T.J. Carrie has been in this spot before.
The year was 2017. Carrie was a member of the Oakland Raiders, who had just come off a 12-4 season and were the favorites of many to challenge for the AFC crown.
They followed those expectations by going 6-10.
Carrie, now in his second season with the Browns, doesn't see the same future for his current team. The reason: These Browns, fresh off a 7-8-1 season and riding an incredible boost gained by multiple, major roster moves, are working as if they haven't accomplished anything.
"The college work-ethic mentality," Carrie said Thursday on Cleveland Browns Daily when he was asked what is important for the Browns to succeed. "We have a bunch of guys here that have rightfully earned their spots or earned their keep and we're still working like we haven't earned our keep. That's the mentality that you want to approach every day like.
"When we come into the weight room, when we come into lifting, when you're coming into meetings, just the approach that you haven't won or earned anything yet, day in and day out, that's what allows you to overcome that hype. That's what allows you to, when those moments come, you're ready for them because you've trained and practiced in an unstoppable mentality that so very few play at or train at. For that approach that we're taking now and I see it now and I know it's early, but continuing to take that approach week in and week out throughout the whole offseason going into the first game, it's going to allow us to satisfy that hype and feeling that everyone has."
The Browns acquired edge rusher Olivier Vernon via trade with the New York Giants. View an assortment of photos featuring Vernon throughout his seven seasons in the NFL.
Carrie has reason for confidence in his own unit, which received some help this offseason in the form of edge rusher Olivier Vernon and defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, two former Pro Bowlers. Those two are expected to take some of the pass-rushing pressure off Myles Garrett, which should make Cleveland's efforts up front that much more effective.
The result of an effective pass rush, of course, is an opportunistic secondary taking advantage of mistakes caused by pressure.
"Licking my chops," Carrie said. "Those additions are crucial, man. It's very key. It takes a lot of stress off the defensive side when you can get pressure with just four rushers, because now we have an extra guy in coverage. When you're able to dial up defenses for specifically pass packages and you're able to just rush four, you can win all day, all day with that philosophy.
"It's the moment when you have to start bringing five or six guys in order to get pressure. We're not going to have that problem at all in the sense that our front four are pretty savage. They're going to definitely get to the quarterback and just allow us to sit back there, make plays, see the ball come out and be aggressive."
That was somewhat of an issue last year for the Browns, who surprisingly were one of the league's better teams in coverage when they didn't register a QB pressure. Add in the prospect of frequent pressure, and the reason for optimism becomes clearer.
Before this new-look defense -- sometimes understandably lost in the hoopla surrounding the team's acquisition of Odell Beckham Jr. -- can stymie an opponent, it must first get its reps in against the Browns' offense. The competition will be fierce, and although it is only April, the trash talking between the two groups has already begun.
"It's nothing but love and competition. It starts once we get into the building, it starts with lifting drills, with running drills and that plays into 'OK, well, in a couple of weeks we're going to be going at it and we're going to be doing this versus you all.' It's nothing but pure competition and laughter and fun and that's what you want to breed at this time and this point so early within the offseason is continuing competition."
Insert your cliché of choice here. Iron sharpens iron. Competition breeds success.
No matter which one you choose, they all apply, and one thing has quickly become clear: These Dawgs are hungry. And as Beckham and Jarvis Landry have said, Dawgs gotta eat.