The NFL season is inching closer. Through July, Shutdown Corner will examine three big questions for each NFL team as it heads to training camp.
Report dates: July 23 for rookies; July 26 for veterans
Location: Berea, Ohio
1. Who is the quarterback?
The Browns have a wide-open quarterback battle on their hands. Cody Kessler started eight games last year and had some nice moments. DeShone Kizer, a second-round pick this year, has a chance to assume the role immediately. There’s also Kevin Hogan, who threw two interceptions on just 26 pass attempts last season, and $72-million man Brock Osweiler, who has a chance too after he was acquired in a trade with the Texans. Osweiler got into the battle with a solid offseason. The Browns need a guy who limits turnovers and is efficient as the team continues its rebuild. Kessler kept the turnovers down last year, but he wasn’t as consistent as he needed to be. Kizer has the best upside of the bunch when it comes to physical tools. Osweiler has the most experience. Hogan showed he can be a dual threat. It’s an interesting battle that will play out in training camp.
2. Who helps out said quarterback?
Kenny Britt was an important offseason acquisition for the Browns. He’s a big, physical presence, and he can serve as a mentor for the team’s young wide receivers. He had over 1,000 yards on a bad Los Angeles Rams offense last season, and he’ll look to produce again on what is expected to be a bad Browns offense. Opposite of Britt will be Corey Coleman, last year’s first-round pick whose rookie year was disrupted by a broken forearm. He has a lot of room to improve, but he showed real flashes of being a No. 1 receiver before his injury. He has to be more consistent in his sophomore season. After that, there are big questions. Ricardo Louis and Rashard Higgins are both young and haven’t contributed much in the pros. Veteran slot man Andrew Hawkins is gone. Overall, Britt is a known quantity. But Coleman needs to be better in Year 2 (he should be), and someone else has to step up in the slot.
3. Which rookies contribute immediately, and which are longer-term projects?
This is a question for every team, but it’s especially important for Cleveland. The Browns had 10 draft picks in this year’s draft, including three in the first round alone. All three picks are near locks to play from the get-go. Myles Garrett, the No. 1 overall pick, is an outstanding athlete who wreaked havoc on college football for the past and is expected to do so as an every-down player this season. Jabrill Peppers is expected to shore up a makeshift secondary that ranked 28th in yards per pass attempt. David Njoku adds athleticism and playmaking ability to a tight end position that dearly needs an upgrade. After those three, things get interesting. Kizer could be the Week 1 starter, or he could not play a down as the team lets him develop from the bench. One late-round name to watch is Caleb Brantley. A talented interior defensive lineman, Brantley fell off many a draft board completely after battery charges, but those charges have been dropped. The earlier the Browns can feel confident about putting their youngsters on the field, the better. It’s a big camp for all the rookies as they find their roles.
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