This has been a very interesting offseason for the Cleveland Browns. They have hired a new general manager, completely overhauled the roster, brought in Todd Haley to run the offense, and starred in a very popular HBO series, Hard Knocks. All the exposure they have received from the show has created buzz around the city, and nation, that this could be the year the Browns are finally relevant. The Hard Knocks bump is very real. However, as all Clevelanders know, having high expectations in the preseason does not necessarily equate to regular season success. An injury here or there, a drug suspension or a little insider trading is all it takes to derail a young team with grand aspirations. All that being said, there are a few people that I am very eager to watch this Sunday.
Myles Garrett has been waiting over a year to finally meet Ben Roesthlisberger. He gets his shot on Sunday, and I am very much looking forward to seeing what he does with the opportunity. Finally, Big Ben could be on the receiving end of unwanted advances. Garrett has looked like an elite pass rusher all offseason, destroying the Eagles and Bills’ offensive lines. Pittsburgh’s line should be a more formidable foe for the second year man. Sacks aren’t the end all be all for the young defensive end though. If he is able to disrupt enough to free up Emmanuel Ogbah, it might be all it takes to stifle the Steelers. Roethlisberger could be in for a long day, especially once he sees the Browns QB RV and starts daydreaming about all the things he could do in it.
Browns fans have been waiting 5 years to see Josh Gordon really get to play in an offense that he has practiced with. If he can stay sober for three more days, they should finally get to see it. The guy is an absolute freak athletically and has the physical traits to be the best wide receiver in the NFL. He might need some time to get back in the swing of things since he missed all of training camp, but hopefully he can show glimpses of his former self against the Steelers. If he does that, it could make Joe Haden look like former self as well.
I really wanted to include Tyrod Taylor, Carlos Hyde, and David Njoku to this list but that would require extra work for me, and extra time reading for you. Instead, I’ll tie them all together under Todd Haley. After watching Hue Jackson make horrible calls with a talentless team the last two years, I am very excited to see what an offensive coordinator can do with the likes of Jarvis Landry, Hyde, Njoku, Gordon, and a serviceable quarterback. The Browns have shown they can run in the last 3 preseason games and they will need to do just that in order to get going against Pittsburgh. That will open up the passing game for some of their athletic pass catchers to shine.
Denzel Ward (Or whoever is covering Antonio Brown)
The All-Pro wideout has torn up the entire NFL but he seems to play particularly well against the Browns. With Jabrill Peppers playing 35 yards off the line of scrimmage, Ward should be able to play Brown tight and know he has reinforcements behind him. I was impressed with the rookie cornerback all preseason. I just hope he can stay healthy and tackle smarter.
This may be a list of the people that I am most interested in watching this Sunday, but I am excited to see all the players and even coaches. Football is back and that is all that matters.