1. Two of a kind
Braylon Edwards and Donte' Stallworth give the Browns a 1-2 punch at receiver that could compete with any duo in the league. Edwards was the third pick in the 2005 draft. Stallworth signed with the Browns as a free agent this year, but before that he was the 13th pick (Saints) in the 2002 draft. Thus, the Browns will start two high first-round draft choices at receiver.
That, in this league, is an enviable luxury.
Joe Jurevicius started in Stallworth's spot last year, but his knee injury has his season in jeopardy.
In steps Stallworth, clearly a No. 2 to Edwards but on occasion a player who shows flashes of being a worthy No. 1. That was what the Saints wanted, but it did not click. He made noise in Philadelphia and made a mark with the Patriots, but here -- paired with Edwards -- Stallworth looks especially comfortable.
He was running smoothly in practice on Sunday, making an assortment of catches, as was Edwards. After Stallworth's longer grabs, he would toss the ball back to Edwards, who would routinely practice making one-handed grabs with each of those tosses.
Edwards and Stallworth will make a run for the league's No. 1 receiving tandem.
2. Putting it on the line
The core of this Browns team in many ways is its offensive line. And that is a splendid place for any team to call its core.
Currently the starters are Joe Thomas at left tackle, Eric Steinbach at left guard, Hank Fraley at center, Rex Hadnot at right guard and Kevin Shaffer at right tackle. Ryan Tucker and Seth McKinney are interchangeable backups.
And that is the key with this line. It is interchangeable nearly all around. Several in the group can play two to three different positions. It is a group that has rigid familiarity and singular purpose.
The Browns achieved one of their most prolific offensive outputs in team history last season and expect to surpass that this season. It did not happen last year and will not happen this year without a tough, resilient, versatile and talented group of linemen who give this team something special on any play call, run or pass. By season's end, they would love to have paved the way for a Browns special season that earns them a nickname and, maybe, stature like the famed Hogs.
They just might have the ingredients to accomplish it.
3. Homegrown leader
Quite an accomplishment for a 36-year-old who began coaching in college at Michigan State then Miami-Ohio, LSU and Ohio State before joining the Browns in 2005 as the defensive backs coach. It often simply does not happen that way -- a coordinator job -- for such a young coach unless he shows something special and rare. Tucker has.
Tucker not only showed a grasp of the Browns defense -- how to employ it, how to teach it -- but also how to communicate it. His players responded to him during each of his four Browns seasons as if he were already the defensive coordinator. He is as charismatic as he is intelligent and watching him work with the Browns defense in practices reveals the trust that his players show in him.
Of course, Tucker has to get these defensive players to execute and produce and he has to call the right plays and attack when chaos is flying in real, meaningful games. No one knows for certain how he will do at that.
4. Homegrown leader II
Browns offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski is also a Cleveland native. Two coordinators from the same home town on the same pro team which is in their hometown? Unbelievable. But true.
Chudzinski showed last year that he is in this game for keeps.
He began whipping the ball around and whipping the Browns offense in to shape to the tune of 402 points and 5,621 net yards last season -- both third-best in franchise history. He helped put Derek Anderson into position to throw 29 touchdown passes. The Browns became a fun offense to watch last season and Chudzinski helped to make it that way with his free-wheeling game plans and courageous play calling.
Watching the Browns practices, it is easy to see that he has more in store for 2008. He has more weapons. He has weapons returning a year wiser. He has a mandate to keep his foot on the pedal.
The Browns offensive players enjoy Chudzinski's style, his willingness to use them in a variety of ways and his penchant to keep coming back for more. When considering that the Browns played two late-season games -- at the Jets and home against Buffalo -- in particularly wicked weather, the Browns offense last season might have produced even more. This season Chudzinski knows this group is capable of improving on its overall ranking of No. 8 in both league offense and scoring.
5. Attitude check
The Browns have not made the playoffs since the 2002 season. Before that, no appearances since the 1994 season.
But following a season in which they went 10-6 and narrowly missed the playoffs, the Browns return a rejuvenated roster, coaching staff, management and fan base, and have especially high hopes this season. So do those outside of the club.
"I am constantly reminding my team that people are expecting us to do great things this year, that we have several TV games, national exposure, all of the things players enjoy," Browns coach Romeo Crennel said. "Once you get that, you have to do something with it. I want them to live up to their own expectations first, which are very high."
Doing that requires an occasional attitude check.
Are we preening before pouncing?
Are we putting individual goals before team ones?
Are we trusting each others' commitments?