QB Brock Osweiler could emerge as Browns' opening-day starter

The strength of the Cleveland Browns is on defense, which is evident as we project their starting lineup before the start of training camp:


Quarterback (Brock Osweiler): The easy pick here would have been Cody Kessler, but he exited minicamp the same player who exited the 2017 season. Osweiler, though, was a pleasant surprise; if he continues to grow and show the same attitude, he could be the guy starting against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 1. DeShone Kizer? He has immense ability, but the last thing the Browns want to do is rush him in before he's ready. If Kizer has to wait while Osweiler starts, it won't hurt him; if Kizer is ready and proves it in preseason, he will start.

Tailback (Isaiah Crowell): The Browns feel they have a hidden talent in Crowell, who averaged almost five yards per carry in 2016 but who, by coach Hue Jackson's admission, did not get the ball enough. Running backs coach Kirby Wilson said that Crowell merely scratched the surface in 2016, which means the Browns have high hopes for him as he enters his free-agent year.

Wide receiver (Kenny Britt): Britt has to stay healthy and come through. If he doesn't, the team has nothing but question marks at receiver. He's the only proven player at the position on the roster.

Tight end (David Njoku): The rookie opens eyes immediately with his physique and raw ability. If he can play the game and master the position -- which includes the physical elements of it -- the Browns might have gotten a late first-round steal with this pick. His potential is huge.

Tight end (Seth DeValve): Instead of using a fullback, we'll predict the Browns use more two-tight end sets, though there will be a concern with blocking with both DeValve and Njoku on the field. When the Browns use a traditional fullback, Danny Vitale will be the starter.

Left tackle (Joe Thomas): The future Hall of Famer continues to defy all odds as he plays at the same high level season after season. Thomas is one guy whose job can be put in stone.

Left guard (Joel Bitonio): His recovery from Lisfranc surgery is key. Bitonio has Pro Bowl ability, which the Browns recognized with his hefty contract extension, but he needs to stay on the field. Foot and ankle injuries over the past two seasons cost him 17 games.

Center (JC Tretter): Like Bitonio, Tretter is a talented lineman who would be a good fit provided he stays healthy. He missed 17 games in three seasons in Green Bay, but when he played, he played well.

Right guard (Kevin Zeitler): The highest-paid guard in the league steps in where it will be intriguing to see how he fits. Zeitler is a mauler, which would seem to be a good thing for a coach who wants to run the ball. He also has to play with the "pressure" of the big contract, which can affect some people.

Right tackle (Shon Coleman): This position is wide open. Coleman will compete with Cam Erving, Matt McCants and others at the spot, but as Thomas pointed out, the team seems to want Coleman to take the job.

Wide receiver (Corey Coleman): Last year's first-round pick did not stay healthy and lost much of the offseason after he took a hard fall after a reception early in organized team activities, which hampered his development. Since December, Coleman said he let a lot of people down during his rookie year, was present at a brawl in his condominium building that led to his brother being charged with felonious assault, was challenged by his coach and then was injured. As Jackson said, Coleman must step forward this season.


Left end (Myles Garrett): Ending camp with a sprained foot and a walking boot was not ideal for the first overall pick in the draft. Garrett had missed time before the foot sidelined him on the second day of camp. Garrett has quickness and ability, but if the injury lingers, it could hamper him. The Browns no doubt will be careful with him in camp.

Tackle (Danny Shelton): Shelton was one of the more improved players on the defense in 2016. He has worked hard during the offseason. He has the right mindset and hopefully will benefit from the aggressive approach of defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.

Tackle (Desmond Bryant): Bryant might be on the roster bubble, but if he makes the team, it's because he has earned playing time. The Browns aren't going to keep a 32-year-old lineman if he's not contributing.

Right end (Emmanuel Ogbah): The best rookie on the team in 2016 improved with every game. In theory, he should benefit from playing in front of Jamie Collins and with Garrett on the other side. The potential of the defensive line is better than it has been in a long time.

Outside linebacker (Jamie Collins): Williams raved about Collins' football smarts after minicamp. He will be a key player on this defense.

Middle linebacker (Tank Carder): Right now the choice is by default. The Browns really don't have an evident starter following the trade of Demario Davis. Carder begins camp at the spot.

Outside linebacker (Chris Kirksey): The Browns rewarded Kirksey's work with a new contract before the start of minicamp. Kirksey found a new gear in 2016, but now he is adjusting to moving outside. In theory, this should better take advantage of his quickness.

Cornerback (Jamar Taylor): Taylor was a pleasant surprise after being acquired for a seventh-round draft pick during the 2016 draft. He took advantage of a chance to revive his career.

Safety (Jabrill Peppers): Williams is extremely high on Peppers, who figures to be an important player on the defense and could benefit from Williams' tendency to make safeties into impact players.

Safety (Ed Reynolds): This is another open position. Reynolds gets the spot to start camp based on his smarts and his ability to play center field, which is important, given he'll be playing next to Peppers -- who was not a ball hawk at Michigan.

Cornerback (Joe Haden): Haden still believes he is one of the best players at the position in the league, but he also is well aware that injuries have affected his production over the past two seasons. A finger injury, concussions and a sports hernia that required postseason surgery cost Haden 14 games. It's not his fault he was hurt, and it was to his credit that he played through the injuries when he could. But the Browns need him on the field.

Special teams

Kicker (Zane Gonzalez): Cody Parkey did a good job for the Browns a year ago, which made the drafting of Gonzalez a surprise. If Gonzalez does anything at all in the preseason, he'll make the team. Teams don't draft kickers to release them.

Punter (Britton Colquitt): The Browns traded Andy Lee a year ago and added an excellent punter in Colquitt. The team is set here for the next few years.

Long-snapper (Charley Hughlett): He is steady and dependable, just the way a long-snapper needs to be.