.
Defenders aren't tackling in these scrimmages and a coach shouts "let him run"
as Green flies to the end zone. On the final play from the first unit, Ebenezer
Ekuban comes onto the field and it appears that the team has three defensive
ends on the play. Garcia winds up running with the ball after the rush comes in
The second unit, with the offense led by Kelly Holcomb, then comes onto the
field. Ekuban shows up again, this time knocking into Nick Maddox as he tries to
run with the ball.
The second-team offensive line really seems to be struggling. On the next
play Michael Jameson flies in and would have been able to slam Holcomb to the
turf if it was a game situation. Fortunately, the safety pulls up as a the crowd
talks about the second straight play where the offensive line wasn't able to
keep pace. Later, Holcomb finds Andre King, who is tightly covered by Ben Taylor.
When the third unit comes in, we once again see DT Cedric Scott getting good
penetration. He's been doing very well in these scrimmages over the past several
days. McCown, however, finds Jason Geathers, who was in motion at the snap.
McCown later gets intercepted by S David Gibson.
The first team comes back in, and William Green gets a handoff on the first
play, followed by a pass play where Garcia scrambles and then finds Steve Heiden
again. The third play features are real nice juke by Lee Suggs at the line of
scrimmage, enabling him to blast through into the secondary.
Garcia, however, is picked off on the fourth play by LB Kevin Bentley who
runs the ball back, closely followed by Earl Little begging for a lateral. On
the final play by the first unit, DT Orpheus Roye busts through to screw up a
handoff to Lee Suggs. Suggs and Green are still getting about the same number of
reps with the first unit.
As the units rotate through for another two series of plays, a few moments
- With the second unit, RB Nick Maddox finds himself stuffed at the line,
but moves horizontally and finds a gap to squeeze through.
- New RB Dee Brown gets a couple of runs and looks solid, if unspectacular.
- Corey Jackson is getting some time with the second unit. He appears to
have moved ahead of Claybrooks.
- The most contact of the day probably comes with the third unit as McCown
tosses the ball to Nick Maddox, who runs straight into LB Sherrod Coates. No
one hits the turf, but the impact sounds fairly impressive.
- There are two straight fumbles on handoffs, and later Butch Davis tells us
that the team is concerned about Osika short-arming the ball, although he
notes that the center is having to snap to a number of different QBs
- CJ Jones gets the most notable drop of the day as he isn't able to hold
onto a pass thrown middle of the chest by McCown.
- Chaun Thompson makes a very nice play near the end of practice, rushing
past his blocker to charge at the quarterback and getting his long arms in the
air to block the pass. He's unable to get those long arms working together to
pull in the football, however, which drops harmlessly to the ground.
- For the second time in three days, practice ends with a defensive lineman
blasting into the backfield to make a play. Today, it's Alvin McKinley who
makes the noise on the final scrimmage play.