2017 Preview – Cleveland Browns

Cleveland Browns fans will want to forget 2016 and simply write it off as the first year in a full franchise overhaul.  The team went 1-15 with their only win coming against the Chargers. Despite this, Cleveland will stick with Hue Jackson as their head coach as they look to enter year 2 of a total re-build.

Cleveland had problems at quarterback last year, dealing with injuries. This team will hope soon they can find their franchise guy, or at least a serviceable player for the time being. With a strong offseason, Cleveland will hope to make strides after their worst ever season, they made some significant moves in free agency and picked in the first round of the draft…three times! Cleveland added five assistants to their coaching staff hoping to create the right environment and boost player potential.

 

Offense

Hue Jackson will continue to call plays with his west coast/power run scheme. Jackson likes downfield passing plays, pre-snap movement and exotic formations. Along with this, he likes to use power running plays frequently using the gap scheme. To control this offense, Cleveland will hope they can have a reliable quarterback. They terminated the contracts of Robert Griffin III and Josh McCown in the offseason. With the 52nd overall pick in the draft, Cleveland selected quarterback DeShone Kizer from Notre Dame which gives them a talented young player they can try to develop. As of now, Cleveland has named Brock Osweiler as the starter with Cody Kessler, DeShone Kizer and Kevin Hogan as the current depth. It will be interesting to see if Osweiler holds onto the job during the season as Kizer is looking good at this point.

(Photo Source: Ken Blaze/ USA TODAY Sports)

Cleveland lost wide receiver Terrelle Pryor in free agency who signed with Washington Redskins but managed to sign Kenny Britt. Last year’s first round pick Corey Coleman will hope to build on after his rookie season and be a big contributor to the offense. These are likely to be the starting receivers for Cleveland. Tight end David Njoku was drafted in the first round and shortly after, Gary Barnidge’s contract was terminated. They seem confident in the first round pick who is incredibly athletic but is still raw and needs work. Randall Telfer is the primary run blocking tight end and Seth DeValve is also hoping to get more playing time. DeValve has put on some weight and is hoping to become a better blocker to add to his receiving skills.

Isaiah Crowell remains the starting running back after rushing for a career best 952 yards and 7 rushing touchdowns. He’s still only 24 years old and has the chance for a bigger season, especially behind an improved offensives line. Duke Johnson still remains as the change of pace back for the team.

In the offseason, Cleveland signed Kevin Zeitler and J.C. Tretter and now their offensive line is looking good. As of now the starting line up is : Joe Thomas (LT), Joel Bitonio (LG), J.C. Tretter (C), Kevin Zeitler (RG) and Shon Coleman (RT). Cameron Erving at this point is the backup right tackle on the roster depth. We will see who becomes the swing guard, backup center or swing tackle.

 

Defense

Cleveland have said goodbye to Ray Horton and hired Gregg Williams as the new defensive coordinator. This change means that the Browns move to a 4-3 scheme. Williams’ defenses are known for being attacking and expect a lot of blitzes. His scheme can be quite complex too having multiple fronts and coverages. To help aid the pressure, the Browns drafted Myles Garrett with the first pick of the 2017 NFL draft. Garrett comes in straight away as the starter at defensive end on the weakside. Defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi was drafted in the third round to bolster the defensive line. Starting opposite Garrett is second-year defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah. These two alone give Cleveland a good change to create pressure. Danny Shelton and Desmond Bryant will both be playing defensive tackle but there is some nice depth and competition there. Xavier Cooper was a player I liked coming out of college and can push for more snaps and Ogunjobi is also in the mix to get some snaps. Carl Nassib will be at defensive end and provides good depth. He hit a rookie wall last year but I expect him to be a more consistent player this year.

(Photo Source: USA TODAY Sports)

At linebacker the Browns have Christian Kirksey at weak-side linebacker, Tank Carder & Joe Schobert battling for the Mike linebacker spot and Jamie Collins at the strong-side. Although it’s a 4-3 scheme, you’re likely going to see a 4-2 base most of the time with the two linebackers being Kirksey and Collins. Collins who they traded for from the Patriots, signed a 4-year contract extension at the start of the year.

Joe Haden will hope to stay healthy and have a bounce back season. When healthy, he’s the best player in the secondary. Lined up opposite is Jamar Taylor who improved in 2016, earning himself a 3-year extension to his contract. Briean Boddy-Calhoun looks to build on a good rookie season after being undrafted. Expect him to push for starting snaps, especially when you might see a lot of nickel this year. Jason McCourty was a solid player for the Titans adding depth and another player to a possible rotation that sees multiple coverages from Williams’ defensive scheme.

Cleveland traded down in the first round whilst free safety Malik Hooker was still on the board. That trade got them tight end David Njoku and safety/linebacker Jabrill Peppers. It will be interesting to compare the careers of these players in years to come. Derrick Kindred, Ibraheim Campbell, Justin Currie, Calvin Pryor, Kai Nacua and Ed Reynolds are all battling for the safety jobs. Peppers is likely to be used in many roles like strong safety, nickel linebacker etc.

 

Players to watch

Myles Garrett – He was the player selected first overall in the draft, so fans will be excited to see him on the field. We’ll see how quickly he adapts to the NFL in his first year.

Jabrill Peppers – It will be interesting to see how he is used in Williams’ defense. Peppers was used all over the field but instincts was an issue and reading the game. This could limit his flexibility to play a deep free safety.

(Photo Source: Scott R. Galvin/ USA TODAY Sports)

DeShone Kizer – The rookie quarterback has already impressed in preseason and it could be even sooner we could see him become the starter. He has the arm talent for the NFL but looked like he would need time to groom based on his college tape, looks like he is picking it up quickly.

 

Schedule

W1 v Steelers // W2 @ Ravens // W3 @ Colts // W4 v Bengals // W5 v Jets // W6 @ Texans // W7 v Titans // W8 v Vikings (London) // W9 BYE // W10 @ Lions // W11 v Jaguars // W12 @ Bengals // W13 @ Chargers // W14 v Packers // W15 v Ravens // W16 @ Bears // W17 @ Steelers

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Read another Browns related article – ‘The Cleveland Browns MUST Start DeShone Kizer

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