Hope isn't foreign to the Cleveland Browns as the organization boasts some of the most die-hard followers in the entire NFL.
What is new to the franchise: playoff expectations.
After going 7-8-1 in 2018 (which included winning five of their last seven games), seemingly finding their franchise quarterback in Baker Mayfield and adding pieces like Odell Beckham Jr. around him, the Browns are looked at as a legit threat in the AFC in 2019.
With the preseason in the rearview mirror, we now know who'll be with the Browns as they head into what has the potential to be a very special season in 2019. Here's a look at Cleveland's 53-man roster and depth chart heading into the year.
|QB||Baker Mayfield||Drew Stanton||Garrett Gilbert|
|RB||Nick Chubb||Dontrell Hilliard||D'Ernest Johnson|
|LWR||Jarvis Landry||Rashard Higgins||Damion Ratley|
|RWR||Odell Beckham Jr.||Taywan Taylor||KhanDarel Hodge|
|TE||David Njoku||Demetrius Harris||Pharaoh Brown, Ricky Seals-Jones|
|LG||Joel Bitonio||Wyatt Teller|
|C||JC Tretter||Austin Corbett|
|RG||Eric Kush||Justin McCray|
|RT||Chris Hubbard||Kendall Lamm|
The Browns were very active on Saturday's final roster cutdown day. First, they traded for offensive guard Justin McCray in a deal with the Packers. Later, the Browns acquired wide receiver Taywan Taylor from the Titans. Previously, they brought on Teller -- their 10th and final offensive lineman.
Rashard Higgins will operate as the team's starting wide receiver in Week 1 when the Browns use 11 personnel with three receivers on the field at once.
Browns general manager John Dorsey explained both roster decisions shortly after the initial 53 was finalized.
"You're trying to upgrade the back end of your roster. That's what you're trying to do," Dorsey said, via Browns.com. "I think with Taywan Taylor he gives you an element of speed. He gives you an experienced receiver who's been the No. 3 receiver for the Titans. (Wide receivers coach) Adam Henry will do a magnificent job of kind of getting him up to speed on how this offense is run. He'll have a few bumps in the road in terms of learning. It's hard to digest this whole playbook in one shot so I don't think you shove it at him at one time.
"And then, when you add Teller, Teller, that's a depth move. And then when you add Justin McCray, that's a depth move. So what you're trying to do is trying to stabilize your foundation and make it as strong as possible because this is a long season. All those guys now that are along the line have played in the National Football League and have started some games, so that's a good thing to have there because now, moving forward you have versatility, and these linemen have versatility and can play multiple positions. That's all you really are seeking at this point."
The one interesting piece of roster maneuvering that the Browns conducted was releasing starting left tackle Greg Robinson. That was simply just the team trying to juggle getting players through the 53-man roster. Because Robinson isn't subject to waivers, they could easily cut him and plan to have him back on the roster, which reportedly is already in motion.
With running back Kareem Hunt and wide receiver Antonio Callaway suspended for the start of the season, the Browns will likely keep a fluid situation at both positions in anticipation of their return later this season.
In the backfield, based on the fact that Hunt will be out for the first eight weeks along with the Browns trading away Duke Johnson earlier this preseason, Nick Chubb should be the bell-cow back for the first half of the year. Dontrell Hilliard should find a role as the change of pace back, but Cleveland could simply double down and give the second-year back in Chubb the lion's share of work.
Odell Beckham's chemistry with second-year quarterback Baker Mayfield will be something worth monitoring over the course of the season. If they can click out of the gate and remain healthy, those two could be a lethal one-two punch.
|LDE||Myles Garrett||Chad Thomas |
|DT||Larry Ogunjobi||Devaroe Lawrence|
|DT||Sheldon Richardson||Daniel Ekuale|
|RDE||Olivier Vernon||Chris Smith|
|OLB||Christian Kirksey||Mack Wilson||Malik Jefferson|
|MIKE||Joe Schobert||Sione Takitaki|
|OLB||Genard Avery||Adarius Taylor|
|LCB||Denzel Ward||T.J. Carrie|
|RCB||Terrance Mitchell||Greedy Williams||Tavierre Thomas|
|FS||Damarious Randall||Eric Murray||Sheldrick Redwine|
|SS||Morgan Burnett||Jermaine Whitehead|
If everything falls into place, the Browns defense has the talent to be a devastating unit.
We all know that Myles Garrett is a beast and could very easily come out in 2019 and win Defensive Player of the Year. To help him along that front seven, the Browns went out and acquired Olivier Vernon in a deal with the Giants. Injuries held him to just 11 games in 2018, but was still able to manage 30 tackles, 21 quarterback hits, and seven sacks. When you have that off the edge and Sheldon Richardson and Larry Ogunjobi at the defensive tackle spots, you're talking about a sleeping giant of a defensive front.
In the secondary, Denzel Ward is looking to build off a strong rookie campaign where Pro Football Focus graded him as the No. 2 corner in the league in man coverage. At the NFL Draft, the Browns saw Greedy Williams fall to them in the second round, which only makes them that much deeper with veteran corner Terrance Mitchell.
Dorsey explained why the team decided to keep 11 defensive backs -- a trend we are seeing gain steam across the NFL.
"I think it shows you where the game of football is evolving to because now the passing game is a big component of that, so you can't have enough of those guys in the secondary," Dorsey said, via Browns.com. "Those back-end guys are going to have to contribute on special teams and they demonstrated that in the four preseason games that they were really good special teams players and they can help this special teams unit moving forward because it gave you an element of speed and that's what you're looking for on special teams nowadays."
The Browns made a surprising decision to cut veteran punter Britton Colquitt. Gillan was one of the better stories of the summer for Cleveland.