BEREA, Ohio – The Browns practiced Sunday morning in full pads for the first time. I watched as closely as I could. Below are a few observations…
**Trent Richardson is a football player.
**As usual, you don’t get that kind of hard-hitting analysis just anywhere.
**The first day in pads is the first day to get a true evaluation of Richardson — and of the guys who need to open holes for him. Richardson bounced off a few people Sunday. He’s going to run through arm tackles and punish some defensive backs if he can get to the second level of the defense, which he did a couple of times Sunday. Presumably, he’s going to run the ball a lot.
**Completing passes is still very much a project.
**The throwing, the catching and the protecting all need to work to complete said passes. All need work.
**There’s no sense in passing judgment — pun not intended — after watching one practice, especially knowing the Browns are just three practices in. But the Browns aren’t getting anywhere until they get an answer at quarterback, and Brandon Weeden has a long way to go.
**Fans were six deep along the sideline. Their passion is remarkable, commendable and the list goes on, really. The crowd Sunday morning of 4,200 is the largest since the Browns started tracking camp crowds in 2005, and it’s even more impressive since only 3,000 fans are allowed in at any given time. That means people waited outside to get in. To practice.
**Head coach Pat Shurmur said there’s a “competition” at right tackle between veteran ONeil Cousins and second-round rookie Mitchell Schwartz and that the competition will really start now that the pads are on. Cousins, for what it’s worth, got the first-team reps Sunday. What that’s worth, six weeks from the season opener, is probably not much.
**You notice Josh Gordon. Correction: You can’t help but notice Josh Gordon. It looks like the Browns are bringing him along slowly, and that’s understandable given his situation. But he looks like a tight end, and if he runs and catches like a receiver, he has a chance to be good. Sooner rather than later, maybe.
**Gordon split one way, Mohamed Massaquoi the other way and Greg Little in the slot looks like an NFL receiving corps is supposed to look. The playing, of course, is more important than the looking. The looking is a start.
**Fourth-rounder Travis Benjamin will make the team and appears to have some upside; he was very quick and appeared very comfortable Sunday. Little will start. What else happens at wide receiver over the next five weeks is anyone’s guess. Carlton Mitchell is watching from the sideline with an injury, bringing to mind the old training camp adage, “You can’t make the club in the tub.”
**Zero receiver reps Sunday for Joshua Cribbs. Shurmur called Cribbs “a special teams player that plays receiver.” In an ideal world, the Browns would have enough talent at receiver that Cribbs could concentrate on special teams and be a situational player on offense. We’ll see.
**Montario Hardesty, he of new jersey number (20), leaner look and another new start, looks like a player, too. Durability is still the issue, but he ran like a guy who can be an NFL running back. Let’s hold off on the potential Browns fan ticket dilemma a 2027 Hall of Fame induction with both Hardesty and Josh Gordon would involve, but the Browns decision-makers have to like what they see.
**If two of four of a group that includes Massaquoi, Hardesty, Gordon and Jordan Cameron can become productive players, the skill positions could take a big leap. As long as the throwing and blocking parts come together, too.
**Rookie linebacker James-Michael Johnson looks like a player. With Scott Fujita facing a three-game suspension — and for other reasons, too — the Browns need him to be.