Inside Slant

The Sports Xchange

July 24, 2018 at 1:10 am.

Browns engender optimism from fan base

For the first time in years, Cleveland Browns fans are excited about the season ahead, and why not? The Browns head to training camp led by a quarterback with a winning record and an offensive coordinator with a history of success.

Indeed, the Browns have traveled a painful road to get here. They are 1-31 the last two years under Hue Jackson, who returns as head coach with Tyrod Taylor as his quarterback and Todd Haley as his offensive coordinator. Taylor and Haley are the two additions that should have the most immediate impact in erasing the memory of going 0-16 last year. The 2008 Detroit Lions are the only other team to go winless in a 16-game season.

The Browns were 3-13 in 2015 and even in 2014, when they finished 7-9, the Browns lost their last five game. In other words, they are just 4-49 over the last 53 games. But Taylor was quarterbacking the Buffalo Bills in 2017 while Haley was calling plays for the Pittsburgh Steelers; their fingerprints are not on past disasters.

“Tyrod has done a tremendous, tremendous job of establishing himself as the leader of this offense,” Haley said. “His car is there every morning in his spot when I get here in the morning, and it’s there when I’m leaving. That’s what you’re looking for in the leader of the offense.

“I think that he’s done a great job with understanding the terminology, the concepts and all of the different things. We threw a lot at him. Through hard work – he is more of a show what to do more than by talking – I’ve really been impressed and encouraged by him.”

Jackson has made it clear there will be no training camp quarterback derby between Taylor and rookie Baker Mayfield. Establishing Taylor as the starter means he will get more reps than if he had to share practice time, which theoretically should make him better.

Taylor and Haley aren’t the only key additions to the offense. The Browns sent a fourth-round draft pick in 2018 and a seventh-round pick in 2019 to the Miami Dolphins for wide receiver Jarvis Landry, who led the entire NFL with 112 catches last year. They also have wide receiver Josh Gordon raring to go at the start of training camp.

Gordon missed 10 games in 2014, all of 2015, all of 2016 and the first 11 games of 2017 for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy, but all evidence suggests he has put those issues behind him.

“I think we’re the best receiving corps in the league, in my opinion, already, just based off of talent alone,” said Gordon, who included tight end David Njoku plus wide receivers Corey Coleman and Rashard Higgins plus others in that assessment.

The defense should be better, too.

The Browns ranked 14th defensively, but they were 31st in points allowed.

“We have to do a better job down in the red zone,” said Gregg Williams, back for his second year as defensive coordinator. “We have to do a better job defending the goal line. That’s the next step for these guys here to be up there at the very top.”

The secondary got a huge makeover in the offseason with the goal of cutting down the 410 points allowed.

The Browns traded for free safety Damarious Randall and signed cornerbacks T.J. Carrie, Terrance Mitchell and E.J. Gaines in free agency. They used the fourth overall pick on cornerback Denzel Ward from Ohio State.

The group looked good in T-shirts in spring practices. Williams is eager to see how they mesh when the pads go on.

“I think that (general manager) John Dorsey and his group have done a very good job of increasing the competition,” Williams said. “Competition makes us all better. There is a lot of newness there. That area is probably the one that we’re spending a lot of extra time with.”

The Browns gave up 28 passing touchdowns last season.




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