Editor's Note: Over the next two weeks, Nathan Zegura, Andrew Gribble and Anthony Poisal will be giving their takes and predictions on some of the hottest topics surrounding the Browns as they prepare for training camp.
Training camp is truly just around the corner. Within weeks, the sun will be shining (we hope) as the Browns begin their on-field preparations for the much-anticipated 2021 season.
That's why we're kicking off this 10-questions series with the broadest of queries. There will be so much to discuss over the next month, and we'll be tackling all of the hottest topics, but which storyline is the BIGGEST as the Browns get ready for the 2021 season.
Here are Zegura's, Gribble's and Poisal's picks. We promise they'll disagree more on the future topics than they did for this one.
Zegura: The entire focus of the 2021 offseason was the reconstruction of the Browns defense, and EVP of Football Operations and GM Andrew Berry seems to have crushed that project. Now, the question facing the Browns D is how quickly can all of these new pieces gel to become what — on paper — appears to be an elite unit. The Browns could have an entire starting caliber nickel defense comprised of players who did not play a snap for the team in 2020, which is practically unheard of in the NFL. In Week 1 against the high-flying Chiefs, the Browns could have at least three new starters on the defensive line, two at linebacker and up to four on the back end of the defense. As things stand now, that means the Browns could have eight or nine new starters out of 11 in their base nickel defense. Beyond that, the different new look sub packages at the disposal of defensive coordinator Joe Woods could have nearly a dozen new faces on the field over the course of a game when it is all said and done. The battles for playing time, the utilization of various personnel groupings (such as the big dime) and the cohesiveness of this defense are going to be incredibly fun to watch and interesting to see play out as this training camp unfolds.
Gribble: It's all about the defense. Yes, tackling is at a relative minimum in these kinds of settings and yes, it's the touchdown passes and big runs that get fans the most excited at training camp practices, but the big focus of this training camp will center on how the Browns' defense, with all of its new pieces, will come together in a quick enough fashion to not only be ready for the season ahead, but also for the daunting Week 1 trip to Kansas City. There are multiple new faces at every level of the defense and a handful of familiar ones who weren't able to play in 2020. It all adds up to as many as NINE new starters on a defense that hopes to be more versatile and more consistent than it was last year. There's a lot of work to accomplish on Woods' side of the ball, but there's some genuine confidence in all of the talent that's been assembled coming together in a hurry.
Poisal: The defense has been the biggest story of the Browns' offseason since March, and there's no reason for that to stop in training camp. Even though players won't be in pads for most practices, there still will be plenty of excitement every time Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney line up in team reps. Plenty of eyes will be on Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah as we see how Woods utilizes his versatility at linebacker. Oh, and if John Johnson III, Grant Delpit, Greg Newsome II, Troy Hill or Greedy Williams — all players making a return or their debut with the new-look secondary — grab an interception, expect the play to be one of the biggest talking points from that day of practice. It's not often where every position group on one side of the football has major storylines in training camp, but that's exactly what we have on the defense this season.