The Cleveland Browns have what looks like a solid roster for this season, but if they are to make the playoffs for only the second time since 2002, they will need some internal improvement from some of their young players.
Luckily, they have some good candidates who just may surpass expectations.
Cleveland has a relatively young roster, and with impact players at several key positions, they could be in somewhat of an enviable position, other than, of course, the ongoing Deshaun Watson saga.
But if all or most things go relatively well, there are two players in particular who could pleasantly surprise fans this fall.
Many around the Browns organization have always felt that Peoples-Jones is dripping with talent and potential, but the same has been said of many players over the years who didn’t quite pan out.
Saying he can become a very good wide receiver and seeing it happen are two very different things.
He possesses excellent speed, as he ran the 40-yard dash in under 4.5 seconds at the NFL Combine, and he has shown that speed on occasion during his brief pro career.
Better start for Michigan WR Donovan Peoples-Jones = a faster 40-yard dash.
— Tom Downey (@WhatGoingDowney) February 28, 2020
He has also shown the ability to be a good blocker, and improvement in that area can open things up for his teammates.
— Monsignor Roberto Shenanigans (@Rob_Shenanigans) October 4, 2020
first play of the Browns very first drive and look at Donovan Peoples-Jones with the block! pic.twitter.com/EwMFRWAMMT
— Jordan Zirm (@JordanZirm) October 5, 2020
Peoples-Jones put up 597 yards and three touchdowns while making nine starts in 14 games last season, and his average of 17.6 yards per reception is good evidence of his ability to stretch the field vertically.
Outside of Amari Cooper, the Browns don’t have a bona fide WR2, and Peoples-Jones is one of a few candidates to earn that role, along with Anthony Schwartz and rookie David Bell.
If Peoples-Jones becomes Cleveland’s No. 2 receiver, he may not just boost his numbers from last season, but he could perhaps blow them out of the water.
The key here, of course, will be how long Watson’s likely suspension will be and how many games he will end up playing this year.
Like Peoples-Jones, Bell is thought to have tremendous potential, but how many such players actually realize it, let alone in their rookie season?
If or when Watson misses games, it will be an all-hands-on-deck situation for the Browns, and Bell’s number could be called more often than many rookie wideouts.
Even though he was a third-round pick, he has great hands and the ability to make catches in traffic.
One ability Bell also has that could be a difference-maker is the ability to add extra yardage after the catch.
— Matt Wilson (@CoachWilson66) May 2, 2022
With Watson likely to miss at least several games, the Browns will likely have to win ugly, which means less downfield shots and more economical use of the short game, which will necessitate receivers adding yards after the catch more often and perhaps more of an emphasis on blocking to open things up.
Last month, Cooper had some nice things to say about Bell.
— Faithful Dawgs Podcast (@FDPodcastCLE) June 16, 2022
The national media may not be expecting a whole lot out of Bell, but he could very well turn out to be a diamond in the rough.