With training camps and pre-season set to start, here is my official offensive preview of the 2017-18 Cleveland Browns.
1-15 last season and near the bottom in almost every offensive category in the NFL, Cleveland addressed various areas of need such as offensive line and wide receiver in signing former Green Bay Packers center in JC Tretter, Kevin Zeitler from the in-state divisional rival Cincinnati Bengals and Kenny Britt from the Los Angeles Rams, following the loss of wide out Terrelle Pryor to the Washington Redskins.
Cleveland also addressed the issue of adding potential franchise building blocks such as selecting tight end David Njoku in the first round out of Miami (FL) and former Notre Dame quarterback DeShone Kizer in the second round.
Unlike other offseasons in which the Cleveland Browns had to deal with headaches such as former first-round busts in Johnny Manziel and Justin Gilbert, there is actually some hope in the Rock and Roll Capital that the Browns are heading in the right direction.
While there is still a question mark as to who will start at right tackle in former first round pick Cameron Erving, Shon Coleman etc., and the return of former All-Pro left guard Joel Bitonio, instantly gives the Browns one of the top offensive lines in the entire league.
Perhaps no position on offense will benefit more from Cleveland’s revamped line more than running back, as pending free agent Isaiah Crowell finished 46 yards short of 1,000 behind a suspect one. Imagine what kind of numbers Crowell can put up behind this one? What about Duke Johnson you ask? Well, he has value as a quality third-down receiver and outside runner, look for his production to also increase.
Wide receiver and tight end appears to be thin, thanks to the hamstring injury suffered by Corey Coleman during team OTA’s and the unceremonious release of popular veteran in Pro Bowl tight end Gary Barnidge, while Coleman is expected to be back and ready to go for training camp and pre-season, his injury history from his days at Baylor is quickly following him into his second year in the NFL.
Aside from Coleman, Njoku, and Britt, there are potential breakout gems in Ricardo Louis and Seth DeValve.
Last, and certainly not least is the 27-man 800-pound elephant in the room. Quarterback.
Yes, we know all the jokes and puns made at Cleveland’s expense due to their failure in identifying a potential franchise QB to build around. If early indications out of Berea mean anything, then they may have finally found one in the aforementioned Kizer.
While I have been one of the biggest proponents of second-year quarterback Cody Kessler, as he showed promise during his rookie year. However, two concussions and questionable arm strength may have forced a change in my position at this point.
Plus, with Kizer being more AFC North-built at 6’4 and 235 pounds with a quality arm, that can pierce the cold and harsh winter winds that will swirl around First Energy Stadium, do not sleep on Kizer lining up under center vs. the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Yes, recently-acquired Brock Osweiler could also have a say in it, but unless he shows some flash from his Bronco days and not the current Houston Texan ones, it’s Kizer’s job to lose.
Based on the above analysis, my projected Cleveland Browns 2017-18 starting offense looks like this:
LT: Joe Thomas
LG: Joel Bitonio
C: JC Tretter
RG: Eric Zeitler
RT: Cameron Erving
WR1: Kenny Britt
WR2: Corey Coleman
WR3: Ricardo Louis
TE1: Seth DeValve
TE2: David Njoku
RB1: Isaiah Crowell
RB2: Duke Johnson
QB: DeShone Kizer
Let me know what you think. Go Browns!
Editor’s Note: This article can also be seen in our upcoming NFL Preview Edition.