ORLANDO -- In less than two weeks, the Browns will reconvene for the start of offseason workouts and what’s hopefully the beginning of brighter days following the franchise’s first winless season.
Among a group of players who embody that hope in Cleveland include last year’s first-round NFL Draft picks in defensive end Myles Garrett, tight end David Njoku and safety Jabrill Peppers. All three saw significant playing time as rookies last year and produced in different ways.
When they walk back into the team’s facility April 16, coach Hue Jackson’s expectations for them in 2018 will be fairly straightforward.
“My biggest message to them will be are they ready to take the next jump,” Jackson said at the league’s annual meeting last week. “From Year 1 to Year 2, you watch guys really improve.”
That development is critical for the Browns, who have overhauled their youth-laden roster since the start of the league year under new general manager John Dorsey. While Cleveland added veteran quarterback Tyrod Taylor and Pro Bowl receiver Jarvis Landry among other players, youngsters such as Garrett, Njoku, and Peppers are expected to play key roles for years to come.
Garrett, the No. 1 pick in last year’s draft, led the Browns with seven sacks in 11 games despite a high ankle sprain nagged at him throughout the season. Jackson said Garrett is poised to shine next year. “I think (he) is on the cusp of really turning into a really, really good football player in this league.”
Njoku, meanwhile, led the team in touchdown receptions (four) and flashed moments of being a big-time playmaker. Peppers, who started 13 games at free safety, seemed to grow with each passing week despite being admittedly better suited at the strong position.
Jackson said those experiences from last season — good, bad and everything in between — should help set up the trio of former first-rounders for success.
“(They’re) young players who played a lot of football who now know what it takes to play in this league,” he said.
“They’ve got to go out and do it on a consistent basis.”