BEREA (92.3 The Fan) – With Hall of Famer and mentor Bruce Smith on hand, Myles Garrett finally got to go against future hall of fame left tackle Joe Thomas with the first-team defense.

And the No. 1 overall pick didn’t disappoint.

Garrett faced Thomas on the first 2 snaps on 11-on-11 team work Wednesday with Thomas quickly disposing and getting the best of him. But later in practice during another 11-on-11 series Garrett got his revenge. He blew by Thomas and hit quarterback Cody Kessler right before Kessler dumped the ball off to Isaiah Crowell.

“I think I beat him on the last rush,” Garret said after practice. “But there was a rush where I tried to ‘bull’ and he started to slow me down. Then, [Joel] Bitonio came and basically stopped me in my tracks. I heard Joe whisper to me, ‘nice try.’

“That’s going against one of the world’s best. You’re going to get better each day by doing that.”

While head coach Hue Jackson wasn’t thrilled Garrett nearly took out Kessler because QBs are supposed to be off limits in camp, it was impressive to see how fast Garrett got by Thomas after being stymied by the 10-time Pro Bowl left tackle.

The Browns hope Garrett will be a cornerstone of their defense for years to come and Smith hopes to help make that happen.

The NFL’s all-time sacks leader with 200 over his 19-year NFL career with Buffalo and Washington spoke to Garrett a few times during Wednesday’s practice offering him advice. Smith thinks Garrett has the physical and mental tools to be one of the game’s best.

“Speed off of the ball, his raw ability. A very intelligent young man,” Smith said. “So it’s not going to take him long to figure this game out. Obviously, there’s always a learning curve, but he can be an impact player in his first year.”

The snaps against Thomas were Garrett’s first with the first-team defense of training camp and Smith was glad to see No. 95 against No. 73. He told Jackson and defensive coordinator Gregg Williams it was about time that happened.

“I said, ‘He needs this experience right now of going against the best that’s in the league, and Joe can be an invaluable asset to Myles,'” Smith told them. “To be able to communicate with him after a play is over, after a pass rush, he can teach him how to be a dominant player much quicker if he talks to him and communicates with him, and tells him what he did wrong and what he did right, as opposed to him remaining silent. Him engaging and playing and getting as much action against Joe as he possibly can as a rookie is critical.”

After practice Jackson said that Smith’s presence had nothing to do with the decision to elevate Garrett Wednesday.

“That was earned,” Jackson said. “That was earned by that guy, by the way he’s practiced. By the way he’s gotten himself in shape and by his teammates. I think his teammates were wondering, ‘Coach, when are you going to put him up there? What are you doing?’ Because he deserves it. He’s been working hard. Bruce had nothing to do with that.”

Garrett is routinely seen after practice running the entire length of the field 8-10 times in an effort to build up his stamina and prepare him for a 16-game season.

On draft day, Smith visited Garrett at his Texas home where the 2 watched film. Later that evening, Smith presented Garrett with his No. 1 Browns jersey and hat after he was selected first overall by Cleveland.

“He’s arguably the best ever,” Garrett said. “He’s a great teacher and a great mentor. No matter what, anything I need. He’s going to come to me and tell me what he sees. And I can do the same. He’s just going to help me become a better player. He’s a great person as well and I appreciate that.”

As the 2 have gotten to know each other over the past few months, Smith has become impressed with Garrett’s willingness to learn.

“I don’t believe that I was as receptive as a rookie as he is,” Smith said. “This young man is mature beyond his years, and that’s a tribute to his humbleness and his upbringing by his parents.”

Garrett is already showing that he’s a quick study.


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