The buzzword in Cleveland Browns training camp seems to be a player, not just a word, a one Donovan Peoples-Jones, the second-year player out of Michigan. From all accounts, via fellow players, his coaches, and we the media, we seem to have created this new buzz of Peoples-Jones. I do think DPJ is going to have a good upcoming season, but I don’t necessarily believe he’s in a position to take over as the guy in the wide receivers room. Can he be that third wideout in the fluid Browns offense? Certainly, but let’s put the breaks on all this buzz. This is just “practice”!
DPJ had 14 catches for 304 yards receiving including a few touchdowns a year ago. His two most memorable catches were the bomb he caught for a touchdown from Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield in the Tennessee Titans win and the toe-tapping snag of a catch he pulled down in the corner of the endzone in the closing seconds of the victory over the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 7.
In this current Browns training camp, there have been several notable moments where the fans and the media have caught DPJ catching bombs from Mayfield and creating separation on other plays that have everyone in a tizzy.
Let’s remind you again this is Browns training camp. This is not the regular season and a real NFL game.
A year ago, before wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. went down with his injury in Cincinnati, other Browns go-to wideout Jarvis Landry and Beckham were targeted 65 times on passes in the first six games of the season. DPJ only managed one target in those first six games. Moreover, other Browns receivers KhaDarel Hodge and Rashard “Hollywood” Higgins only had a combined 12 targets too in that same six-game span.
After Beckham went down with the injury, things changed some but not a ton. DPJ did have 19 targets and 14 catches including those two touchdowns the rest of the way.
The Browns coach Kevin Stefanski, like many of us, is a creature of habit, and he’s not planning on changing things up that much going into the season especially with the receiving core when you have Landry and Beckham leading the way.
From the sounds of it, in training camp, DPJ is actively working in special teams as well and he might be the guy we see returning kicks and punts as he did some a year ago. Last season, he had 18 kickoff returns for an average of 21 yards on run-backs. He also caught 18 punts.
Let’s not forget about “Hollywood” Higgins either. He did tweak his ankle this past week in camp which has given DPJ a more front and center view with the first-team offense, thus the buzz because he’s catching a few long balls from Mayfield. Higgins has developed nice chemistry on the field with Mayfield as well. After Beckham went down last season Higgins was targeted 46 times for 32 catches for 546 yards. And in that game in Cincinnati where Beckham was injured, it was Mayfield who went to Higgins six times for 110 yards.
So let’s continue to enjoy all the fun we’re watching in Browns training camp and players like DPJ, but let’s not start trying to plan for next season already. Training camp is about practicing and improving as a team and the Browns and DPJ are all improving.