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Notes: Mike Hall Jr. not afraid to set lofty goals, targets rookie of year

BEREA — Mike Hall Jr. had been at Browns headquarters for less than 24 hours and had yet to practice. He was already thinking big.

The defensive tackle out of Ohio State was the No. 54 pick in the draft last month but wants to move to the top of the class. He asked new defensive line coach Jacques Cesaire what it takes to be rookie of the year.

OSU DL coach Larry Johnson says Michael Hall Jr. great fit for Browns, can do ‘something really special’

“Just having high expectations for myself, but just trying to be the best version I can of myself,” Hall said Friday before the first practice of rookie minicamp.

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He was matter-of-fact when asked if being NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year is a goal.

“Yeah, of course,” he said. “I feel like anybody has that goal. You’d be a fool not to in this business.”

Cesaire had the answer for Hall’s question.

“It takes a lot of hard work and dedication,” Hall said. “You got to be the last guy out, first guy in for sure. You got to be early in the meetings and everything and you just got to stay after practice and you got to be a student of the game. Just eager to learn more, never be satisfied, never be comfortable, always asking more questions.”

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Cesaire gave Hall plenty to think about Friday afternoon during his first practice. Cesaire, who joined the Browns after two years with the Texans, got up close to analyze Hall’s stance and technique throughout the line drills, providing constant feedback.

“A great coach. He is just very demanding like Coach Schwartz,” Hall said, referring to coordinator Jim Schwartz. “They hold us to a high standard and a lot of expectations.

“Ultimately we got to put the work in ourselves. They can only want it for us so much, but at the end of the day, it’s Mike Hall that has to come out here on the field and make it happen.”

The six draft picks were joined by eight signed undrafted free agents, seven tryout players and a handful of first-year players in the hour practice.

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“I thought Mike did a nice job,” coach Kevin Stefanski said. “First day of school, but to see them take coaching, that’s something that is so important for young players. There’s so much nuance that goes into it that he will work really, really hard at. So he did a nice job today, and we just want to build on that each day.”

Despite all the information being thrown at Hall, he said he was keeping up.

“No, it is not overwhelming,” he said. “I knew what I was getting myself into. They’re holding me to a high standard and I hold myself to a high standard and I’m worst critic, so just happy to be out here and I got to get on top of my A-game for sure.”

BACK IN BUSINESS

Michigan guard Zak Zinter, a third-round pick, practiced for the first time since two bones in his leg broke in November against Ohio State when Hall was accidentally pushed into him. Zinter said after he was drafted he had been medically cleared for everything.

NFL Draft: Michael Hall Jr., Zak Zinter transform from ‘enemies in college’ to ‘brothers’ in search of a Super Bowl

“He looks good. He’s comfortable,” Stefanski said. “Just really pleased with where he is.”

DONE DEALS

All but one of the draft picks took care of business before practice.

The Browns announced they had signed five members of the draft class: Zinter, Louisville receiver Jamari Thrash, Mississippi State linebacker Nathaniel Watson, South Dakota cornerback Myles Harden and Cincinnati defensive tackle Jowon Briggs.

Hall Jr., the team’s first pick, was the only one unsigned.

The rookie wage scale has made negotiations much simpler across the league.

GETTING A CHANCE

The Browns announced the signing of eight undrafted free agents: Miami guard Javion Cohen, Wyoming tight end Treyton Welch, BYU running back Aidan Robbins, South Carolina receiver Ahmarean Brown, Arizona State safety Christopher Edmonds, South Dakota State cornerback Dyshawn Gates, Weber State linebacker Winston Reid and Rhode Island tackle Lorenzo Thompson.

Cohen (6-foot-4, 322 pounds) was at Alabama before transferring for the 2023 season. He was All-ACC honorable mention for the Hurricanes and started 36 total games.

Welch (6-4, 240) caught 77 passes for 874 yards and nine touchdowns in 49 games, including 31 catches for 308 yards and two TDs last season. Robbins (6-2, 237) also played at Louisville and UNLV, where he rushed for 1,011 yards and nine touchdowns in 2022. He started seven of eight games with BYU in 2023, totaling 518 scrimmage yards and a touchdown.

“We really don’t care whether you’re drafted or you’re a college free agent or you’re on tryout for us right now, this is an evaluation period, so all of those guys will get a fair shot,” Stefanski said.

EXTRA POINTS

Center Dawson Deaton, a seventh-round pick in 2022, was waived with a failed physical designation.

** Construction continues on a new weight room. Since 2020, the Browns had used a makeshift weight room at one end of the field house.

Browns writer for The Chronicle-Telegram and The Medina Gazette. Proud graduate of Northwestern University. Husband and stepdad. Avid golfer who needs to hit the range to get down to a single-digit handicap. Right about Johnny Manziel, wrong about Brandon Weeden. Contact Scott at 440-329-7253, or email and follow him on and Twitter.

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