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.
Who's set to have a big training camp and an even bigger impact during the 2021 regular season?
That's the question Nathan Zegura, Anthony Poisal and Andrew Gribble are tackling today.
Gribble: I'm going with second-year WR Donovan Peoples-Jones because he really hit his stride during the second half of his rookie season. Plus, I also saw with my own two eyes just how good he looked at minicamp. Baker Mayfield did, too, saying, "Donovan looks incredible right now. He looks like he is in really, really good shape running around. Obviously, he is a smart guy who we were able to plug and play. He knows his role and exactly what his job is." What the job is, exactly, remains to be seen, but Peoples-Jones has proven to be a quick learner and is poised to excel now that he's more comfortable with the NFL and the offense Kevin Stefanski and Alex Van Pelt look to run in 2021. Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry are poised to lead the way again, but Peoples-Jones figures to be prominently in the mix and will look to make the most of his opportunities.
Poisal: Demetric Felton. Not many other players around the league will be in as many position competitions as Felton, who is set to receive looks at receiver, running back and returner. The Browns used Felton at both receiver and running back throughout minicamp, and it's safe to assume he'll receive plenty of snaps at either of those positions in preseason games. A big preseason performance could be his way of adding a significant boost to his stock, or he could simply show consistency in all three of his position battles in training camp. There's a lot Felton can offer to the roster as a rookie sixth-round pick, and the Browns appear ready to give him every opportunity to show it.
Zegura: The Atlanta Falcons selected edge rusher Takkarist McKinley with the 26th pick of the 2017 NFL Draft because of his great physical gifts. McKinley responded by producing six sacks as a rookie and notching two more sacks in the Falcons' run to the Super Bowl. He followed that up with a seven-sack season in 2018, and it appeared he was one of the real ascending pass rushers in the NFL. Despite constantly being around the quarterback in 2019, he posted just 3.5 sacks and saw his 2020 campaign cut short due to injury. McKinley was dominant in Week 1 of 2020 against the Seattle Seahawks with one sack and six QB pressures before suffering an injury that limited him to just four games. The Falcons would release McKinley and the Browns would try multiple times to claim him, but they were unsuccessful. When McKinley entered free agency for the first time in his career, he told me it was a natural fit to go to the Browns, a team he knew wanted him. In my interview with McKinley shortly after joining the Browns, he revealed just how challenging 2020 was, but how important that season was as well. He realized he had taken being an NFL player for granted and needed to refocus and rededicate himself to get the most out of his abundant talent. A motivated McKinley should be incredibly productive with the Browns, and I think he has a real shot at a career year and double-digit sacks. In pass rushing situations, McKinley will be on the field rushing from his favorite Wide 9 position, so the opportunities to get to the quarterback will be plentiful. With Myles Garrett on the opposite side and the potential for Jadeveon Clowney to be lined up inside next to either Garrett or McKinley, McKinley should see plenty of one-on-one matchups in the race to the quarterback. It is a simple formula, but in the case of McKinley, I have no doubt that talent plus motivation plus opportunity will equal monster production for the Browns in 2021.