The Browns have practiced nine times since training camp began July 26. They held back-to-back scrimmages Friday and Saturday. They open the preseason Thursday at the New York Giants.
With the locomotive toward the regular-season opener Sept. 9 against the Pittsburgh Steelers picking up steam, it’s a good time to slow down and take a look at what we’ve learned.
THE REAL DEAL
Receiver Jarvis Landry has been the best player on the field more often than not. Even if Josh Gordon were in camp, Landry might still be the top receiver.
A reminder: Landry is only 5-foot-11, 196 pounds and doesn’t have elite speed.
It’s difficult to overstate how impressive Landry’s been in his first camp with the Browns. He gives full effort in every repetition and has set the tone for the team as it looks to move past the winless season.
But he’s much more than hard work. He knows how to get open and catches the ball whether he’s covered or not. The NFL-record 400 catches in his first four years drive home the point.
Landry has plenty of positive traits, and strong, dependable hands top the list. Whether he uses one hand or both, he consistently plucks the ball out of the air like it’s nothing. No wonder quarterback Tyrod Taylor keeps giving him chances to make plays.
With the intensity raised a level Friday in the full-contact scrimmage, Landry caught 36- and 26-yard touchdowns. He added a 4-yard score Saturday in a watered-down scrimmage.
Landry is an emotional player with a reputation for running too hot at times, but we’ve yet to see it become a disruption with the Browns. He’s been all good.
THAT WAS FAST
The most newsworthy development of the first week-plus of camp was coach Hue Jackson’s decision to move Pro Bowl-quality left guard Joel Bitonio to left tackle.
The move itself was interesting because Bitonio wanted to stay put and it was considered a last resort. The timing was just as fascinating.
The Browns spent the offseason and start of camp with Shon Coleman as the first-team left tackle, then made the switch before a scrimmage or preseason game. Jackson said he wanted to give Bitonio enough time to get acclimated to tackle, but the true impetus was Coleman’s poor performance.
After being dropped to second-team left tackle for a couple of days, he was bumped again to second-team right tackle. After starting 16 games at right tackle last year and looking forward to the chance to replace Joe Thomas at left tackle, the third-round pick in 2016 is in danger of being traded — if the Browns could find a taker — or cut.
Jackson promised Bitonio the organization would continue to look at options at left tackle so he could return to guard. The only in-house candidate is Greg Robinson, the No. 2 pick in 2014. He missed time early in camp with a concussion but is back and took Coleman’s spot with the second team.
It seems foolish to count on Robinson, who disappointed with the Rams and Lions, so odds are Bitonio will be the starter at left tackle for the season. He’s looked good in his early matchups with defensive end Myles Garrett and has the right attitude to embrace the challenge despite his initial hesitance.
The secondary benefit to moving Bitonio is getting rookie Austin Corbett into the starting lineup at left guard. With No. 1 pick Baker Mayfield scheduled to open the season on the sideline, it wouldn’t look good to have two picks in the top 33 fail to make an immediate impact on a team coming off an 0-16 season.
The Browns believe Corbett has a long future at guard or center.
General manager John Dorsey rebuilt the secondary in the offseason but the worry isn’t gone. Outside of No. 4 pick Denzel Ward, the cornerback play has been sketchy.
Cornerback TJ Carrie signed a four-year, $31 million contract as a free agent and was expected to start opposite Ward. But Carrie has struggled and was replaced by Terrance Mitchell, who signed for $10 million over three years.
Mitchell was listed as the starter on the first unofficial depth chart released Sunday. He started nine games last year with the Chiefs. E.J. Gaines, who signed a one-year, $4 million deal as a free agent, is also in the mix and likely to be the nickelback.
Dorsey made sure he added depth at corner and hasn’t stopped looking for reinforcements, hosting Bashaud Breeland for a visit and working out Adam Jones. I’m sure he wishes he had more clarity at a position he views as critical.
AND THE REST
The addition of free agent Mychal Kendricks gives the Browns four starting-caliber linebackers, and linebackers coach Blake Williams insists there will be enough snaps to go around. Kendricks’ quickness stands out and he’s off to a hot start as a blitzer.
** Defensive tackle Trevon Coley’s high ankle sprain shouldn’t be overlooked. He started 15 games last year in his first season and held his own. He will miss the preseason and might not be ready for the opener.
The silver lining is his absence will allow second-year tackle Larry Ogunjobi to stake a claim to a starting role, whether at Coley’s spot or Jamie Meder’s nose tackle role.
** Solon’s Ross Martin is applying serious pressure to incumbent kicker Zane Gonzalez. Martin has made all his pressure kicks and has a strong leg, knocking through 50-plus-yarders.