Cleveland Browns: 10 players to watch in the preseason
By Shane Carter
Quarterback DeShone Kizer
This was not one of our most favorite picks on draft weekend. At Notre Dame Kizer would look good at times; other times he would be erratic with the ball and make the receiver make a play rather than make a better throw. He looked like a third-round quarterback at the earliest.
But since joining the team, players and coaches have raved about Kizer and his maturity, as well as his grasp of the offensive system and quick improvement. Slowly but surely, he is rising up the depth chart. The preseason is his coming out party that we’re all invited to. Let’s see if he can deliver.
Wide receiver Corey Coleman
The 2016 season was a disappointing year for last season’s first-round draft pick. Coleman totaled 33 receptions for 413 yards and three touchdowns.
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While there where games where he shined, most notably in Week 2 against the Baltimore Ravens (five catches for 105 yards and two touchdowns), Coleman’s season was marred by injury and was not nearly as effective as the Browns needed him to be.
That’s the key word: need. This team needs Coleman to play like a No. 1 wide receiver. There’s no doubting Kenny Britt’s abilities, but this receiving corp is very young and needs a leading man. With Terrelle Pryor leaving in free agency for the Washington Redskins, this is Coleman’s chance to step up and show why this team drafted him last season.
Right tackle Shon Coleman
The other Coleman for the Browns is second-year tackle Shon Coleman. All during the offseason the Browns spent money rebuilding the offensive line. With Joe Thomas returning, Joel Bitonio signed to an extension, and free agents J.C. Tretter and Kevin Zeitler filling in the center and right guard positions, only the right tackle spot is up for grabs.
Some thought that the Browns would give the position to former first-round draft choice Cameron Erving, who played right tackle at the end last season and looked competent.
However, many have had enough of Erving and are more than ready to see Coleman, a third-round selection in 2016, take the job. While they both have had chances to earn the spot, reports indicate that Coleman actually has the edge. And apparently, it’s not even close.
However, practice can only go so far. To get a better grasp of who looks best at the position, Coleman will need some game time to show off.
Running back Matt Dayes
Running backs are making a comeback, which makes depth at the position all the more important. Aside from Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson, no other running back is guaranteed a spot on this team.
A seventh-round pick from North Carolina State, Dayes’ size, he is 5-foot-9 and 213 pounds, and poor 40-yard-dash (4.66) at his Pro Day, led to his fall in the 2017 NFL Draft. What Cleveland saw in him is a guy who can run it out of the backfield, catch the ball and return kicks. All three of which he did well in school.
Fans will probably not pay him much attention but if he raises a few eyebrows and makes a few plays, he could solidify a spot on the Browns depth chart.
Tight end David Njoku
Say what you will, but the Browns actually have had luck in recent years in finding tight ends. Whether it was Jordan Cameron or Gary Barnidge, the team at least knows this position. As far as athletic tight ends go, David Njoku is no exception.
During the draft, Njoku’s speed and athleticism were reminiscent of Vernon Davis and for good reason. He’s got not only skills as a blocker, but as a receiver as well. All these skills were why some considered him to be the best tight end in the draft, even more so than players like O.J. Howard or Evan Engram.
Next: Previewing the Browns wide receivers
However, as camp has gone along, reports began to circulate of his dropped passes and fumbles. Njoku is very much aware of this and know what he has to do, as he told clevelandbrowns.com:
"“Obviously, they chose me in the first round for a reason. It was to make plays. I have to hang onto it after every catch. I am just going to work that much harder at holding onto the ball after every catch and tuck it..”"
Maybe some game action will get him back to playing like he did at Miami. He is one of the team’s most exciting new players, but only time will tell if he is worth it.