Browns News NFL: The Cleveland Browns quarterbacks Cody Kessler and Brock Osweiler expected to compete for the starting job.



Cleveland Browns 2017 Season Preview




Chris Ransom follow @DraftUtopia Posted on 7/8/2017.


Cleveland Browns Free Agency Recap


The Browns actually got it right in Free Agency this year. They extended left guard Joel Bitonio, brought in J.C. Tretter from Green Bay at center, and stole Cincinnati Bengals right guard Kevin Zeitler. Kenny Britt was the Rams' biggest wide receiver who played both the #2 receiver and flanker receiver roles when Tavon Austin lined up in the slot. The Browns also wisely extended Christian Kirksey at middle linebacker and got Jason McCourty to compliment Joe Haden at cornerback.



Cleveland Browns Draft Recap


The Browns actually got it right in Draft this year too. Getting Myles Garrett, Jabrill Peppers, and David Njoku who are all expected to start right away was a huge win for the Browns.


DeShone Kizer their second round pick may end up playing this year since he entered mini camp as the fourth string quarterback and already jumped Kevin Hogan on the depth chart. If Brock Osweiler screws up in the pre-season and Kizer dominates I can see him being promoted to backup behind Cody Kessler.


Kizer may be raw, but he has the second most potential out of any quarterback in this class. Kizer is one of two quarterbacks in the 2017 Draft Class getting first team reps heading into training camp. The Browns also got two defensive tackles that are pushing each other for starting jobs in Larry Ogunjobi and Caleb Brantley. Then they wrapped things up by drafting kicker Zane Gonzalez. The Browns' had as close as you can get to a perfect draft. If these picks don't pan out its on the front office and the coaching staff.




Cleveland Browns Quarterback Summary: The Browns don't know whether Cody Kessler, Brock Osweiler, or DeShone Kizer will start. This was the same problem the Browns had last year with Robert Griffin III and Josh McCown. Hue Jackson hates starting rookies and Brock Osweiler is awful. Kessler saw limited action, but had 6 passing touchdowns and 2 interceptions as a rookie showing ability to be a good game manager and flashes of potential.


The Browns had Hue Jackson an offensive coordinator as a head coach that will call all the Browns plays despite being the head coach acting as an offensive coordinator. Now Jackson is head coach, offensive coordinator, and passing game coordinator. The Browns went 1-15 with Jackson being the head coach, mediator, and the play caller on offense.


The best head coaches are mediators and they let their coordinators call plays on both sides of the ball. Mike McCarthy has not gotten back to the Super Bowl since deciding to call his own plays on the Green Bay Packers and sloppy play calling allowed Atlanta to go to Super Bowl 51.


Cleveland was smart to fire Pep Hamilton. David Lee got the best out of Tyrod Taylor his last two years in Buffalo and could easily do the same with Cody Kessler or DeShone Kizer as far as developing quarterbacks goes. Brock Osweiler provides a veteran presence, but he's basically a career backup now after being released by Houston after one season as their starting quarterback since he was Peyton Manning's backup prior to Houston.


Cleveland Browns Running Back Summary: The Cleveland Browns have two running backs in Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson. Neither running back exceeded 1,000 rushing yards alone. Crowell is the better runner, but Johnson is the better pass catcher and the two compliment each other. Both enter contract years and if neither running back gets 1,000 rushing yards, the Browns will turn to the 2018 NFL Draft to find a new running back.


Kirby Wilson returns the running game coordinator and running backs coach. Rock Cartwright the running backs coach for Cleveland was demoted to assistant in 2016. Cartwright got fired from the Browns this offseason after two bad seasons in Cleveland with the running backs as someone had to take the fall for Cleveland having neither running back run for 1,000 rushing yards.


Cleveland Browns Wide Receiver Summary: Cleveland brought in Kenny Britt to be the teams flanker receiver. Corey Coleman will be the #2 wide receivers. Other 2016 NFL Draft picks like Ricardo Louis, Rashard Higgins, and Jordan Payton were in third string roles. All got the chance to learn the Browns' playbook and develop as rookies. Now those guys will compete for a slot receiver role or a #2 role when Coleman lines up in the slot. If none of those guys step up this year, then targeting a receiver or even multiple receivers in the 2018 NFL Draft becomes a real possibility for Cleveland.


Al Saunders was a wide receivers coach with the St. Louis Rams when the Rams won Super Bowl 34. Saunders reprises that role for the first time since winning Super Bowl 34 even though he's now a Senior Offensive Assistant/wide receiver coach. Bob Saunders was the wide receivers coach last year. So basically the Browns have two wide receiver coaches. I'm interested to see how these receivers develop under Al Saunders and Bob Saunders in year two after learning the system and culture of Cleveland as rookies.


Cleveland Browns Tight End Summary: Cleveland may not have a good tight end coach. That's okay because their first round pick David Njoku is about to tear it up. The Browns cut Gary Barnidge their veteran tight end the day after they took the 21-year-old Njoku. Njoku will be 25-years-old when his rookie contract is up.


