One by one, ClevelandBrowns.com is breaking down each of the Browns' 2016 regular season opponents as the dog days of the offseason unfold. Today's preview dips into the NFC East and a team that experienced a similar offseason to the Browns.
Who: Philadelphia Eagles
When: Sept. 11
Where: Lincoln Financial Field
Series history (last meeting): 31-16 (Eagles 17, Browns 16 in 2012 at FirstEnergy Stadium)
The coach: Doug Pederson (first season)
The stakes: Like the Browns, the Eagles enter this year with a new head coach and new coaching staff looking to make a turnaround after a string of disappointing seasons. Week 1, of course, is a chance for both teams to make good on the work they've put in over the offseason. Perhaps making this game more interesting is how these teams struck a major trade — Cleveland and Philly swapped first-round picks and a bevy of others — one week before the NFL Draft and whether it could shape the direction of both organizations this season and in years to come.
Matchup to watch:Cleveland's WRs vs. Philadelphia's DBs
The Browns made an effort to bolster their wide receiver group over the offseason by scooping up four rookies — Corey Coleman, Rashard Higgins, Ricardo Louis and Jordan Payton — in the draft. While roster spots are still up for grabs, it should be intriguing to see how Cleveland's wideouts match up against Pro Bowl safety Malcolm Jenkins and an Eagles secondary that finished 28th against the pass last season.
Offseason storyline: The Doug Pederson era. After Chip Kelly and his innovative offensive strategies didn't yield the results they wanted, the Eagles turned to Pederson, previously the offensive coordinator for the Chiefs and a former Philadelphia quarterback. Pederson was key in getting the most out of Kansas City QB Alex Smith and looks to do the same with Sam Bradford, Chase Daniel and Carson Wentz.
Biggest addition:Speaking of Wentz, there's no question he's the biggest addition to this football team. While the rookie quarterback might watch next season from the sidelines behind Bradford, the kid from North Dakota State and No. 2 overall draft pick is the future of the franchise. If Bradford struggles, Wentz could be thrown into the fire early.
Biggest loss:After a disappointing first and final season, DeMarco Murray parted ways with the Eagles. The talented running back — whose versatility made him an intriguing weapon in Kelly's up-tempo offense — was traded to the Tennessee Titans in exchange for draft picks. Murray totaled 702 rushing yards on 192 attempts, his lowest output since 2012.
The star:Fletcher Cox is coming off a career season in which he made 9.5 sacks and 50 tackles to buoy an otherwise struggling defense. The defensive lineman was selected to his first Pro Bowl and figures to anchor a defense looking to make big improvements.
The X-Factor: Jim Schwartz. The former Lions head coach and first-year defensive coordinator is tasked with improving an Eagles defense that finished 28th in total defense last year. At his last stop with Buffalo in 2014, the Bills gave up 18.1 points and 312 yards per game (fourth in the NFL)
What makes them tough:The talent across the roster. For his ups and downs, Bradford is still a veteran quarterback who helped the Eagles finish 12th in passing offense last season. Jenkins in the secondary is one of the best DBs in the NFL. Cox is poised for another big year. Jordan Matthews continues to emerge as one of the league's better receivers.
What makes them beatable:While Bradford threw 19 touchdown passes last season and completed 65 percent of his passes, he also tossed 14 interceptions. And against a Browns defense — one that expects Pro Bowl cornerback Joe Haden to be healthy by the time the season starts — that's looking to be more aggressive under Ray Horton, Philadelphia won't want to aid Cleveland in its search for creating turnovers.