Editor's note: Tony Grossi covers the Cleveland Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR.
Takeaways from Day 12 of Browns training camp …
1. Crow knows: Don’t think Isaiah Crowell didn’t take notice of the contract extension Falcons running back Devonta Freeman signed this week -- $41.25 million overall, with $22 million guaranteed. “Yeah, you’re going to think about it. It’s obvious,” Crowell said. “I feel that’s great for him. He’s a great player. He deserves it. He changed the market, I feel like. It’s a great deal for him and for all the running backs that deserve to get paid.” Crowell, who was a restricted free agent in his third season, is playing under the second-round tender of $2.764 million. He has been frustrated some by not receiving a new deal, but has not let it bother him after coach Hue Jackson challenged him to have “a monster year.” Crowell hired agent Drew Rosenhaus to handle this important period of his career, and Freeman’s deal is extremely relevant because the two backs have remarkably similar statistics through three years. Freeman has 2,383 rushing yards, a 4.3 average and 23 touchdowns. Crowell has 2,265 yards, a 4.3 average, 19 TDs. One difference that seemingly always haunts players striving for their second contract: Freeman was a fourth-round draft pick by Atlanta, while Crowell was undrafted. “I’m just trying to be patient. I know my time is coming,” Crowell said.
2. Power of the pen: With a strip-sack and four total tackles in the preseason opener Thursday night, unsung defensive tackle Trevon Coley continues to write quite a story in his first training camp with the Browns. He certainly has the tools – low center of gravity to gain leverage on 320-pound linemen, a nice burst of quickness. And of course, he has the pens to write his own story. Yes, pens. He collects pens. “Since I was in high school,” Coley said. “I have a little bucket at home. There are about 200 pens in there. Any pen I find that I like, I try to sneak it away and keep it.” And the fascination is …? “I just like a smooth-writing pen. I just like writing with them,” he said. If he keeps up what what he’s doing, Coley will be writing his autograph more often. When camp opened, he was obscured on the depth chart by rookie draft picks Larry Ogunjobi (third round) and Caleb Brantley (sixth). But after an out-of-leftfield shoutout by tackle Danny Shelton, who said Coley was the top D-lineman producer since OTAs, Coley has emerged as perhaps the breakout player of Hue Jackson’s second camp. The coach himself named him as one of them last week, though he referred to him as “Cooley.” The secret to his success: Working hard, doing what the coaches ask of him, and thriving in Gregg Williams’ attacking 4-3 scheme. “The one-gap scheme is what I’ve been playing my whole life. I like it,” Coley said. He was undrafted from Florida Atlantic last year, a team captain, signed by the Ravens and then cut, signed to the Redskins practice squad and finished the last three weeks on the Browns’ practice squad. The ending to his story has not been penned yet.
3. Second-year growth: Receiver Jordan Payton, who was on the receiving end of DeShone Kizer’s 45-yard, game-winning touchdown pass, said he had to reassess the importance of his career after a disappointing rookie season that ended in an NFL suspension for violation of the performance-enhancing substances policy. “I think it definitely makes you think a bit, makes you think about a lot of things,” said Payton, a fifth-round pick last year out of UCLA. “I think it’s helped me mature and grow as a player and make me lock in to what I want to do. For a minute there, you’re trying to figure out everything, get your goals and what you want to accomplish straight. Now, going through the offseason and now in training camp and preseason, I feel my goals are straight. I want to play and I want to win.” Payton said he appreciated the Browns standing behind him after the suspension. “For me, I’ve always been a loyal person in my life. If someone defended me or stood with me through anything, I’ll give my life to them. That’s where I’m at right now. I just try to do everything I can for this organization,” he said. Payton has been lauded by receivers coach Al Saunders, who said he is “night and day” better than a year ago. “Part of it was I was a very young player and I was kind of in awe of the whole NFL experience and being around it and not understanding what needs to be done,” Payton said of his empty rookie year. “Now you have a better vision of what needs to get done in the whole picture and understanding what your job is and how to do it. That’s what I work on every day.”