Rookie defensive end Jabaal Sheard will never be able to say that his first camp with the Browns did not give him a chance to learn from the best.
Since Day One of training camp, Sheard has been lining up opposite Joe Thomas in a baptism by fire that the Browns hope will accelerate his development.
Tony Grossi's story via Cleveland.com goes into further detail.
"We [coaches] were remarking about that yesterday," coach Pat Shurmur said Tuesday. "Going back and watching the one-on-ones and the competition, we think he's doing a fine job. The competition of him against Joe Thomas, I think, makes them both better."
Grossi contends that there is not much for Thomas to gain in the "battles" with the rookie, but I am not so sure about that. Sure, techniques will probably not be enhanced, but there has to be something to be said about being a pseudo-guide to a developing player, and what Thomas sees from Sheard will surely be seen at other times during the season when the guy across the line is not friend but foe.
Thomas out-weighs Sheard by almost 50 pounds, and Thomas has a 4-inch height advantage, and that will stand Sheard in good stead when he faces the opposition, which will most times if not always feature someone much bigger than Sheard.
"I get better every day going up against Joe Thomas," Sheard said Tuesday after the morning practice.
"It's a lot different from college, a lot more technique. I mean, in college I used to bull rush and put my head down. You can't stick with that. I'm learning it now before I get in a game."
As for Thomas, he seems to be impressed by the neophyte from the Pitt Panthers:
"Most rookies you see come in, they've kicked everybody's [tail] in college with one move -- the bull rush, the speed, a dip, whatever," (Thomas) said. "He's got a real natural sense of how to rush a tackle and try to take advantage of things he's giving up."