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5 storylines to watch during Browns veterans minicamp

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  1. Can Cody Kessler hold down QB 1? **After showing some promise as a rookie, Kessler earned the first crack at the Browns' starting job. The second-year signal caller started eight games in 2016 and, though he was unable to guide Cleveland to a win in that span, head coach Hue Jackson said Kessler "worked his tail off" to improve in the offseason.

"He deserves the right and the opportunity to walk into this building and walk out there first," Jackson said. "(The other quarterbacks) have to take it from him."

Those other quarterbacks are former Texans starter Brock Osweiler, Kevin Hogan and rookie DeShone Kizer. Veteran minicamp marks the last time we'll see the four compete before training camp. It should give Jackson a better idea of who gives the Browns the best chance to win next season.

2. 'Tremendous potential'On paper, the Browns defensive line looks ready to take a significant jump forward after finishing second-to-last in sacks last season.

Of course, the addition of Myles Garrett — the freakishly athletic defensive end and No. 1 pick in the 2017 NFL Draft — should help that dynamic, but Cleveland also fortified its interior defensive line with third-round pick Larry Ogunjobi and sixth-round pick Caleb Brantley.

Danny Shelton, the 2015 first-round pick who broke out in his second season, is poised for another big year and Emmanuel Ogbah, the 32nd overall pick in 2016, played some of his best football at the end of last season. The Browns are also optimistic that veteran Desmond Bryant, who missed 2016 with a torn pectoral muscle, will return to form and that defensive end Carl Nassib, who was slowed by a hand injury, will continue to develop.

"There is a tremendous amount of potential for our defensive line," Bryant said last week.

3. Who steps up at WR?The Browns expect Corey Coleman and Kenny Britt to play key roles in the pass game next season, but both have been limited in practice with a focus on ensuring everyone is at full strength come training camp. That does, however, give Cleveland a chance to see how the likes of Ricardo Louis, Rashard Higgins, Jordan Payton, Rannell Hall, Mario Alford and James Wright step up in their absence.

Since parting ways with leading receiver Terrelle Pryor in free agency and releasing Andrew Hawkins, the Browns are still searching for faces who will contribute at the position alongside Britt and Coleman, the 2016 first-round pick who was limited by a broken hand last season.

"We don't have a guy who is a leading returning player in the National Football League at that position other than Corey, that has really played a lot of football in that group," Jackson said. "(But) I feel comfortable that there's talent there. If we can develop it and harness it in the right way, and the guys keep working and working at it every day, who knows what could happen."

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The Browns participate in OTAs on Tuesday.

  1. Who plays where in the secondary? **We already know the Browns return cornerbacks Joe Haden and Jamar Taylor to the starting lineup, and that safety Jabrill Peppers — one of the team's three first-round picks this past spring — should compete for a starting job alongside senior counterparts Derrick Kindred, Ed Reynolds III and Ibraheim Campbell.

But minicamp should also give us clarity where new additions veteran Jason McCourty and former first-round pick Calvin Pryor III fit in a secondary that's coming into form.

Pryor, whom the Browns traded for last week, started 38 of 44 career games with the Jets and should be a strong candidate to lock up a safety spot. Meanwhile, McCourty — who played cornerback in all eight of his seasons in Tennessee — should push for a major role on a defense that could play five or more defensive backs in response to pass-centric offenses across the league.

Also in the mix at cornerback are Briean Boddy-Calhoun, who had three interceptions as a rookie, Marcus Burley, Trey Caldwell, Channing Stribling and a host of other players fighting for playing time either on defense or special teams.

5. Filling the void:In exchange for Pryor, the Browns dealt veteran linebacker Demario Davis, who was second on the team in tackles behind only Christian Kirksey, back to New York.

That means Cleveland will need to find someone to fill that void in the middle of its defense. Among the candidates are Tank Carder, Dominique Alexander and a host of rookies, including undrafted free agents Kenneth Olugbode, B.J. Bello, Ladell Fleming and second-year 'backer James Burgess.

Davis also took on something of a leadership role and was named a captain prior to the start of the 2016 season. Expect players like Kirksey and Jamie Collins Sr. to continue to assert themselves in the linebackers room.

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