Browns Preview Capsule
CLEVELAND BROWNS (0-16)
New faces: GM John Dorsey, QB Tyrod Taylor, WR Jarvis Landry, RB Carlos Hyde, LB Mychal Kendricks, DB Damarious Randall, QB Baker Mayfield, CB Denzel Ward, LT Austin Corbett, RT Chris Hubbard, WR Antonio Callaway, TE Darren Fells, DB E.J. Gaines, WR Jeff Janis, DB Terrance Mitchell, DL Chris Smith, QB Drew Stanton, CB T.J. Carrie.
Key losses: LT Joe Thomas, RB Isaiah Crowell, QB DeShone Kizer, NT Danny Shelton, CB Jason McCourty, CB Jamar Taylor, WR Ricardo Louis.
Strengths: Taylor led Buffalo to first playoff appearance in 17 years last season. He gives Cleveland experienced, competent starter to serve as bridge until Mayfield’s ready. Landry’s 400 receptions are most in league history for player in first four seasons. Three-time Pro Bowler, plus Josh Gordon and Callaway, provide Taylor with multiple downfield targets. Kendricks has been added to deep linebacking unit that includes Jamie Collins and Joe Schobert, Pro Bowler last season. Myles Garrett, top overall pick in 2017, had seven sacks in 11 games as rookie and could be on verge of major breakout.
Weaknesses: Retirement of Thomas left enormous hole on left side of line. After trying other options early in camp, team moved elite left guard Joel Bitonio to tackle — where he hasn’t played since college. Bitonio has been replaced by Corbett, a rookie who played tackle at Nevada. Cleveland’s offensive line lacks depth and any injuries could be devastating.
Fantasy Players To Watch: WR Gordon, RB Duke Johnson. If he stays sober and active, Gordon still has potential to be one of NFL’s best players. Gordon has incentive to get bigger contract, and new offensive coordinator Todd Haley will find ways to get him ball. Johnson has developed into one of league’s best dual-threat backs and caught 74 passes last season. He joined Herschel Walker as only backs with 500 yards receiving in each of first three seasons.
Vegas Says: Super Bowl 100-1. Over/under wins 6.
Expectations: After going 1-31 past two seasons, nowhere to go but up. Coach Hue Jackson begins season on hot seat and needs to win couple early games to take heat off. Decision to play Taylor over Mayfield seems wise at start, but things could change by midseason if Browns struggle. Jackson has given up play-calling duties to Haley, who could replace him if Browns begin poorly and ownership makes change. Defense has potential to be really good, and must force more turnovers; Cleveland had league-low 13 takeaways in 2017. Schedule is rough with opener against Pittsburgh and four of last six games on road.
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