Rookie Anthony Schwartz came through in Odell Beckham Jr.'s absence, and now the Browns have pressed the brakes on OBJ's return. (Associated Press)
Anthony Schwartz’ speed fills void of Odell Beckham Jr.’s absence from Browns offense
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Editor's note: Tony Grossi is a Cleveland Browns analyst for TheLandOnDemand.com and 850 ESPN Cleveland.
Takeaways from Browns practice and interviews …
The more you talk to players and coaches, the more comfortable they feel with receiver Anthony Schwartz.
It’s pretty obvious that Schwartz’ successful debut in Kansas City contributed to Kevin Stefanski’s decision to rule out Odell Beckham Jr. on Wednesday to end the drama and focus attention on game-planning the Houston Texans.
“I don’t think if he even had a mental error. He played pretty close to a perfect game,” said receiver Jarvis Landry. “He really showed his speed and his presence was definitely felt. I think people now … get a good understanding of what he can do and we have a better understanding of how he can help us.”
Offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt concurred.
“He’s on top of his game, for sure,” he said. “That’s one of his areas of strength -- his intelligence and ability to study and learn the plays. Really glad to see him make those plays. You can see the speed on the field. He’ll continue to get better.”
Van Pelt confirmed that Beckham was very much in the game plan. When he was made inactive 90 minutes prior to the game, “we just upped [Schwartz’] reps.”
Schwartz responded with three catches for 69 yards, including a game-high 44-yard reception, plus 17 yards on a reverse run. Schwartz failed to come down with a contested ball in the fateful fourth quarter. Whether you feel Beckham would have made that catch or not, it’s indisputable that Schwartz’ speed on the field sufficiently gave the Browns something they were missing a year ago with Beckham out.
“Until you see it on film, him running past guys, you don’t truly believe it,” Landry said. “Now he’s put it on tape a couple times. Obviously, he’s still got some things to prove, but I think that’s something defenses will be aware of.”
Landry wouldn’t guess on who would win a 40-yard dash race – Beckham or Schwartz.
“I’ll pay for those seats to watch that one,” Landry said.
Three deep at left tackle
With starter Jedrick Wills (ankle) and top backup Chris Hubbard (triceps) missing a second day of practice, the Browns are preparing rookie third-round pick James Hudson to make his first NFL start at left tackle.
Hudson had an up-and-down first training camp and preseason and was inactive Sunday in Kansas City. He practiced mostly as LT2 all of camp.
“He’s getting better. He’s definitely an arrow pointing up guy,” Van Pelt said. “I ‘m excited to see if he has a chance to play how he responds.”
Left guard Joel Bitonio will be pressed to help out Hudson if either Wills or Hubbard can’t go against Houston.
“Since Joe Thomas has not been here, I’ve played with a lot of tackles. It’s always a new adventure,” Bitonio said. “But you get reps in practice. I think guys will be prepared and then we communicate on game day and figure out where to go.”
When the Browns experienced a left tackle crisis in the 2018 training camp, former offensive line coach Bob Wylie called moving Bitonio to left tackle “Plan Z.” Former coach Hue Jackson actually enacted Plan Z, until Greg Robinson took over.
Plan Z is not in the cards now.
No lost faith in Scottish Hammer
Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer was at a loss to explain punter Jamie Gillan dropping a snap and then running with the ball rather than punting it out of harm’s way in the fourth quarter in Kansas City. Priefer said it was a mistake for the left-footed Gillan to run to his right because it’s so much easier to punt on the run from the side of his natural punting leg.
He said Gillan had no explanation and no excuse when he addressed the error on the flight home from Kansas City.
“He was devastated. We all were, for him and for our football team,” Priefer said.
Priefer said that Gillan received 15 to 20 long snaps and the same number of field goal snaps from the JUGS machine every day in training camp. He said Gillan ups those reps to 50 on Wednesdays and Thursdays of the regular season.
“I would think we take more punt and field goal snaps off the JUGS than anybody in the league,” Priefer said.
Asked if he lost any faith in Gillan, the coach said, “No, not at all.”
Incidentally, the last-second attempt by Donovan Peoples-Jones to pick up a loose ball after a Chiefs player touched it on a Kansas City punt was exactly what Priefer instructs his players to do.
“All our guys know the rule,” he said. “When our opponent punts the ball, if they touch it first, we can pick it up at no cost. It’s the rule of first touch on a punt.”
Defensive coordinator Joe Woods said safety Grant Delpit had his first reps in live team drills this week. “He’s looking good, figuring things out. Hopefully we’ll get him in the game for a few plays,” Woods said …
Malik McDowell will remember his first NFL game for tackling Chiefs running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire for a 2-yard loss on the very first play of the game. Linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah will remember his first game differently. He missed a tackle of Chiefs returner Byron Pringle on the Browns’ first kickoff. “Could have had the first tackle of the season,” JOK said, shaking his head. “Slightly missed it. That stands out to me. That’s always going to stick with me.”