The Cleveland Browns have improved the roster as a whole over the last couple of seasons. Their biggest leap may have been this offseason, but that will not be known until the season arrives. Cleveland added free agents John Johnson lll, Troy Hill, Jadeveon Clowney, Takkarist McKinley, Anthony Walker, Malik Jackson, amongst others through the NFL Draft.
Training camp will kickoff at the end of July and it will be interesting to watch some position battles that are undoubtedly going to take place. First, the defensive tackle position is one that the Cleveland Browns will need someone to step up and dominate. Larry Ogunjobi signed with the Cincinnati Bengals in free agency and Sheldon Richardson started a second stint with the Minnesota Vikings after the Browns waived him.
Thankfully for Cleveland, Andrew Billings will be coming back after opting out last year due to COVID-19. Billings is a load, one that the team could have used last season to plug the middle. His role is going to be just that, to plug the middle. Week one don’t be surprised to see Billings and newcomer Malik Jackson as the Browns starting defensive tackles. Jackson has done a great job throughout his career of getting to the quarterback, as well as a nice push inside. Jackson is a guy that can play any down on the field, while the Browns will likely try to get Billings off the field in passing situations.
It will be interesting to see who steps up for Cleveland in terms of defensive tackle depth. Surely the Browns would like it to be second-year man Jordan Elliott. Elliott just didn’t show much last year in a very limited role. A larger role could be what he needs and he will have the opportunity to play plenty of snaps on this defensive line. It all starts in training camp.
Past Elliott is potentially a pair of rookies who could find their way into the rotation. Tommy Togiai was a fourth round pick in this year’s draft out of Ohio State and could be a nice piece for the Browns. Togiai showed the ability to get after the quarterback, a bonus to being able to stop the run. Togiai could push for early playing time since he has NFL-ready strength that translates well.
Cleveland guaranteed $192,000 to Marvin Wilson out of Florida State as an undrafted rookie. Guaranteed money in that amount is not popular for undrafted players and it just goes to show the Browns thoughts on the defensive tackle. A good camp by the rookie and he very well could work his way into some playing time as well.
Cleveland is set at wide receiver when it comes to their top two options. It’s a no brainer and they’re great friends, Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry. After that the third wideout position very well could be open. Rashard Higgins was the team’s third option last season and has a past of great chemistry with Baker Mayfield. He’s a dependable catch when you throw it his way, but he has some competition.
Donovan Peoples-Jones was a standout player as a rookie, though it was a very limited role. Peoples-Jones caught 14 passes for 304 yards, that was just on 20 targets. Over 21 yards per reception is great and showed the playmaking ability he was able to bring. Mayfield and Peoples-Jones were able to connect on the home run ball multiple times in 2020.
Things were not always great for the rookie. Not playing the team’s first hand full of games, he was eventually able to get his feet under him. If the second year wideout can build off last season he very well could push for the team’s third spot on the depth chart.
Linebacker is interesting because a lot of things will depend how much defensive coordinator Joe Woods utilizes the position. The thought is the Browns will use more safeties and they have built the roster to at least look that way. Cleveland has their SAM linebacker in Sione Takitaki who has really shown flashes as being a physical run stopper. Another step forward in his third year will be important for his career.
In the middle of the field could be offseason acquisition Anthony Walker. Walker is a tackling machine that should see a ton of snaps. Walker is not a lock to start as second-year man Jacob Phillips showed last year that when he’s healthy, he is hard to take off the field. Phillips can play in space, run up and make a tackle as well as drop in coverage a bit. It will be interesting to see who can firmly takeover that role.
Cleveland’s weak side linebacker very well could be a rookie, a talented one at that. Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah played a hybrid role at Notre Dame that should fit well into the Cleveland defense. The rookie is athletic, fast and can make plays in space. Owusu-Koramoah will see his fair share of matchups with running backs out of the back field and potentially crossing tight ends. It may take some time for the rookie to get acclimated to the NFL, he should be just fine after a few weeks in.
Malcom Smith will be right there and capable of giving snaps at the position as well. The Browns opted to resign him after he played some solid football for the team in 2020. Rookie Tony Field may be the best fit for special teams off the bat, but he too should provide depth at the position.
Opportunity will be in the air when it comes to a few positions on the team. It will be interesting to see who can step up and clinch a role ahead of week one against the Kansas City Chiefs.
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