As training camp drew to a close, Browns coach Hue Jackson knows Cleveland has the talent to win games.
Many of the positions on the field were overhauled in the offseason, and they feature new faces in new places. Even with the new-look roster, questions remained about the Browns. Jackson thinks some remain, but many have been answered.
“Quite a few of them we have,” Jackson said.
The biggest questions entering camp surrounded the quarterbacks, the offensive line and the defensive front. Who will start at quarterback? Well, Jackson answered that early and often, continuing to never waver in his endorsement of Tyrod Taylor, who will start Week 1 against Pittsburgh. Who’s starting at left tackle? Shon Coleman started camp at the front of the pack, but Joel Bitonio was ultimately bumped out to protect Taylor’s blind side. The Browns have four able linebackers; who will start? They all will -- kind of.
But Jackson’s remaining questions span further than the surface inquiries many media members have.
On the offensive line, Jackson’s starting five is solidified. Bitonio will be the left tackle, rookie Austin Corbett will be the left guard. JC Tretter is the center, and he’ll have Kevin Zeitler and Chris Hubbard to his right. Now Jackson has to decide who can help beyond them.
“We know who possibly the starters will be,” Jackson said. “Who else is going to contribute there? We need to still see that this week.”
The Browns finished their last practice before playing the Eagles in preseason week 2.
Overall, the Browns offensive received some clarity with the return of Josh Gordon last week, and the receiving room features a crop of talent that hasn’t been seen in Cleveland for some time. Gordon joins rookie Antonio Callaway, Rashard Higgins and the NFL’s leader in receptions last season, Jarvis Landry. But Gordon hasn’t returned to practice yet, so Jackson grades the room as a work in progress: “We have to continue to work through that,” he said.
Defensively, the pass rush and secondary remain surrounded by uncertainty.
Emmanuel Ogbah and Myles Garrett were plagued with injuries last season. Garrett has Defensive Player of the Year potential but the duo needs to stay healthy. After trading Danny Shelton in the offseason, the Browns defensive tackles are young and inexperienced. Can they get away with rushing the passer with four guys, or will defensive coordinator Gregg Williams have to dial up heavy blitzes to ensure the back-end isn’t on an island?
Speaking of the secondary, rookie first-round pick Denzel Ward leads a group that almost is entirely new to Cleveland. Damarious Randall was acquired in a trade and switched positions. Jabrill Peppers moved spots on the field.
Jackson’s question: “Can we cover the really good elite receivers in the league?”
They’ll likely get an answer in Week 1 against Antonio Brown and Pittsburgh.
Sure, the Browns have a slew of questions surrounding them, but every team does at this point of the preseason. And as training camp ended, Jackson’s questions aren’t a problem. He just wants to find out the answers in the next two preseason games against the Eagles and Lions.
But even then, he won’t completely know.
“We will not really know that until we play against Pittsburgh,” Jackson said.