WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, WV- Becoming a staple for NFL training camps, the Greenbrier Resort is hosting another one this week as the Cleveland Browns are in Greenbrier County for the start of their late summer practices.
Some staff flew into town last Thursday, rookies and quarterbacks got in on Friday, and the rest of the team landed on Saturday, July 22. Cleveland’s first practice is Saturday at 3:45 PM and it is a light walkthrough. They depart back to Ohio on July 30.
Head coach Kevin Stefanski is excited for his team to practice at a remote location with zero distractions. That is a big reason why the practices will be closed to the public as typically camps are open to spectators. Stefanski used an example of “there won’t be any 2-year-olds crying in the middle of the night keeping his players up at weird hours.”
The Browns’ 2022 season was a rollercoaster of highs and lows, showing promise and potential, but they ultimately fell short of their ultimate goal, the postseason. They started 2-5 and never really recovered as they limped their way to a 7-10 finish.
The Browns started last year with Jacoby Brissett at quarterback while starter Deshaun Watson served his suspension. Brissett performed admirably and threw for 2,608 yards and 12 touchdowns for the season, but in game number 12, Watson took over. The former Clemson Tiger and national champion had some negative vibes around him from a couple years prior, but once he was allowed back in the league, the Browns snatched him up. He finished with 1,102 passing yards and seven TD passes in six games, but when healthy and void of distractions, Watson is one of the top playmakers from the QB position in the entire league, and he will have the opportunity to play a full season in 2023.
If Watson returns to form, he will have plenty of help in the backfield with running back, Nick Chubb. Chubb, the former Georgia Bulldog and one of the top RBs in the game, finished 2022 with 1,525 yards and 12 touchdowns. He is a perfect blend of speed and power and will take a lot of pressure off of Watson. The top backup for Chubb appears to be Jerome Ford, a second-year player out of Cincinnati. For his career, Ford has 12 yards on eight carries and even though the Cleveland staff thinks highly of him, keeping Chubb healthy is priority number one.
The receivers and tight ends will be looked at as one of the strongest units on the team.
Amari Cooper is back after hauling in 78 catches for 1,160 yards and nine touchdowns. The 10-year veteran from Alabama may have even bigger numbers this year with Watson throwing to him full-time. Fellow receiver, Donovan Peoples-Jones provides a nice compliment to Cooper on the other side of the field. Last year, Peoples-Jones caught 61 passes for 839 yards and three scores. Tight end David Njoku is the next biggest threat that returns from 2022. The big and strong athlete had 58 catches, 628 yards and four TDs and missed three games with an injury. All three of those guys would most likely be more than enough for Watson to throw to this season, but the strength of the position is easy to see when you look at newcomers Elijah Moore and Marquis Goodwin. Moore spent the last couple seasons with the New York Jets and some subpar quarterback play, but still had 37 catches for 446 yards and a touchdown last year. Those numbers will go up quickly. Goodwin is a veteran that had 42 receptions for 387 yards and four scores a year ago in Seattle.
Of course, the key to any offense is the play of the offensive line, and Cleveland’s should be a net positive. Guard Wyatt Teller is back to lead the group. Other projected starters are Jedrick Wills, Jr., Joel Bitonio, Ethan Pocic and Jack Conklin.
The Browns defense has its own share of playmakers. Grant Delpit is back after leading the team in tackles (105) and interceptions (4) last year. Myles Garrett is still one of the most feared rushers in the game and backed that up with 16 sacks last season. Dalvin Tomlinson was brought in from the Vikings to shore up the left defensive tackle spot as returnee Jordan Elliott is at the right side. Za’Darius Smith had 10 sacks last year for Minnesota as well and should free up Garrett even more on the opposite end.
The linebacking corps of Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Anthony Walker Jr, and Sione Takitaki should be solid enough to keep offenses from moving up and down the field at will. Second-team linebacker and former WVU star, Tony Fields II provides quality depth there as well.
Denzel Ward is a good option at cornerback. Last season he had 53 tackles, three picks and knocked down 15 passes. The other corner is third-year man, Greg Newsome II.
Juan Thornhill at free safety will help Delpit on the backend.
Kicker Cade York and punter Corey Bojorquez are the specialists.
Fans are eagerly anticipating a season of redemption, hoping that this will be the year the Browns bring the Lombardi Trophy back to Cleveland, and when every team is 0-0, that is a legitimate hope for fans.
The Browns’ journey in 2023 promises to be an exciting one, with a team eager to prove their mettle and a fan base ready to cheer them on every step of the way.
Cleveland opens preseason play on August 3 in the Hall-of-Fame-game against the New York Jets and will also honor former Cleveland offensive tackle Joe Thomas who is going into the Hall-of-Fame.
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