Over the last two seasons, the Cleveland Browns made an effort to get younger and that showed with the addition of 26 first- or second-year players to the roster after breaking training camp in August.
Currently, the Browns have 27 first- or second-year players on the roster. Ten of the team’s rookies have seen significant playing time this year, including an NFL-leading 77 starts, 29 starts ahead of the Indianapolis Colts’ 48.
The Browns started six second-year players and five rookies in Sunday’s 34-12 loss to the Denver Broncos.
“We had even more young guys out there playing,” Browns coach Pat Shurmur said. “It was a good opportunity for a lot of young players to be out there battling and you could see we’ve got a long way to go.
“We’re working a lot of young players that, in my opinion, are going to provide a great foundation for this team. You’ve got to start somewhere, and, as I mentioned, we believe in getting those players in the draft and then, you supplement it with free agency. Those are the things you look toward.”
Of the Browns’ 10 losses this season, five have been by seven points or less. In addition to an increase in wins, the Browns have scored more points (292) and touchdowns (30) than all of last season (218, 21).
“As a team, I feel like we’re much improved from a year ago,” Shurmur said. “With the Washington Redskins, we were 14-10 at halftime. Against the Denver Broncos, we were down 14-3, took the first series of the second half and scored to 14-6. Then, it got away from us in both situations. You start talking about finishing and maybe, that comes with these guys having a little more experience. Everybody functions a little bit better together.
“I believe we’re a better football team that’s more ready to make the next jump than we were last year, just by the way I see the team functioning.”
Shurmur said that he believes the organization is “building a team that’s relevant.”
“You have to be relevant before you can be a playoff team,” Shurmur said. “Once you’re in the playoffs, anything can happen. It’s somewhat of a journey. We’ve had to make this journey with change and looming change. That’s what you push through. What I, as a coach, look at is these individual players that are getting better, how they’re working together, how guys are fighting through injuries.”