Browns’ Position Battles to Watch Ahead of 2022 NFL Season | Bleacher Report

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    After ending an 18-year postseason drought in 2020, the Cleveland Browns couldn’t begin a playoff streak last season. They went 8-9 and missed the postseason, which led to some drastic changes this offseason—at least on the offensive side of the ball.

    Cleveland swung trades for quarterback Deshaun Watson and wide receiver Amari Cooper, which means its offense will have a much different look in 2022. But if the Browns are going to be successful and get back to the playoffs, they’ll need more than just those two names to have success.

    There are some young and unproven players who will likely need to step up if Cleveland is going to reach its full potential. And they’ll have an opportunity to start carving out roles with the team during training camp and the preseason.

    Here’s a look at some key position battles the Browns will have heading into the 2022 season.

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    Cooper is an elite playmaker who will likely put up big numbers in his first season in Cleveland. But the Browns will need other receivers to step up and give Watson more targets to throw to as he gets comfortable in his first season in the offense.

    It’s not yet clear how Cleveland’s receiving depth chart will shake out. Donovan Peoples-Jones and Anthony Schwartz are returning players who could have sizable roles, while Jakeem Grant Sr. signed with the team during the offseason and could become a solid receiving option.

    There’s also rookie David Bell, who the Browns took in the third round of this year’s draft. The former Purdue standout should have an opportunity to earn plenty of playing time heading into his debut NFL next season.

    “A very competitive player,” Cleveland head coach Kevin Stefanski said, per ESPN’s Jake Trotter. “Catches the ball really well … a natural competitiveness both in route-running and in route-catching—the ability to make contested catches and the ability in the route-running game to set people up [to get open]”

    The Browns need somebody to fill the hole left by the departure of Jarvis Landry, and Bell could be the receiver who does that in 2022.

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    Last week Jadeveon Clowney re-signed with the Browns, giving the team a formidable pass-rushing duo once again.

    Clowney and Myles Garrett had a ton of success on the edges in 2021, and that should again be the case during the upcoming season.

    However, Cleveland will need to figure out who’s going to play alongside them on the interior of its defensive line. Jordan Elliott, Tommy Togiai and Sheldon Day are among the Browns’ returning defensive tackles, with Elliott the most likely among that group to secure a starting role.

    Cleveland also bolstered the unit this offseason, signing Taven Bryan during free agency and using a fourth-round draft pick on Perrion Winfrey. It’s likely both players will have substantial roles for the Browns in 2022.

    Garrett and Clowney may anchor the pass rush, but Cleveland’s defensive line will be at its best if it’s getting strong production out of its defensive tackles, both pursuing the quarterback and stopping the run. So, the team will need to decide what the best combination is for that to happen.

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    JC Tretter was the Browns’ starting center during his five seasons with the team. He missed only one game from 2017-21 and was a consistent presence in the middle of Cleveland’s offensive line. However, he was released in March in a move that cleared $8.235 million of cap space.

    Now, the Browns will have to decide on a new starting center. The most likely player to fill that role is Nick Harris, the team’s fifth-round pick in 2020. The 23-year-old played 23 games over his first two NFL seasons, and he appears poised for a bigger role in 2022.

    “I’m just trying to battle myself every day and compete with myself in the practice reps that we get,” Harris said, per Anthony Poisal of the team’s official site. “Whatever is presented to me, I think I’m ready for the opportunity.”

    Harris will have to earn the starting role, though, especially with Ethan Pocic also now in the mix. The 26-year-old played 57 games and made 40 starts over the past five seasons with the Seattle Seahawksbefore signing with Cleveland this offseason.

    It will be intriguing to see who wins the battle between Harris and Pocic and helps lead this O-line into the new season.

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