BEREA — Martin Emerson Jr. is hard to miss on the field. And not just because of his imposing size for a cornerback — 6-foot-2, 201 pounds.
The rookie third-round pick — the Browns’ first of the draft — moves well and makes plays on the ball. He’s impressed coaches and teammates to open training camp, earning time with the starting defense with Pro Bowler Denzel Ward sidelined by a foot injury.
“I think he is really competitive,” coach Kevin Stefanski said Friday of Emerson. “He does a nice job out at practice and competing for the ball. He is very intelligent. We knew that going into that process with the draft. That has shown up.
“He does what he is supposed to do when he is supposed to do it, so he has been very accountable in that way. He has been as advertised and why we were excited to get him.”
Coordinator Joe Woods said Emerson looks like a linebacker walking around the facility.
“I feel like my size, it plays a big role,” Emerson said. “I’m a bigger corner so I play physical. Be more patient, I can use my length to get hands on guys, and receivers, they don’t like to get touched. So I just use my size to my advantage.”
He had average size in Pop Warner before a growth spurt heading into ninth grade.
“He’s a big kid and I think he’s a very smart player, as well,” cornerback Greg Newsome II said. “He came in here, he pretty much knows a lot of the things in the meeting rooms. He’s making calls and things like that.
“If he’s needed to play early, he’ll be ready to play right away. He’s been doing great this camp and I’m just looking for him to keep building.”
Emerson expects to play outside but is learning all the techniques in case he’s needed in the slot. He said safety John Johnson III talks to him a lot to bring him along, and he seeks advice from Ward.
“I always ask him for tips because he’s one of the best in the game,” Emerson said. “I just ask him everything and soak up everything. He might get tired of me a little bit, but I appreciate it.”
Covering four-time Pro Bowler receiver Amari Cooper has also helped.
“He’s a great player,” Emerson said. “He makes you stay patient and don’t guess. I love going against him.”
Stefanski said receiver David Bell (foot) and Anthony Schwartz (knee) are “really close” to practicing. That’s welcome news, especially with rookie sixth-round wideout Michael Woods II missing practice Friday with a hamstring injury.
The receiving corps has been hit with injuries over the first week of training camp, and Woods had capitalized on an increase in repetitions. He also missed time during the offseason program.
“He’s been doing amazing,” Newsome said. “He’s a very confident guy, which I like. He can run great routes, he’s good off the line and he can catch the football, so I think he’s going to make some plays for us this season.”
** Center Nick Harris left practice after getting poked in the eye but is OK.
Ethan Pocic replaced him, and quarterback Deshaun Watson fumbled one of his snaps.
** Left-footed punter Corey Bojorquez (right foot) returned after missing a couple of days.
** With Joel Bitonio getting the day off, Drew Forbes took most of the first-team reps at left guard. Blake Hance also filled in.
** Receiver Javon Wims worked on the side for the first time. He’s been on the non-football illness list since the start of camp.
** Ward, linebacker Anthony Walker Jr. (groin) and defensive tackle Sheldon Day (back) remained sidelined.
Rookie kicker Cade York made his first 17 attempts in field goal drills before missing the last try Friday. He was wide right from 58 yards.
York went 6-for-6 in each of the first two sessions earlier in camp and was 5-for-6 Friday. He made a 53-yarder off the left upright before the miss.
Linebacker Jacob Phillips’ final year at LSU was York’s freshman season.
“Without him on that team it would have been tough for us to go 15-0 and obviously win a national championship,” Phillips said. “So when I saw his name come across that we drafted him, I was like, ‘Oh, yeah, we good.’
“It’s even closer games in the NFL to where you actually need those three points. We can go back and name five games from last year that if we make all our kicks we could have won or if we would have kicked in this situation, had the faith to, that we would win. So I’m super excited that he’s here. I have a whole lot of faith in him.”
Cornerback A.J. Green didn’t need his strong start to camp to convince Newsome how good he is.
“Man, he’s amazing. I said it last year and I’ll say it again, I feel like if he wasn’t on this team, he can go and be a starter anywhere else in the league,” said Newsome, a starter alongside Ward. “He’s that good. He’s that talented. And he’s been having a great camp. Whenever we need him to be on that field, he’s always there, ready to go and we don’t miss a beat with him on the field.”
Green was undrafted in 2020 and played two games for the Browns that season and 12 last year. He’s competing with Greedy Williams and Emerson for playing time behind the starters.
Defensive end Chris Odom, the USFL’s defensive player of the year, posted Friday night on Instagram a picture of him signing a contract with the Browns. The move wasn’t announced by the team.
Odom last played in the NFL in 2019. He led the USFL with 12.5 sacks in the season that ended last month.
** The Browns signed cornerback Lavert Hill (5-10, 180) and waived cornerback Reggie Robinson II (core muscle) with an injury designation. Hill has been on practice squads across the league the last two years.
The team practiced for only the second time in pads, and the individual drills were competitive, including receivers vs. cornerbacks. Another padded practice is expected Saturday or Sunday.
** Receiver Demetric Felton showed strength by holding on while defensive end Myles Garrett tried to strip the ball.
** SiriusXM’s Jim Miller and Pat Kirwan will host their show Saturday from camp.