Hue Jackson is the perfect head coach to navigate a Browns off-season, hitting his talking points with a confident delivery that keeps it real enough for fans to know they’re getting a genuine assessment of the team. All eyes will be on him and the outsider-laden front office pulling the strings as the new regime’s rebuilding plan hits the field for the first time this month. Fans have been told to be patient with that plan, but the surprise reinstatement of wideout Josh Gordon just before camps opened will ratchet up the expectations for the first year of Jackson’s offense if Gordon stays on the field.
Jackson is the ideal quarterback hype man, and there is no QB in the league more in need of some than Robert Griffin III, who enters the fall with the inside track on starting in Week 1 after a season on the sidelines in Washington. The fact that Griffin’s throwaways were the talk of minicamp should indicate the type of scrutiny he and Jackson will be under.
The rookie: A lot to choose from here, after the Browns tied an NFL record with 14 selections in April’s draft, headlined by big-play wideout Corey Coleman at No. 15. Even though Gordon’s return makes position group meetings a little more crowded, the three other wide receivers taken after Coleman should all make a case for playing time, most notably Rashard Higgins, the nation’s leading receiver two seasons ago at Colorado State who dropped to the fifth round after his numbers slipped back to the pack as a junior. He’s the safest bet to help Coleman headline the youth movement in the Cleveland passing game.
Position battle spoilers: Josh McCown is a known commodity (in a good way, more often than not), and the Browns’ expectations for rookie Cody Kessler seem to be well high of the consensus opinion, but Griffin will be the starting quarterback in Week 1 as long as he’s healthy.
The stat: 56.5, total tackles for loss collected in 2015 by the Browns’ first three defensive picks in this year’s draft. Edge rusher Emmanuel Ogbah (pick No. 32), defensive end Carl Nassib (No. 65) and linebacker Joe Schobert (No. 99) all finished in the top 20 nationally in tackles for loss and should play an early role in firming up one of the league’s worst front sevens in recent years. Nassib could be asked to slot into the starting DE spot left vacant by Desmond Bryant, who will miss at least half of the season with a torn pectoral muscle.
Preseason Watchability Guide: As mentioned above, every snap of RG3’s preseason will be a topic of conversation, but the first impression he makes with Browns fans during the two home games against Tampa Bay (Aug. 18) and Chicago (Sept. 1) is especially worth monitoring.