Matthew Stafford has only played the Cleveland Browns twice in his career. Not only is Stafford 2-0 with nine touchdowns and three interceptions in those two games, but the first matchup resulted in what has become one of the most iconic quarterback moments in NFL history.
Stafford and the Detroit Lions will have a chance to make it four in a row against the lowly Browns this year when they host Cleveland in mid November.
The Browns are coming off a 1-15 season, but they had themselves quite an offseason. Not only were they aggressive in free agency, but they ended up with three first-round picks in the 2017 NFL Draft. To help us get caught up on all things Cleveland Browns, Dawgs By Nature gave us the lowdown of their 2017 offseason.
Notable free agent additions: WR Kenny Britt, C J.C. Tretter, RG Kevin Zeitler, CB Jason McCourty. Also signed big contract extensions with OG Joel Bitonio, OLB Jamie Collins, and OLB Christian Kirksey.
Notable free agent departures: WR Terrelle Pryor, RT Mitchell Schwartz.
Trades: QB Brock Osweiler
Draft picks expected to contribute as rookies: All three of the team’s first-round picks, DE Myles Garrett, SS Jabrill Peppers, and TE David Njoku, are expected to be starters from day one and players who can re-shape the face of the franchise. Garrett needs to be the disruptor that Cleveland has lacked for so long, Peppers will be used all over the place on defense (and maybe even a little on offense), and Njoku has the athleticism to be the next big thing at tight end in the AFC.
Biggest offseason addition: On the offensive line, the team signed Kevin Zeitler from the Bengals to start at right guard, making him the highest-paid player at his position in the NFL. Promising center J.C. Tretter was signed from the Packers after seeing that Cameron Erving was too much of a liability to anchor the line. Left guard Joel Bitonio received a big contract extension, making him a top-10 paid guard in the NFL. It’s a unit that was just ranked second best in the NFL by Pro Football Focus. The quarterback and wide receiver positions appear to be the team’s biggest question marks, making it all-the-more-important that the running game be a big factor on gameday, and I think we’ll see a very heavy commitment to it by head coach Hue Jackson.
Biggest storyline heading into training camp: As much as we’re tired of it, the quarterback competition between Cody Kessler, Brock Osweiler, and rookie DeShone Kizer will still dominate the headlines. I believe Cleveland’s roster was built to succeed despite the quarterback situation this year, but everyone wants to know if any of those three guys can rise to the occasion and stand out amongst the rest.
Under-the-radar storyline heading into training camp: Coaching-wise, the team made a change at defensive coordinator, replacing Ray Horton with Gregg Williams. The concept of a labeling a defense as being a 3-4 vs. a 4-3 alignment no longer exists under Williams, as he will play multiple fronts. However, the team will lean toward having the nickel defense being their base set with four defensive linemen, two linebackers, and five defensive backs. The defense was historically bad at times last year, but the team extended the right players (outside linebackers Christian Kirksey and Jamie Collins), and first-round picks Myles Garrett and Jabrill Peppers have the potential to be game-changing playmakers.
Notable injuries heading into training camp: WR Corey Coleman fell on a football earlier this offseason and is also recovering from hamstring injuries. DE Myles Garrett is recovering from a foot injury. Both players are expected to be ready for training camp, but will be monitored.
Thanks to Dawgs By Nature for the answers. We’ll see you again in three months.
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