Cleveland Browns Offensive Line Summary: Joe Thomas is a Pro Bowl left tackle. Their interior offensive line with Joel Bitonio at left guard, J.C. Tretter at center, and Kevin Zeitler at right guard has a chance to be elite. Shon Coleman has recovered from cancer and is the favorite to win the right tackle job too after being the Browns third round pick in the 2016 NFL Draft.


The depth on this offensive line is incredible too and that's something the Browns lacked. Roderick Johnson the rookie they took in the fifth round of the 2017 NFL Draft who was once considered the top offensive tackles in the 2017 NFL Draft is the backup to Joe Thomas. He may be a future left tackle by learning under Thomas. Spencer Drango who can play left guard, right guard, or right tackle is the backup left guard. Marcus Martin is the backup center. John Greco is the backup right guard. Cameron Erving their 2015 first round pick who struggled at center is the backup right tackle. The Browns have incredible depth on their offensive line heading into 2017.


Hal Hunter did awful in Cleveland last year despite coaching the Colts offensive line in 2015 which was terrible. The Browns brought in Bob Wylie from the CFL, but he may not fair better. One thing working for Wylie is he had success in the CFL leading his offensive lines to two Grey Cups. He also has more depth to work with than any other offensive line coach in his career so Wylie may end up being the right offensive line coach for this Browns team.



Cleveland Browns Defensive Line Summary: The Browns' are moving from a 3-4 to a 4-3 scheme. Their players fit better in the 4-3. Myles Garrett will play 4-3 right end with Emmanuel Ogbah complimenting him at 4-3 left end. Danny Shelton will start at one of the defensive tackle spots as a three-down player. Larry Ogunjobi and Caleb Brantley the two defensive tackles Cleveland drafted are pushing each other for that other defensive tackle spot where the starter will play a majority of the snaps and the other player getting some rotational action at times.


This defensive line will be great perhaps even elite. Clyde Simmons has no experience as a defensive line coach, but he takes over for defensive line coach Robert Nunn who got fired in consecutive seasons. Simmons had 121.5 career sacks as a player which ranks in the top 20 in all time sacks. Guys like Garrett and Ogbah will be motivated to break Simmons record for career sacks and with Simmons having more experience as a player than a coach his attitude is going to appeal to Garrett and Ogbah at defensive end as well as Cleveland's defensive tackles. I cannot emphasize how huge that is for Cleveland moving forward.


Cleveland Browns Linebacker Summary: The Cleveland Browns have Joe Schobert at 4-3 right outside linebacker, Christian Kirksey at 4-3 middle linebacker, Jamie Collins at 4-3 left outside linebacker. Cleveland also has Nate Orchard as an outside linebacker who can play either side for depth and Tank Carder for depth behind Kirksey.


Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams specializes in coaching linebackers mainly, but he's great with managing a front 7. He will have this entire front 7 blitzing and stopping the run. Linebackers coach Blake Williams enters his first NFL coaching gig since being the Rams defensive coordinator in 2012. Williams was a defensive back at Princeton. Williams is not a coach who emphasizes blitzing, but he's great at getting linebackers to drop back into coverage, so his coaching style compliments Gregg Williams real well.


Cleveland Browns Defensive Backs Summary: The Browns have effective starters on their secondary when healthy. When healthy the Browns have excellent cornerback depth with Joe Haden as a field cornerback. Haden had his worst season in 2016, but is in a make or break year. If he doesn't revert to his elite form prior to his contract extension the Browns may save $11.2-million against the salary cap by buying him out after this season.


Jason McCourty will be the boundary cornerback. Jamar Taylor began as the nickel and got promoted to boundary cornerback last year. Now Taylor reverts back to the nickel role.


Briean Boddy-Calhoun emerged into the nickel cornerback last year. He may push Taylor for the nickel cornerback job with the loser moving to a backup role where they would come in on dime packages being the dime corner in a 4 cornerback set.


Howard Wilson was the teams quarter cornerback. He got placed on injured reserve after the Browns drafted him. Now rookies Channing Stribling and Najee Murray who both went undrafted are competing for that quarter corner spot where they would both be backups where they would only play in a 5 cornerback set as the quarter cornerback in quarter packages with 5 cornerbacks.


Jabrill Peppers and Calvin Pryor are going to be the starting safeties. Both safeties are versatile enough to play strong safety or free safety. The other safeties on this roster are terrible, especially Ed Reynolds, who I hated as a prospect coming out of Stanford. Some have Reynolds as a starting safety, but that would be a huge mistake on Cleveland's end.


I doubt someone as aggressive as Gregg Williams calls plays out of a quarter package. The only coordinators that use quarter packages in today's NFL are guys who have experience as defensive backs coaches. Williams is a front 7 guy so he'd use 4 corners and a dime package at the very most. That would allow Stribling or Murray maybe both to learn the system and then if either corner makes the roster this year, they could push Wilson for a roster spot in 2018.


