Around the NFL  

 

Training camp preview: Who will stand out for Browns?

Print

Training camp is quickly approaching, which means it's time to preview the most exciting part of the summer. Over the next month, Around The NFL's Conor Orr will break down all 32 teams and give us something to look for in late July.

Today, we take a look at the Cleveland Browns. Click on the tabs above to see previews for the rest of the AFC North. For the rest of the NFL, click here.

Camp report date: Rookies: July 25; Veterans: July 28

Camp location: 76 Lou Groza Blvd., Berea, Ohio.

Offseason in a nutshell: With mountains of new data available, we have expected change to hit the straight edge NFL for the last five seasons to no avail. The closest we got was the promise of Chip Kelly, whose revolutionary ideas included health and nutrition standards employed by certain Olympic athletes since the early 1990s -- which were then blown incredibly out of proportion. But the Browns give us hope. Their draft trade-back performance, while not completely out of the ordinary, was one of the closest examples we've seen of a team following the work of Cade Massey and Richard Thaler, who produced a dynamic study about the overvaluing of first-round draft picks. This team needs to get better and more efficient in a hurry and if nothing else, the 2016 training camp should be fun to watch with a bevy of young, unproven talent on the field.

Stream the Amazon Original Series "All or Nothing: A Season with the Arizona Cardinals" on Prime Video.

Player to watch in camp: Robert Griffin III: We hate to be obvious, but this is one of the most fascinating reclamation attempts we've seen in the NFL over the past decade. For now, we'll take the reports of Griffin's underwhelming offseason with a grain of salt. Cleveland-area reporters and fans have been conditioned to expect meh over the past decade and absent of Griffin standing on his head and hurling a 90-yard touchdown pass between his legs, they were not likely to be impressed. Having seen Griffin in person late last season and having heard reports early this season about his size, strength and health, that seems to be the most important factor heading into training camp. In terms of how Griffin will be on the field when games actually count, we'll find out very early in August. Training camp is as much about bonding -- and for Griffin, developing the sort of humility that can help him gel with new teammates and leave the past behind -- as it is memorizing concepts and perfecting footwork. It is very easy to tell if things are not running smoothly over a three-hour practice.

THREE BURNING QUESTIONS:

1. Will first-round pick Corey Coleman arrive in playing shape?

Coach Hue Jackson made it clear during organized team activities that his new wide receiver needed "to get into shape." It wasn't a knock on Coleman per se, but instead a blanket statement about the quick transition all rookies need to go through in the five weeks between mandatory minicamp and the start of training camp. However, Jackson seems to have decided that Coleman will earn extra special attention over the coming months, which should be a joy to watch up close given Jackson's style. While players at some positions struggle to make the leap, we've seen wide receivers come in and be difference-makers right away. Coleman is good enough to negate some of the deficiencies the team has on offense, but will he play that way?

2. What can we expect when Emmanuel Ogbah and Carl Nassib put the pads on?

Ogbah and Nassib are the near future of Cleveland's pass rush, with Nassib checking in on some offseason lists as a sleeper candidate to win Defensive Rookie of the Year. While that is wildly premature, there is no question that his first few one-on-one battles against the likes of Joe Thomas will be tracked breathlessly. Nassib, in a way, defines the new Browns regime. According to some scouts who tracked him throughout the draft, he's a player being judged on production above body type and athletic minutiae and could help usher in a brand of toughness that this defense has not seen in quite some time.

3. Can the Hue Jackson effect take hold early?

Even during the brief Believeland renaissance under Mike Pettine there was a feeling that the wheels would soon to fall off. The team was top heavy with star players at non-skill positions and saddled under an aging mish-mosh of talent. Cleveland seems to have eradicated some of this over the past few months and has surrounded itself with perennial underdogs; recently-fired, high-upside coordinators like Pep Hamilton and Ray Horton, draft picks and free agents with something to prove, a quarterback looking to save a promising career. This is all a powerful tool in the hands of a man known to some as a master motivator. If Jackson can make it work, perhaps the turnaround doesn't take as long as we expected.

Way too early season prediction: The Browns won three games a season ago, and aren't expected to win many more this season. Doubling that total would represent a massive success in Year 1 from Jackson -- along the lines of what Jackson's mentor Marvin Lewis did in Cincinnati during his first year (quadrupled the win total, from two to eight). At the moment, assuming Robert Griffin III can get to the point where he plays replacement-level football, we count 11 winnable games on Cleveland's schedule. Our guess is the Browns win between five and seven total.

Print

Fan Discussion