BEREA (92.3 The Fan) – You never get a second chance to make a good first impression.
The draft class of 2017 took the old adage to heart Friday during their first practice of the 3-day rookie minicamp leaving head coach Hue Jackson feeling pretty good about what he saw.
“It is an exciting time. It is a good class,” Jackson said following practice. “It is a talented class. We have a lot of work to do, but I thought it was a good first day.”
This class will be looked upon to serve as the foundation to build the team around, and hopefully with that turn the fortunes of the franchise that has had 14 double-digit loss seasons in 18 years, including a 1-15 finish in 2016, around too.
They are hungry and anxious to live up to those hopes and expectations too.
“I think this whole draft class can be part of that foundation,” safety and No. 25 overall pick Jabrill Peppers said. “We have a great class. You don’t have to go in the first round to be considered a cornerstone. I think they did a real good job at finding guys who love football, have a real passion for the game. When you have a group of guys like that, the energy just fills the room.”
While Jackson liked the first impression, he also tempered expectations.
“We have a long way to go,” Jackson said. “I caution all of you. We have a long way to go with some very talented players. I won’t run from that. They are talented. It is our job to coach them up to where they need to be so they can contribute to our football team.”
Here’s some observations from Friday’s practice.
– The No. 1 overall pick looked as quick as advertised. Myles Garrett is fast for a guy that is on the plus side of 270. Garrett’s instincts, athleticism and quickness were on display Friday as he looked as quick getting off at the snap as he did at Texas A&M. Aside from turning down a chance to go to a Cavs playoff game so he could work out at his hotel, Garrett was also last off the practice field as he and Larry Ogunjobi stayed behind to get in a little extra work before hitting the showers. Nothing but positives from Garrett on Day 1.
– Not having Jabrill Peppers on the field was the lone downer of the day. Peppers spoke with reporters, where he was asked to address drug use accusations levied earlier this week on Cleveland radio airwaves. He denied them emphatically, but he did not practice. Peppers had not yet signed the standard participation agreement, which assures him of receiving the guaranteed rookie contract should he suffer an injury prior to officially signing. Jackson said after practice he was confident that would happen soon. If he doesn’t sign it then the motives for his agent advising him not sign it should and will come into question.
– Tight end David Njoku – pronounced nuh-jo-koo – must’ve had Velcro on his hands because he caught everything and anything that was thrown in his direction Friday afternoon. His 6-foot-4, 245 pound frame was hard to miss on the practice field. Time will tell, but the first glance of Njoku left many saying, ‘Wow’ including Jackson.
“He is a big, fast guy, right,” Jackson said with a big smile. “He looks good. He can run.”
– The football jumps out of quarterback DeShone Kizer’s hand with authority. He too is hard to miss at 6-foot-4, 230-plus pounds and definitely looked the part. Kizer spent most of his time at Notre Dame in the shotgun and he clearly has work to do with his mechanics and footwork from under center on the 3-, 5- and 7-foot drops. Throwing against soft pressure is one thing, the real honest evaluation of him won’t happen until live competition during the preseason. Kizer is excited that Hue Jackson won’t hold him back, even though the Browns would probably prefer to red-shirt him this year, and give him an opportunity to earn the starting job in training camp.
“It’s awesome,” Kizer said. “He’s a guy who prides himself on competition and I can’t wait to compete, but once again, this weekend and the last couple days, we’ve figured out the biggest theme is learning. There’s so much I need to learn before I can even consider thinking about competition and trying to play. Right now, I’m at step one. I need to get to level 500 before I can even consider stepping on an NFL field.”
– New defensive coordinator Gregg Williams is going to be a lot of fun to watch on the practice field this year and the veterans are in for a rude awakening when it comes to what they’ll be doing during practice. Williams made it clear Friday that he will work his players hard while coaching them up. If they aren’t in shape, Williams will have them gassed in a hurry.
“Oh, I laugh really hard,” Jackson said when asked about Williams’ coaching style. “I have been in a couple of the meetings and I probably fell out to be honest with you. Obviously, as I said before, I am very happy that Gregg is here. He is a tremendous football coach. He has a way of getting guys to do what he needs to do. I think our players are really going to benefit. I think the defensive side of the ball will really benefit from his tutelage and the knowledge that he has and how he gets them to do it. It is exciting.”