Cleveland Browns defensive backs coach DeWayne Walker is good. He was the defensive backs coach for 4 years in Jacksonville and had a top 5 pass defense with the Jacksonville Jaguars last season.


The Browns were a mess on both sides of the ball in 2016. On offense they were 31st in points per game scoring 16.5 points per game after scoring 17 points per game prior to Hugh Jackson's arrival. Cleveland was 30th in total yards per game after being 25th before Jackson. Cleveland was 28th in passing yards under Jackson after being 21st in passing yards per game. The only area Cleveland improved in on offense was in the running game which went from 22nd to 19th. Jackson specialized in improving the passing game while Kirby Wilson did an incredible job coordinating the running game which at one point was first in the NFL heading into week 4.


Cleveland was a bottom feeder on defense. They were 30th in points allowed, 31st in sacks, 31st in total yards allowed, 21st in passing yards allowed, and 31st in rushing yards allowed. The Browns' defensive coordinator in 2016 was a defensive backs coach which is why the front 7 didn't improve. I think the Browns should improve drastically on the defensive side of the ball in 2017.



Cleveland Browns Special Teams Summary: Zane Gonzalez was the best kicker in the 2017 NFL Draft and Cleveland got him. Britton Colquitt is the Browns punter. Cleveland needs to make Jabrill Peppers their return specialist right now he's the backup kick returner and punt returner.


Chris Tabor has been the Browns special teams coordinator since 2011. Special teams is one thing the Browns have always been consistent with. His decision to make Peppers a backup returner is probably the first decision I'd disagree with. Starting Cody Parkey over Zane Gonzalez is another decision I'd disagree with if Parkey manages to win the starting job in a competition with Gonzalez. If Cleveland cuts one of those two kickers they should have no problem landing with another team.




Cleveland Browns Worst Case Scenario: Cleveland makes marginal improvement and goes winless versus AFC North teams finishing 4-12. The Browns owner loses patience and fires Sashi Brown and Hugh Jackson as a result.


Cleveland Browns Best Case Scenario: Cleveland goes 10-6 and gets a wild card. The Browns finally put everything together after an incredible offseason and emerge as a surprise team due to an easy schedule. Cleveland gets the AFC South and the NFC North plus 14 of their 16 games are at 1 PM EST which is their standard time zone which is a huge advantage for the Browns knowing that the game against the Los Angeles Chargers and the Vikings game in London are the only games where they go outside their time zone. There is always one team in the top 5 that turns things around in the offseason. That team may be Cleveland this year.


Cleveland Browns 2017 NFL Schedule


Week
Date
Opponent
Time
Cable Network
Result
Week 1
September 10
VS
1 PM EST
CBS
L
Week 2
September 17
AT
1 PM EST
CBS
W
Week 3
September 24
AT
1 PM EST
CBS
L
Week 4
October 1
VS
1 PM EST
CBS
W
Week 5
October 8
VS
1 PM EST
CBS
W
Week 6
October 15
AT
1 PM EST
CBS
L
Week 7
October 22
VS
1 PM EST
CBS
W
Week 8
October 29
VS
9:30 AM EST
FOX
L
Week 9
Bye Week
Week 10
November 12
AT
1 PM EST
CBS
L
Week 11
November 19
VS
1 PM EST
CBS
W
Week 12
November 26
AT
1 PM EST
CBS
W
Week 13
December 3
AT
4:05 PM EST
CBS
L
Week 14
December 10
VS
1 EST
FOX
L
Week 15
December 17
VS
1 PM EST
CBS
W
Week 16
December 24
AT
1 PM EST
CBS
L
Week 17
December 31
AT
1 PM EST
CBS
L


Cleveland Browns 2017 Projected Record (7-9): I love the Browns as a surprise team. Easy schedule checks out. The coaching hires were phenomenal. Cleveland got quality Free Agents. To top that off the outdrafted every other team this year.


Cleveland didn't just get a banana split. They got a split with chocolate sauce, whip cream, and a cherry on top. The Browns should be happy about this team moving forward. The only reason I don't have the Browns in the playoffs this year is due to uncertainty at quarterback.


Kessler is the guy who should start to begin this year after having 6 passing touchdowns and 2 interceptions in limited action as a rookie. Kizer is the guy I see with the highest ceiling, but Hugh Jackson hates starting rookies so I think Kessler puts together an awesome season and makes Kizer wait until 2018 before starting.


If Kizer starts from week 1, this is a team that may end up emerging into this years version of the Dallas Cowboys. They won't get home field like Dallas did, bu they would take the league by storm and earn a playoff berth. Right now I have Cleveland at 7-9 with Cody Kessler as the week 1 starter because while they made huge improvements, its hard to see them as a team that's ready to take the next step.









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