CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Browns had more than two months of meetings, practices and minicamps to install new schemes on both sides of the football and acclimate new talent to the organization, and they wrapped up the offseason work on Thursday.
After the 10 organized team activities, countless meetings, including during an extra two-week period because of the hiring of new head coach Freddie Kitchens back in January, and minicamp practices, the Browns feel progress was made on the field.
“We got a base for what we are doing, and that is what we tried to get,” Kitchens said. “There are still some things to work out. There are still some timing details to work out. This has been a long process for these guys. As a new head coach, you get an extra week and an extra minicamp, which, in reality, turns into two weeks.”
Kitchens was particularly happy with the way the players fought through long days in order to sharpen their skills.
“I have been most impressed with how these guys have just kept their heads down and just worked because it does get redundant after a while,” Kitchens said. “You are going back and making sure that you are getting done what you wanted to get done, which is having a base for the offense, a base for the defense and a base for the special teams.
“There is no game-planning, so the excitement kind of wears off. These guys have done a good job of pushing through and continuing to get ready for training camp. Essentially, all we want to do is prepare everybody to compete in training camp.”
Heading into mandatory minicamp this past week, the talk surrounding the Browns was all about the offense, how long it would take quarterback Baker Mayfield to develop chemistry with wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and what type of distraction would there be from the return of running back Duke Johnson Jr. after he missed all of the voluntary workouts while seeking a trade.
However, despite not being permitted to practice in full pads, the defense made plays, intercepted passes, scored touchdowns and got key stops during end-of-game drills against the offense.
“I think that is what you have seen,” Kitchens said. “I tell them we are not perfect and we are not going to be perfect in the fall, but if we compete the way we should compete, we play with our intelligence that we should play with and we are the toughest team on the field, then we will be okay. Those are the only things that I care about.”
Although admitting that it was “too early” to develop a team identity, Kitchens knows what he wants to see out of his team when they report back to Berea for the start of training camp in late July.
“I want to be the most physical team on the field. I want to play great defense. I want to move the ball. I want to be great on special teams. That kinds of sums it up. Now, in saying all that, these guys have to decide what they want the identity to be.
“I know what we are going to push and press for and the identity is going to be knowing what to do, knowing when to do it and knowing how to do it, and in everything that we do, do it physically.”