5 things to know before the Browns start OTAs

  1. AURORA — When the Browns open OTAs on Tuesday morning, it marks the next phase of what has been a busy and potentially pivotal offseason in Berea.

Over the past few months, they re-signed or offered extensions to some of the team's top players like linebacker Jamie Collins and left guard Joel Bitonio. They fortified the offensive line and added veteran receiver Kenny Britt in free agency. And, most recently, Cleveland welcomed a promising 2017 NFL Draft class that includes three first-round picks in Myles Garrett, Jabrill Peppers and David Njoku.

That all now comes to a head of sorts as Cleveland's veterans and rookies come together for the first of 10 OTAs following a challenging 1-15 season that watched one of the league's youngest teams learn on the fly.

"I think the draft shows that we have put more quality talent on our team, I think it showed last year that our guys understand our process and worked hard, we just couldn't seem to win," Jackson said Monday at the annual Cleveland Browns Foundation Golf Tournament.

"Now, hopefully we have enough talent to finish games and finish games better and finishing hopefully leads to winning. Hopefully, at the end of the day, all this is about winning and it's not about anything else."

  1. Jackson said earlier this month that second-year quarterback Cody Kessler had earned the right to take reps with the first-team offense. After that, Jackson said he'll give an appropriate amount of reps to fellow signal-callers in Brock Osweiler, Kevin Hogan and rookie DeShone Kizer.

"I don't do it by numbers, I have to do it by feel," Jackson said when asked how he'll divide reps for the quarterbacks. "For the first day you might see the young guy with me the whole time. There's a lot of different things we're going to do and when I'm talking about the young guy, I'm talking about DeShone (Kizer) because I want to make sure I have my hand on him as much as I can. It's not by rotation or anything."

While Kessler will take first-team reps, Jackson made it clear he'll still have to win the job in OTAs and when training camp rolls around in July.

"Cody is going to walk out there first and he's gotta keep that job. He's gotta do everything the right way in order to continue to lead the first team," he said, "and the other guys will get opportunities as well and I think that's the way you have to do this if it's a competition."

  1. Christian Kirksey had a breakout season both on and off the field in 2016. The fourth-year linebacker led the Browns with 148 tackles and established himself as a leader inside a youth-laden locker room.

And when OTAs start, he's poised to keep that momentum rolling amid a switch from middle to outside linebacker.  "I think I took some strides forward but I'm adapting to any position they want to play me at," said Kirksey, who added he'll study all three linebacker positions to maximize his versatility. "Linebacker is a linebacker … I'll play wherever they need me to play."

Kirksey has spent the past three seasons at middle backer, though he played outside all four seasons at Iowa.

  1. Jackson said the Browns don't have a timetable set for if or when rookie cornerback Howard Wilson will return next season. The fourth-round pick from Houston suffered a fractured patella during rookie minicamp and will miss significant time recovering.

"He's gonna miss some time, I think we all know that," he said. "It's not like he's going back out there anytime soon. We're gonna let the doctors take care of that and keep advising on us what's right, and what's the right thing for us to do for him and that's the way we'll proceed.

Wilson, who played three years at the University of Houston, ranked second in the American Athletic Conference with five interceptions this past season and landed on the AAC's first team. He broke up 10 passes, compiled 54 tackles and recovered two fumbles.

  1. Speaking of Wilson, the Browns quickly acquired a defensive back in veteran Jason McCourty, who joined the team last week after the past eight seasons with the Tennessee Titans. But Jackson made clear the decision to do so was unrelated to Wilson's injury.

"We've had that up our sleeve for a while," Jackson said with a smile. "Again, I think (executive vice president of football operations) Sashi (Brown) has said it, we're always going to try to make our football team better and turn over every stone, every opportunity."

McCourty, one of Tennessee's most-tenured and productive players, should help give Cleveland's secondary a big boost next season.​

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