The Cleveland Browns are one of the youngest, most inexperienced teams in the league and with that comes numerous questions. How will Gregg Williams impact the defense? Is Hue Jackson on the hot seat? How will the offense look this upcoming season? There are a ton of questions to be asked, but all we can do is speculate until the season actually kicks off.
Let the speculation begin!
The Browns’ offense has various questions in some key positions like quarterback, wide receiver and tight end. Let’s take a further look into the offense and see what to expect from the 2017 Cleveland Browns.
Currently, one of Cleveland’s best assets is the offensive line. The Browns went on a spending spree, dropping millions to assemble a reliable line and Pro Football Focus has them ranked second, behind Philadelphia. This could bode well for the Brown’s offense.
More specifically, the running game. The ground attack is going to be the key to Cleveland’s success. Running the ball well alleviates pressure off the rest of the offense, especially with all the quarterback questions. Not to mention, a successful rush attack takes time off the clock, allowing the defense to rest. Last year, the Browns ranked 7th in three-and-out possessions.
Isaiah Crowell is going to be the man this year. He has come a long way since signing on as an undrafted free agent in 2014. He has improved every year, getting more carries and producing more yards. 2016 was Crowell’s most productive year as he averaged 4.8 yards per carry and topped 1,000 all-purpose yards. He doubled his receptions (40) from the year prior, becoming a more versatile, every down back.
While the ground game appears to be trending upwards, the big question is still lingering, who is going to be the starting quarterback? My guess is Cody Kessler. He is a safe quarterback. He doesn’t turn the ball over and he already has experience with the playbook. Brock Osweiler has shown some good signs this off-season. He has a great arm and knows how to win, so I expect him to compete for the job. I’m more intrigued by DeShone Kizer. He has the size, the arm and the talent. He was a second-round draft pick, so he isn’t expected to start day one. The expectations are tempered and the rookie might flourish with less pressure to start. Either way, whoever the quarterback ends up being, they must manage the game, play within the playbook, make smart decisions and not try anything flashy.
Once that’s settled, the next mystery lies within the receiving options. Cleveland lost Terrelle Pryor but signed Kenny Britt to replace his production. Britt is coming off a 1,000-yard season, but it’s his first in his eight-year career. He is the lone veteran on the roster, so he could inherit the top spot. Corey Coleman could be the number two man, but injuries have hampered his short career. He was a first round pick last year and certainly has seen his struggles. Coleman has a lot to prove and this could be the season he breaks out. The third spot is probably going to second-year man Ricardo Louis. He worked out with Brandon Marshall in the off-season and has shown growth. Hue Jackson said Louis “improved on his route running, improved initial quickness off the line. I think he understands the National Football League game better.” This could be a good sign that the second-year man is emerging as the number three option.
That third option could come from elsewhere too. The Browns have three athletic tight ends on the roster and they have three years of experience combined. David Njoku is a rookie, but has tremendous upside. He has raw talent, but can block and catch well. Seth DeValve is entering his second season with the team and contributed as a rookie. In brief action, the former Princeton receiver recorded 10 catches for 127 yards and two touchdowns. Then there is Randall Telfer who only has two career receptions as he enters his third season. Expectations are low for the tight end position, but I fully anticipate Njoku to solidify his spot at the top and produce right away. We could be looking at a rookie of the year candidate.
Regardless of how the Browns finish the year, it can’t be much worse than 1-15. The important thing is that we compete every game and start trending upwards as a whole unit. There is so much potential with this team, defense and offense. Us as fans just need to be patient despite the difficulties of staying calm when your team is losing. Expectations may be low for the Cleveland Browns, but I expect them to shock some folks throughout the 2017 campaign.
Max Gold is a Senior Writer for Cleveland Sports Talk
Follow him: @CST_Max_Gold
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