REPORTING DATES: Rookies – July 23, Veterans – July 26
OPEN CAMP: July 27
CAMP LOCATION: Browns Training Facility – Berea, Ohio.
OPEN PRACTICES: 15 practices open to the public beginning July 27.
LAST YEAR: Coach Hue Jackson’s first year in Cleveland started with 14 straight losses and finished as the worst season in franchise history at 1-15. Once again, the Browns were decimated by injuries that forced them to shuffle through 6 different quarterbacks and several offensive linemen. With one of the league’s youngest rosters, the Browns struggled to compete at times following 3 close losses early in the season against Baltimore, Washington and Miami. While the front office insisted it wasn’t throwing away the season, the team at least was able to stockpile draft picks to continue the rebuild with.
KEY ADDITIONS: OL Kevin Zeitler, DB Jason McCourty, OL JC Tretter, QB Brock Osweiler, WR Kenny Britt, rookie DE Myles Garrett, rookie QB DeShone Kizer, rookie TE David Njoku, rookie DB Jabrill Peppers.
KEY LOSSES: WRs Terrelle Pyror and Andrew Hawkins, TE Gary Barnidge, QBs Robert Griffin III and Josh McCown, DB Tramon Williams.
CAMP STORYLINES: The Browns still don’t have long-term answer at quarterback, but Kizer, drafted in the second round, could be the closest they have to a solution. The former Notre Dame QB made strides during minicamp and could push past Cody Kessler and Osweiler on the depth chart. WR Cory Coleman struggled with injuries as rookie last season and suffered another injury during the offseason program. The Browns, who added Britt this offseason, are very young at the position and will need Coleman to take major step forward as playmaker in 2017. The Browns invested heavily in their offensive line in the offseason with the additions of RG Zeitler and C Tretter as well as a massive contract extension for LG Joel Bitonio. RB Isaiah Crowell, who is in a contract year and hired super agent Drew Rosenhaus, is expected to be a focal point in Jackson’s offense this year after the coach expressed regret in not using him more in 2016. No. 25 overall pick Jabrill Peppers will be intriguing to watch defensively as well as a returner on special teams. New defensive coordinator Gregg Williams is being counted on to help turn around one of the worst units in the league a year ago with No. 1 overall pick Garrett and Desmond Bryant, back after missing last season, as primary pass rushers. Cornerback Joe Haden has to stay healthy after battling injuries the last 2 seasons.
EXPECTATIONS: The Browns are still very young after making 24 picks in the draft over the least 2 years, so it’s going to take time to be a threat within the highly competitive AFC North. Resolving the quarterback issue — Cleveland has started 26 QBs and used 32 of them since 1999 — remains the biggest issue facing the team. Until that’s done, the Browns can’t take a major step forward. Owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam are preaching patience to fans but they’ll need to exhibit some of their own and give Jackson and the analytics-driven front office time to see their plan through. Having made sweeping changes three times as owners already, there’s always the fear that more changes could be made if the team doesn’t show drastic improvement in 2017. Barring a tremendous amount of breaks going their way, the Browns are likely looking at a 15th season since returning to the league – and 9th in the last 10 years – of double digit losses.
PRE-CAMP SEASON PREDICTION: Best case 6-10, Worst case 2-14.
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)