There was plenty of other action on Cleveland’s opening day of training camp as the club’s standout offensive line fine-tuned blocking protections as running backs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt stutter-stepped through drills. No longer one of the NFL’s worst teams, the Browns have undeniable talent.
High expectations for Browns | News, Sports, Jobs “On paper,” warned Garrett, the club’s All-Pro defensive end.
After the team’s 11-5 regular-season finish, wild-card win over Pittsburgh and close loss to Kansas City in the division round last season, all while navigating around numerous COVID-19 obstacles, the Browns are legitimate contenders. “We have to go out here, we have to put the work in and we have to grind,” Garrett said. “We have to make sure that chemistry is there for when we match up with the Chiefs in that first week. It all looks good, but we have to make it great out here day by day.”
But as Garrett and his teammates learned in 2019, when the team had similarly high hopes and crashed with coach Freddie Kitchens, nothing is given. With expectations soaring, and in some circles spiraling out of control, the Browns took the field Wednesday to begin a season that some Cleveland fans are daring to believe could end with a Super Bowl appearance.
Garrett has clearly listened to coach Kevin Stefanski, who has been preaching to his players to put 2020 and its challenges behind them. Stefanski was named the AP’s coach of the year, and he began the 2021 camp reminding the Browns to stay focused.
For the first time in a long time, the Browns have continuity. Of course, it helps that everything Stefanski told them came to fruition last season, when the Browns ended the league’s then-longest playoff drought, upset the Steelers at Heinz Field and and pushed the defending Super Bowl champion Chiefs to the brink before losing.
Stefanski brings back his entire offense, which should evolve even more with Mayfield in his second straight season in the same system. Beckham appears fully recovered from a season-ending torn knee ligament suffered in October, and Cleveland’s defense has been remodeled with the signings of Clowney, safety John Johnson III and linebacker Anthony Walker as free agents. Of course, it helps that everything Stefanski told them came to fruition last season, when the Browns ended the league’s then-longest playoff drought, upset the Steelers at Heinz Field and and pushed the defending Super Bowl champion Chiefs to the brink before losing.
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