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Browns Mailbag: What will be the top storyline for training camp?

Staff writer Anthony Poisal answers your questions


It's been another quiet week in Berea as we continue to inch through the final month until training camp, but it's rarely quiet in the Browns Mailbag.

You have questions, so we're bringing the answers — three of them on this hump day.

What would you say is the most compelling story of training camp? - Nick Dolance, Glendale, AZ

After watching the offense work in minicamp, I don't think there's any doubt that the most exciting piece of training camp will be the continued development of Deshaun Watson as he looks to return to the elite form he displayed the first years of his career.

Any play that ends with Watson completing a deep throw or hitting a receiver in a tight window will be a noteworthy scene of the day, and all eyes will be on him because the Browns believe he will bounce back into a Pro Bowl-caliber player this year. He's had a full offseason to digest a revamped playbook, one that should cater even more to his mobility and strong arm, and won't go through a training camp where his status for Week 1 and beyond is uncertain.

"I'm pretty far ahead of where I was last year," he said during minicamp. "Last year was, as far as football, being on the field, just running a new system, trying to adapt to different teammates, different players, how guys run routes, how Kevin calls the plays, and just being able to process the game at the speed I know. Being a year in and being able to talk to Kevin and AVP about what we want to do and being confident about it, it allows me to play a little bit faster when I'm on the field."

Watson looked great in minicamp, but training camp will be a different challenge once the pads come on and the practice tempo increases. If he continues to look solid, the Browns should rightly feel giddy about how high they can go this season.

The defense shouldn't be ignored in this answer, either. The combination of Myles Garrett and Za'Darius Smith has the potential to be the best edge rusher package in the league, and it'll be exciting to see how they both look flying off the edge once contact is allowed in practices. Add in the success new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz has discovered in previous defensive lines he's coached, and there's real potential for Garrett, Smith and other D-Line players to build career-best seasons.

That brings us to the next question…

Do you expect the Browns defense to be top 3 in sacks this season - Jude Putnam, Lakewood, OH

If everything goes as the Browns hope, it's absolutely possible.

The Browns were tied for 27th in the league last year with 34 sacks, so they would need a substantial improvement. If you add Smith's 10 sacks from last year to that total, however, the Browns would've placed 10th.

We won't go down too much of a hypothetical rabbit hole with previous sack numbers, but Smith is statistically the most productive edge rusher that has joined forces with Garrett, and the Browns are also high on new free-agent addition DE Ogbo Okoronkwo, who had five sacks in his first eight career NFL starts last season. Veteran DT Dalvin Tomlinson is also an upgrade to the group and could see sack opportunities with Garrett and Smith attracting attention on the outside, and Isaiah McGuire, Alex Wright and Isaiah Thomas, among others, are all young players capable of contributing sacks as well.

A top 3 finish will depend on how much damage Garrett and Smith can do, though, and there's plenty of belief within the building that they'll be one of the league's best rushing tandems.

The Browns are going to have some hard decisions for the 53-man roster cut. Could they look at players for more than one position to play (For example: linebacker + edge rusher, wide receiver + running back, safety + linebacker or O-line + tight end) to try and keep the best players on the team? - Kenneth Piper, Dorset, OH

Position versatility always adds value to a roster, and the Browns have a few players who could secure a roster spot because of their ability to play multiple positions.

The first guy who comes to mind is Demetric Felton Jr., who has mainly been used as a receiver the first two years of his career but unsurprisingly took most of his reps at running back in spring practices. With so many additions to the receiver room this offseason, Felton would bring the Browns more value if he can stick at running back, where depth is needed in a room that no longer includes Kareem Hunt.

Others include Michael Dunn, who can play both guard and center, and Nick Harris, who has played center but took snaps in the spring at guard.

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