The new-and-improved Browns host the Eagles, the defending Super Bowl champions, in Thursday’s second-to-last preseason game. In less than three weeks, they’ll open the season against the Pittsburgh Steelers in front of what's expected to be a raucous home crowd.
Browns coach Hue Jackson has said he hopes it’s the start of a brighter chapter following two of the darkest years in franchise history.
And in a scene in Tuesday night’s episode of “Hard Knocks,” he relayed that belief to Dez Bryant during the former Cowboy star’s visit to Berea last week.
"It'll be unbelievable,” Jackson said during the show. “This will be the greatest turnaround in sports history."
At the very least, the Browns are certainly poised for better days. Under new general manager John Dorsey, they executed high-profile trades for starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor, Pro Bowl receiver Jarvis Landry and free safety Damarious Randall. The trio — plus a score of familiar and new faces, including rookies quarterback Baker Mayfield (the No. 1 overall pick) and cornerback Denzel Ward (the No. 4 overall pick) underscore what Cleveland hopes is the start of a culture change.
Against that backdrop, Jackson believes this group is built unlike his previous two years with the club.
“(I’m) probably more excited than I have been the first two years because I truly believe that winning is in this group, in this coaching staff, in this group, in the plan that we have laid out,” he said Tuesday as the Browns broke training camp. “I think that there’s a chance. Now, we have to go do it.”
Indeed, actions will speak louder than words ever can in this situation. With a 1-31 mark over the past two years, Jackson and Co. know they need must get to winning as soon as possible.
With an offense headlined by Taylor, Landry, Josh Gordon and Duke Johnson plus a defense that, on paper, could be among the league’s best, the Browns enter 2018 with heightened expectations.
Jackson, however, made clear there’s so much work left to do.
“We have to coach well. We have to improve our players, and the players have to buy into what we are all selling,” he said.
“At the same time, I’ve never been more confident about a group having the opportunity to have success than ever before.”