1. DT Malik McDowell
Speaking of encouraging, Malik McDowell has been a longshot since joining the team in May, but the former second-round pick flat-out dominated in his NFL debut, and now has a chance to be a real difference-maker on the line. He offers size, length, power, and athleticism that no one else in the room can match, and there’s a good argument to be made that only Myles Garrett is more talented out of all 90 men on the roster.
McDowell’s played one NFL game, and it came against backups and third-stringers on one of the league’s worst teams. The Browns will need to see him do it again, hopefully against some starter-level talent on the Falcons.
He may be unproven, but he isn’t really any more unproven than the players he’s battling for a job. And none of them put up a performance anywhere close to what McDowell did.
Usually, one preseason game shouldn’t be enough to dramatically change the outlook of a position group. But these are trying times. McDowell has gone from this being his last shot at an NFL career to being entirely in control of his own destiny.
All he has to do is have a solid game against the Falcons and he’ll have locked up not only a roster spot, but a significant role for a Super Bowl contender.