The Browns are built to win this year. Can you see how the pieces have finally come together?
Did you know that Cleveland is the only team in the AFC North that has never won the division crown? Could 2022 finally come together and break that string?
The quarterback position will become the key factor for the offense whereas the defense will need some work along the interior of the defensive line and at safety. Special Teams has completely been revamped with a new punter, kicker, plus punt and kickoff return man. Only longsnapper Charley Hughlett has been the mainstay for this unit.
Several of the young bucks on this roster have had one or two seasons to gel and figure out the professional game since their college days. And now more than ever, the Browns need some of these younger players to become Pro Bowl caliber athletes.
We have identified three players here at DBN that we feel could become first-time Pro Bowlers this year.
CB Greg Newsome
Don’t look now, but the Browns defensive secondary is going to be terrific going forward. The premise is that the team will rely on the defense more than in previous years.
Newsome was a rookie last year, and played like one at times. Being labeled a cover corner while at Northwestern, he found that life in the NFL was certainly a different animal. He could no longer rely on speed to close gaps. NFL receivers rarely leave any gaps.
Newsome is not wanting to be considered a work-in-progress going into 2022. Although he is still in the developmental stage, he is ready to take the next step and up his game towards another level.
The former first-round pick was a great choice for GM Andrew Berry, a former college cornerback himself. He will undoubtedly compete with veteran Greedy Williams for the right cornerback slot opposite Pro Bowler Denzel Ward. If Newsome fails to secure that position, the slot will most likely be his calling.
There, he should be able to make more plays and pad statistics which should garner attention to him when the Pro Bowl voting begins. Picks, pass breakups and forced fumbles are an excellent method to gain notoriety.
Today’s NFL is a passing league and every club needs as many good corners as they can get. Last season, Newsome allowed an 85.6 passer rating with just a single touchdown scored on him. His fluidity in his hips is his secret weapon.
The knock on him last year was his inability to turn his head while the ball was in the air. As the season rolled along, this began to change to which he had more batted passes in the second half. He also missed seven tackles, which is a concern.
If Newsome can become the same sticky cornerback as he displayed in college, having a Pro Bowl season this year could very well become a reality and give the Browns one of the best young twosomes in the league.
LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah
What exactly is JOK? Weakside linebacker? Box safety? Mike linebacker? Lamar Jackson spy? All the above?
What is not to like about this kid? ACC Defensive Player of the Year coming out of Notre Dame, a Unanimous All-American plus was the Dick Butkus Award winner. Was named to the NFL PFWA All-Rookie Team last year.
Dynamic playmaker on the defensive side of the ball. Had 76 total tackles last year is the beginning of that argument. Has it been mentioned yet he runs a 4.8 in the 40 for this young defense? Speed kills and JOK is the proof.
The days of the 6’-4”, 255 pound linebacker are long gone. Leaner, faster, more agile with deadly speed to burn is what NFL defenses covet these days. And his lack of girth only assists him in coverage despite taller tight ends.
Clearly the modern NFL defense is adapting to faster, more athletic tight ends who are receivers first and maybe can block here and there. JOK adapts well from the run game to short coverage responsibilities. Last season he was ranked ninth overall against the pass.
Call him a hybrid? Perhaps. There have been many before him such as Derrick Brooks of the Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers who was lean, fast and a sure tackler. JOK is simply the next generation of that prototype.
JOK is a player who will see the run develop and not hesitate to fill a gap with his sights on the ball carrier. He reads the game quickly and as last season rolled along, he was able to rely on his instincts more. And he showed up in Cleveland with a knack for tackling, but did not always take the best angles in order to get to his man. That too became less evident as the games on the schedule fell off one-by-one.
The beauty with JOK is that he is an every down linebacker with sideline-to-sideline range and a wrecking ball burst on blitz packages. And the dude just doesn’t seem to get winded during games despite accelerated snaps. He is also an excellent open-field tackler without fanfare or any look-at-me poses once he nails the running back. Just a man doing his job.
NFL.com picked one player from each franchise as the most underappreciated, and JOK was the Browns’ entry.
DC Joe Woods uses a lot of 4-2-5 packages with JOK and Anthony Walker (or Jacob Phillips) as the other backer. Expect to see JOK out on the field as an aggressive attacker who can easily top 100 tackles this year.
Last season, Woods eased JOK into action. That strategy is out the window this year.
This kid is special. And he plays for us.
WR Donovan Peoples-Jones
Now that the Browns have a legitimate veteran wide receiver in Amari Cooper, this will leave the door wide open for DPJ to become a legitimate star.
DPJ should have no problem securing the WR2 position.
Look at the players in which he has absorbed tutelage: Jarvis Landry, Odell Beckham, Jr., plus the technician Cooper. He explained to the Akron Beacon Journal:
“It shaped me a lot. I always used to look up to those guys and to actually be around them, get to know them as people outside of what I heard from them or outside of what media may say, it did a lot for me, especially as a young player. Just being able to have someone that I can kind of learn from and ask questions to some people who have been here in the league for a long time, it’s just a blessing.”
You may recall DPJ came to the Browns as a sixth round draft pick. Other than Tom Brady and Terrell Davis, there aren’t many superstars that are taken that late.
Now, the timing seems to right. After a pedestrian rookie season in which he gained only 304 yards with a mere 20 targets, last year he elevated his game with 34 receptions on 58 targets for 597 yards. That led the team in receiving yards last year just ahead of Landry’s 570.
The second outside receiver spot and deep threat is where DPJ should shine with Cooper manning the other spot and perhaps rookie David Bell, Anthony Schwartz or Ja’Marcus Bradley nestled in the slot.
The coaching staff is very high on DPJ this year as head coach Kevin Stefanski noted:
“We’ve talked about how dependable he is. He does what he’s supposed to do. He’s where he’s supposed to be. I do see his game growing. I think his body control — catching the ball and contested catches has never been tough for him — that’s just one of the traits he has. But in and out of breaks, some of the things we’re asking him to do are maybe a little bit different than he’s done in the past, and he’s done a great job. I think the quarterbacks like throwing to him, and that’s important.”
DPJ was most impressive during OTA’s this past month. He even launched a mobile game app called “Deep Pass Jam” which displays DPJ running through obstacle courses to accumulate points.
Although the quarterback situation is all but settled currently, whoever is under center will find their job easier with DPJ in an expanded role this year. It is not out-of-the-question he could put up numbers such as 1,100-1,200 yards with double-digit touchdowns and acquire his first Pro Bowl hardware.