The Cleveland Browns are expected to have their best season since 2007.
Yes, 2018 seems like it could be the year of the Great Browns Comeback, a year where multiple wins are actually possible.
The franchise demonstrated they meant business during free agency and the NFL Draft. With their significant roster turnover, and the perfectly-timed agreement to appear in this season of Hard Knocks, we can expect the team to be in the spotlight more now than it was over the last decade. There will be a larger focus on some players too – here are the ones we’ll be likely to keep hearing about in the coming months.
The Five Most Interesting Cleveland Browns Players to Watch This Preseason
He’s one of the most menacing players on the roster. Shortly after being drafted first overall in 2017, Myles Garrett made it clear he was very eager to face Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
As Matthew Marczi of Steelers Depot discovered, Garrett had been eyeing Big Ben for a “long time.” But with his ankle injury early in the season, Garrett never had his chance to “try to take him down” as the Browns first game against Pittsburgh was in week one. When they next faced Pittsburgh in the season finale, Garrett played – but Roethlisberger did not.
The Browns are once again opening the season by playing host to the Steelers, so Garrett is understandably relieved he won’t have to wait much longer to attempt a sack on Big Ben. When asked if this was still on his wish-list, he said “I’m a man of my word, so hopefully I get to meet him on the field and off the field.”
The quarterback war is on, even if no one mentions it.
Tyrod Taylor is quick to remind everyone of his determination to remain the starter. “I was brought here to win games.”
There’s already an underlying tension between him and overall first pick Baker Mayfield – but that’s mostly created by Mayfield fans and the media.
Coach Hue Jackson is aware of this. “I think he’s well-equipped and everybody else is creating all of the buzz. I think Baker Mayfield is the future of this organization and a tremendous football player. But at the same time, he’s never played a game and never won a game in the National Football League. Tyrod has, so that’s the road we’re going to travel right now…”
Jackson clearly believes in his current starting quarterback. “I think people have always counted him out and people have always chased better, and he’s always proven otherwise.”
Taylor was a sixth-round pick who still feels the weight of that very fact. He remembers “not being happy about that,” but now with this latest threat to his position, he knows what he has to do. “I’m ready to take my game to the next level.”
Making his return to football last year, Josh Gordon demonstrated facets of his once-great self. The full off-season of training and interacting with his teammates enabled him to again look like the player who led the league in receiving yards back in 2014, according to Marczi.
Stories about him overcoming substance abuse are of great interest not just to Browns fans, but anyone who happens to know about his past indiscretions. The loudest whispers are centered around the fact that he could be the ideal mentor for fourth-round pick Antonio Callaway. And that brings us to…
Cleveland’s decision to draft Callaway was met with bucketloads of skepticism. Questions were raised. Would it be a huge mistake to put him in the presence of Gordon, a man who had barely overcome his demons?
Callaway fell to the fourth round of the draft after numerous off-field issues – a credit card fraud scam, a marijuana possession arrest, a sexual assault charge that was removed (when the alleged victim wouldn’t cooperate with police), the most recent being a failed drug test at the NFL Combine.
Some promising news though – he has vowed to clean up his act. “That was a wake-up call… day by day I’m still getting better as a person, as a player, as a man, as a father. I’ve got a daughter.”
The Baker Mayfield hype has been in full swing since his final year at Oklahoma, where he demonstrated exceptional accuracy, balance and the ability to read a defense as well as any professional quarterback with years more experience than himself.
Together with his on-field achievements, he gained a lot of attention from his off-field antics, plus that time he planted the Sooner flag on Ohio State’s field after their win there last year. Many have questioned his maturity and wondered if he was mentally able to maintain the level of professionalism required of a NFL star.
But his incredible skills and dynamic personality are what drew the crowds and divided them into love-him or hate-him sides. He alone is the reason football fans all over the country will be paying extra attention to the Browns.
There’s an energy resonating from Cleveland as the franchise prepares for a good season. We’ll no doubt be hearing and seeing plenty more from this once-plagued team, whose struggle may soon be over.