2017 Browns Preview: Offense

We’re ten days away from the beginning of training camp for the Cleveland Browns.

The offense once again has a lot of questions leading into the season

  • Who will be the starting quarterback?
  • Is the team going to run the ball more?
  • Can the offensive line stay healthy?
  • Is there enough weapons at the receiver position?

Hopefully I can answer some of these questions in this preview.

New faces

The Browns made it a point to help solidify the offensive line when free agency opened in March. They went out and signed guard Kevin Zeitler and center J.C. Tretter who will immediately be plugged in as starters. Joel Bitonio and John Greco had season ending injuries and forced the team to shuffle the lineup a lot during the season.

Zeitler played like an All-Pro during his tenure with the Bengals and Tretter was one of the top rated centers before going down with an injury last season in Green Bay. Adding them alongside future Hall of Famer Joe Thomas and third year guard Joel Bitonio makes them one of the best offensive lines in the league on paper. Just have to hope that Tretter and Bitonio can stay healthy for the entire season.

After failing to secure Terrelle Pryor long term, the Browns replaced him with veteran receiver Kenny Britt. The 28 year old had his most productive season as a professional with 1,002 yards and five touchdowns with the Los Angeles Rams last year.

He joins a very young, inexperienced wide receiver room so he will be heavily relied on this season by whomever the quarterback will be.

Rookies

The Browns currently have five offensive rookies on the roster

  • QB DeShone Kizer
  • RB Matthew Dayes
  • TEs David Njoku and Taylor McNamara
  • OL Rod Johnson

Kizer was a shock pick when the Browns selected him in the second round in April’s draft. He came in and had been getting better throughout the offseason workouts. He’s currently third on the depth chart but I think he’ll be in serious consideration for the starting role.

Dayes was the last draft pick by Cleveland. He’ll play a big role on special teams if he makes the roster and could be the third back behind Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson.

Cleveland traded up for Njoku in the first round of the draft. A big playmaker at Miami that has produced some elite tight ends in the league, Njoku is expected to play a heavy role in the offense.

McNamara was undrafted out of USC but with his big frame, he’ll be in play for the third/blocker tight end role with fellow USC alum Randall Telfer.

Rod Johnson was the team’s fifth round pick and was strictly a developmental pick. Best case scenario is that he sits and learns during the 2017 season.

The QB battle

Another year, another quarterback competition in Cleveland.

I wrote about this in June but it’s a three horse race between Cody Kessler, Brock Osweiler, and DeShone Kizer.

Kessler is the starter going into camp and with good reason. He’s the most experienced in Hue Jackson’s offense and might be the best option at the moment. Despite going 0-8 as a starter last season but showed flashes that he can be at least a solid backup/spot starter in this league for a long time. With already two concussions, the Browns have to be careful with him because another one could end his young career.

Osweiler was acquired back in March as part of a deal that netted the Browns a future second round pick from Houston. Many didn’t expect the Browns to hold onto him but he’s stuck around will be competing for the starting job. There was mixed reports about how he did during the offseason programs. Some said he was the best out of three but there was others saying he wasn’t looking good at all and the way he came off to the media seemed arrogant and cocky in my opinion.

There’s a chance he could be the starter although I still wouldn’t rule out Osweiler getting traded to a quarterback needy team if an injury happens.

Kizer has the best skillset out of the three but is still raw and needs some time to develop but with how he was looking during the offseason programs, he could shock some people and be the starter.

Skill positions

The running backs will mainly stay the same as last season. Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson lead the backs and both will play a big part on offense.

Crowell is entering his contract year and after nearly running for 1,000 yards, I’m sure he’ll be very hungry to run wild as he prepares to hit free agency.

Johnson recorded at least 300 rushing and 500 receiving yards for the second consecutive season. His ability to not only run as well as catch out of the backfield makes him a player defenses have to game plan for.

As for the wide receiver position, there’s many questions left to be determined. Britt brings a veteran presence to a very young wide receiver corp.

Second year receiver Corey Coleman had a disappointing rookie season plagued by injuries and his transition to the Cleveland weather. He missed mandatory mini-camp with a freak injury after a diving catch. He needs to have a good season before he could end up like the last several first round picks: a bust and out of Cleveland.

Other receivers like Rashard “Hollywood” Higgins and Jordan Payton were very quiet in their rookie seasons and will need to have solid preseasons if they want to make the final 53 man roster.

The one guy to watch is Ricardo Louis. A fourth round pick out of Auburn last season, he was quiet with just 205 receiving yards. He can make big plays with his breakaway speed but with hands like former receiver Greg Little, it’s going to stop him from having a big season.

Reportedly, he had a solid offseason so hopefully he has the catching down because he could breakout in 2017.

Another name to watch at the tight end position is Seth Devalve. He showed some big flashes in his rookie season with two touchdowns late in the season. With Gary Barnidge gone, Devalve and Njoku could form a dangerous tight end duo if they both can live up to their potential.

2017 Outlook

When I look at the offensive talent on paper, I see hope for the future. With time, this offense has the potential to be a dangerous one in the future.

As for this season, I think there is going to be growing pains. Especially at the quarterback and receiver positions. Which is why I think we will see a heavy amount of running from Crow and Duke.

Ultimately, I think Kizer ends up being the starter out of camp. Kessler is a solid option but I think Kizer’s skill set and is ability to adapt to what the coaches ask out of him will be too much to keep on the bench. I also believe Osweiler will be traded by the end of preseason as there is always a quarterback going down with an injury and a team needing one to fill up the hole. 

Coleman needs to stay healthy and the other receivers need to make a big leap. Kenny Britt won’t be able to be the only target at the wide receiver position.

The tight ends have a lot of potential but I think they’ll make a big impact on the field. Njoku has shown in practice that he can be an impact player and the fact he’s only 21 years old is promising because he still has room to grow as a prospect. I think Devalve can also be a reliable target and should get more snaps to prove himself this season.

The offensive line looks better but you have to be cautious on expectations. Bitonio and Tretter need to make people believe they can stay healthy. The right tackle position is up for grabs with Shon Coleman and Cam Erving competing for that spot.

Erving struggled at center last season but excelled in the finale against Pittsburgh. Coleman barely played while recovering from a knee surgery but played in the finale and showed some flashes about his potential.

Outside of that, Thomas and Zeitler will play at their high level so that gives you hope and you also have Greco who now is in a reserve role but can play at center and guard if needed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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