LAST YEAR: Found long-term quarterback — at last. Baker Mayfield more than lived up to hype as No. 1 overall pick, taking over starting job in Week 4 and setting NFL rookie record with 27 touchdown passes. Cleveland experienced another coaching change as Hue Jackson finally fired after going 3-36-1. Freddie Kitchens, who began season in shadows as running backs coach, took over as offensive coordinator and was hired in January, Browns’ sixth coach since 2010.
IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: WRs Odell Beckham Jr. and Jalen Strong, RB Kareem Hunt, DE Olivier Vernon, DL Sheldon Richardson, S Morgan Burnett, TE Demetrius Harris.
IMPORTANT LOSSES: G Kevin Zeitler, S Jabrill Peppers, LB Jamie Collins, DE Emmanuel Ogbah, DB Derrick Kindred.
CAMP NEEDS: Immensely talented Beckham, who arrived in blockbuster trade with Giants, skipped majority of offseason program and needs to catch up with new offense. He also must show teammates he won’t be daily diva or distracting headache. Kitchens has full platter in first head-coaching gig. One of his early challenges is disgruntled running back Duke Johnson, who wants trade after Browns signed suspended Hunt. Former Chiefs star can practice and play in preseason but must serve eight-game NFL ban.
EXPECTATIONS: Browns are season’s trendy team. They haven’t made playoffs since 2002 — league’s longest current drought — and more difficult schedule will place more pressure on Kitchens to deliver success to fan base believing Super Bowl trip closer than ever. Vernon’s arrival makes Pro Bowl DE Myles Garrett (13 1-2 sacks in 2018) more dangerous. Mayfield’s biggest test may be getting Beckham, WR Jarvis Landry, RB Nick Chubb and others enough touches to keep all happy.
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