Tyrod Taylor's eighth NFL season officially starts Sunday, and just about everyone that's come across him in Berea since he joined the Browns in March believes he'll elevate his performance to a level that's yet to be reached.
His offensive coordinator, Todd Haley, was the latest to express that sentiment when he met with reporters Thursday. The quarterback he'll entrust to lead the offense has proved himself to Haley in a variety of ways over the past six months.
"My expectations are high," Haley said. "It is well-documented. This guy has come in and gone in head first with no hesitation. He is all in, he works his butt off – off the field, he works his butt off. On the field, he is a very good communicator – which is very critical at that position, obviously.
"My hope is we have not seen the best of Tyrod Taylor."
Traded by the Bills to the Browns for a third-round pick, Taylor quickly embraced his new opportunity in Cleveland. Immediately named the team's starter, Taylor impressed his new teammates with an on- and off-field work ethic that's left a positive mark wherever he's played, whether it be during his college days at Virginia Tech, the start of his NFL career as a backup in Baltimore or the three years he spent as the starter in Buffalo.
In his final season with the Bills, he led the team to its first playoff appearance in 17 years. Now, as the starter of a team that's posted a 1-31 record over the past two seasons, Taylor is the face of change on a roster that features 31 new players.
It came with minimal surprise that Taylor was voted as one of the team's five captains Wednesday.
"It is a wonderful opportunity. It is not about me," Taylor said. "It is a team effort each and every week, each and every day. I recognize the opportunity, as well as the team recognizes the opportunity, to change the culture here. We have the perfect opportunity this weekend."
Taylor nearly had his chance to face Cleveland's top rival derailed when he fell awkwardly on his left hand during the Browns' Week 3 preseason win over the Eagles. It was a scary moment for the Browns' starting quarterback, but he was able to shake it off, return to the game and ultimately miss none of the Browns' preparations for a team it hasn't beat since 2014.
With Taylor healthy and in the fold, the Browns have as accomplished of a quarterback as they've ever had for a season opener since the team resumed operations in 1999. In his 2015 Pro Bowl season, Taylor threw for 3,035 yards and 20 touchdowns while piling up 568 yards on the ground. Over the past three seasons, he's thrown just 16 interceptions. The Browns had 28 just last season.
Still, Taylor has higher goals, and the Browns feel the same way. They expect an even better version of an already accomplished quarterback, and it starts Sunday against Pittsburgh.
"This will be what people measure him on. Here is an opportunity," Browns coach Hue Jackson said. "I think our team relishes that and I think that he does, too. He has worked extremely hard this week. His focus is good. He knows what needs to be done. The offense has had a couple of good days. We just need to keep working and play well."