Cleveland Browns 2019 Training Camp Preview
Part 1 - Offense
The 2019 Cleveland Browns have undergone some major changes this offseason. Freddie Kitchens was hired as the new head coach of the Browns, former Arizona Cardinals Head Coach Steve Wilks is in as new defensive coordinator, and former Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive coordinator Todd Monken has been hired as the offensive coordinator. The Browns made several offseason trades as well. None bigger than the Browns trading for New York Giants star wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and defensive end Olivier Vernon. The Browns would also went on to sign running back Kareem Hunt who was released by the Kansas City Chiefs following the release of a controversial domestic violence video.
The excitement over Baker Mayfield's rookie season has carried over into the offseason. Coming off a season where Mayfield threw for nearly 4,000 yards and had 27 touchdowns, breaking Peyton Manning and Russell Wilson's rookie record. The Browns quarterback position is the most solidified it has been since they've returned to the NFL.
The wide receiver group is also the most formidable it has ever been with the addition of Beckham. Adding him to returning wide receivers Jarvis Landry, Antonio Callaway, and Rashard Higgins, and the Browns have some of the best wide receiving options in the NFL.
The defense added a dynamic edge rusher to pair opposite Myles Garrett with the addition of Olivier Vernon. They also added defensive Tackle Sheldon Richardson who is coming off a solid season in Minnesota. The Browns shipped await defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah to the Chiefs in exchange for safety Eric Murray.
The running back game is stronger than ever with Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt in the backfield. There are still trade rumors revolving around Duke Johnson and it is questionable if he will be on the roster by the time training camp rolls around.
This brings us to training camp 2019. The Browns are coming off of a 7-8-1 season and are the early favorite to win the AFC North. With the Browns roster more talented than ever, expectations are the highest they've been in a long time. It's strange feeling for the Browns to have high expectations, isn't it?
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With Baker Mayfield coming off a record-breaking rookie season, the starting quarterback position is solidified. The battle for the backup position will be between Drew Stanton and Garrett Gilbert who has recently signed from the Orlando Apollos of the recently folded AAF. Look for Drew Stanton to win the backup job as he has more in-game experience.
While Gilbert won a lot of games with the Orlando Apollos, he was a practice squad player in the NFL. That does not mean the Browns should cut Gilbert however, as he could be groomed to be a solid backup, if the browns decide to carry 3 quarterbacks into the season.
Running BacksNext, we look at the Browns stable of running backs. The Browns currently have a bell-cow back in Nick Chubb, who is coming off a terrific rookie season. After serving his 8-game suspension, the Browns added the troubled, but talented Kareem Hunt into the mix, making for one of the most dynamic backfields in the NFL. Then there is Duke Johnson. Duke Johnson has been a great weapon in the passing game for some bad Browns team. There have been rumors swirling that Johnson is on the trading block, but coach Freddie Kitchens has said that he wants to keep him on the roster. It would be prudent of the Browns to keep Johnson on the roster until Hunt comes back from his suspension.
The Browns recently signed Michigan State running back L.J. Scott who rushed for 25 touchdowns during his time as a Spartan. Scott will likely be a fourth string back.
For the first time in a long time, the Browns are loaded at wide receiver. General manager John Dorsey has done an excellent job of loading the Browns receiving corps with talent. The top 4 wide receiver spots are pretty much set with Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry, Antonio Callaway, and Rashard Higgins. That leaves Jaelan Strong, Damon Sheehy-Guiseppi, Damion Ratley, Derrick Willies, Ishmael Hyman, D.J. Montgomery, and Black Jackson duking it out to make the roster.The prevailing narrative is that Beckham Jr. and Landry might start complaining if they do not get the ball enough, and that may create drama during the season. However, both worked well with each other at LSU, so it would be surprising if they had issues together on the Browns. With Landry and Beckham both on the field at the same time, I expect to see both involved in some trick plays this season. Besides the acquisition of Odell Beckham Jr., the signing of Jaelan Strong is the most intriguing offseason move at the wide receiver position. Strong has flashed potential, but hasn't lived up to it during his time in Houston. The Browns hope for Strong to reach his potential and could make another exciting receiving option.
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The tight end position will be one of the more competitive position battles in training camp. David Njoku has shown playmaking ability, but has struggled with drops in his first two seasons. Tight ends in the NFL typically take a few years to develop, so it should be interesting to watch Njoku and see if he puts it all together and reach his potential in his 3rd season.
2nd string tight end is up in the air, Seth Devalve is a solid, if not spectacular receiving tight end, but his blocking ability leaves much to be desired. DeValve will be competing with newly acquired tight end Demetrious Harris, a tight-end drafted by John Dorsey back in Kansas City. Like Njoku, Harris has struggled with dropping passes. His propensity for dropping passes has earned him the nickname, "Incompletrious Harris", amongst Chiefs fans.
Orson Charles is the 4th tight-end and is known more for his blocking ability than his passing catching. He can make the occasional reception, but he must continue to showcase his blocking ability and special teams play to secure a roster position. He will be competing with second year tight-end Pharaoh Brown out of Oregon. Brown was an unrestricted free agent out of Oregon, who has bounced around the Browns practice squad since being signed last season.
Offensive LineThe offensive line is the position group with the most question marks. Center JC Tretter and left guard Joel Bitonio are the only two who have their starting positions solidified. Greg Robinson signed a one year contract with the team after bringing some stability to the left tackle position last season. However, Desmond Harrison and rookie Drew Forbes will push him for the starting job.
Harrison started last season at left tackle in his rookie season, but struggled after missing a lot of training camp with an injury, and Hue Jackson calling the offense. If he can continue to develop, he could make a push to be the starting left tackle.
Forbes is a 5th round rookie from Southeast Missouri State, who was dominate against lesser competition, but who many think should play guard in the NFL. However, the Browns have said they will give him an opportunity to compete for the left tackle position.
Chris Hubbard is likely to start at right tackle, but will face competition from Kendall Lamm. Lamm was signed as a free agent after he left the Houston Texans. Lamm started 13 games at right tackle in the 2018 season, and will provide tough competition for the starting right tackle position.
After trading away right guard Kevin Zeitler to the New York Giants in the Odell Beckham Jr. trade, the competition for the right guard position will be one to watch. 2nd year lineman Austin Corbett is being given an opportunity to win the right guard position, but he has been transitioning from a left tackle in college to guard in the NFL. Corbett didn't see the field much in his first season after being taken with the first pick of the second round in the 2018 NFL Draft. Expectations are high for Corbett and he has yet to live up to his draft position. This will be an important training camp for him.
Corbett will be facing competition from veteran lineman Eric Kush. Kush was signed as a free agent after spending last season with the Chicago Bears. Kush is a journeyman who is on his 7th NFL team in the 6 years he's been in the NFL. If Corbett isn't able to win the right guard position, Kush has the ability to start and provides depth to the interior offensive line positions.
With expectations high for the 2019 season, the Browns training camp should be an exciting one. Which position battle are you most interested to see unfold?