Hue Jackson, asked how the Browns might divide touches between a host of old and new playmakers, offered a wide smile. It is, after all, a good problem to have.
“I know right now, when you look at us from an offensive standpoint,” Jackson said last week upon the conclusion of the NFL Draft, “you wonder where all of these balls are going to go because a year ago, that wasn’t a problem.”
Indeed, Cleveland struggled to receive consistent production from anyone outside running back Duke Johnson Jr., who was the team’s top weapon in both the run and pass games. While Josh Gordon, who returned late in the season from a three-year suspension, David Njoku and Seth DeValve flashed at times, the Browns’ lack of offensive star power was an inherent flaw in the team’s winless 2017 campaign.
That stands to change next year after a head-spinning offseason that’s watched Cleveland acquire veteran quarterback Tyrod Taylor, Pro Bowl receiver Jarvis Landry and running back Carlos Hyde. In the draft, the Browns doubled down by adding franchise quarterback of the future and No. 1 overall pick Baker Mayfield, running back Nick Chubb (35th overall pick) and speedy receiver Antonio Callaway in the fourth round.
“I think that when you’re really trying to become really, really good,” Jackson said, “what other way to do it than with good football players?”
While Cleveland's rookies will need to earn their keep in the coming months, its veterans have already started to lay a foundation. Taylor, named the team’s 2018 starter, has been working with Cleveland’s receivers ever since joining the team back in mid-March. In the run game, meanwhile, the Browns have the makings of a formidable backfield with Johnson, Hyde and Chubb.
“If we’re going to run the football the way that we plan on running it, you have got to have good backs,” Jackson said. “We feel like we have some guys that we can do that with.”
For Cleveland to bounce back after a 1-31 mark over the past two years, its offense will need to take a step forward. Last season, the Browns finished last in points per game (14.6) and 24th in yards per game (308.1).
Adding a host of playmakers — Taylor, Landry, Hyde, Mayfield and Chubb — should only help that cause.
“All it does is raise the level in the room. It raises the level on the practice field,” Jackson said.
“Guys are going to have to compete to earn the right to get the ball in their hands.”