LAST YEAR: Browns fell woefully short of high expectations. Early projections of playoffs fizzled quickly under first-year coach Freddie Kitchens, whose successful stint as interim offensive coordinator in 2018 won over ownership. Quarterback Baker Mayfield regressed in his second year, undone by poor play from offensive line and injuries that hampered star receivers Odell Beckham Jr., and Jarvis Landry all season. Running back Nick Chubb emerged as one of club’s best players. Defensive end Myles Garrett missed final six games after helmet-swinging attack on Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph.
IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: Coach Kevin Stefanski, Defensive coordinator Joe Woods, RT Jake Conklin, TE Austin Hooper, LT Jedrick Wills, QB Case Keenum, DT Andrew Billings, LB B.J. Goodson, DE Adrian Clayborn, S Andrew Sendejo, FB Andy Janovich.
IMPORTANT LOSSES: LB Joe Schobert, LB Christian Kirksey, S Damarious Randall, S Morgan Burnett, LT Greg Robinson.
PANDEMIC CHALLENGES: Stefanski has yet to meet many of his players in person. Virtual offseason prevented first-year coach and staff from assessing team’s on-field talent, and will be difficult to make up for lost time.
CAMP NEEDS: Wills played right side at Alabama, and his transition to pivotal spot protecting Mayfield’s blindside will be daily focus. Second-year linebackers Mack Wilson and Sione Takitaki need to step up to replace Schobert and Kirksey, both solid contributors and citizens. Rookie safety Grant Delpit from LSU expected to compete for starting job.
EXPECTATIONS: Browns aren’t NFL’s trendy team this summer and that should take some pressure off Stefanski, who has shown strong leadership during difficult first few months. His success will hinge on Mayfield, who must bounce back from rough season and prove again he’s capable of being franchise QB. He’s got plenty of playmakers, but challenge now will be keeping Beckham, Landry, Chubb and Kareem Hunt satisfied with touches.
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