The Cleveland Browns: A Hard Knocks’ Story


By: Jake Leicht

For so long, the Cleveland Browns have been the butt of nearly every NFL joke. From drafting several first round busts to hiring a new coach every other year, there have not been many things to celebrate for Browns’ fans for quite some time. Of course Browns’ fans did famously throw an 0–16 parade after last year’s winless season.


Things are changing in a hurry for the Brownies though. It all started when owner Jimmy Haslam hired John Dorsey to take over the Browns’ front office. Dorsey automatically brought stability and football knowledge to a team that was in desperate need of a blue collar, smart football guy. Not that Sashi Brown did not have a football mind, but he was certainly not putting a winning product on the field. Dorsey was able to bring in a front office dream team of Alonzo Highsmith and Eliot Wolf to help build a new roster. He was also able to lure former Redskins GM Scot McCloughan as a consultant for the offseason as well.


With three of the best talent evaluators in football at his disposal, Dorsey began adding talent to the roster immediately. He traded for Tyrod Taylor, Damarious Randall, and Jarvis Landry. He signed Carlos Hyde, T.J. Carrie, Terrance Mitchell, and Chris Hubbard. All of the sudden, the Browns were quickly looking like a team that could compete in the AFC North. Dorsey was then able to parlay the 1st and 4th overall picks in the draft into Baker Mayfield and Denzel Ward, two players that could be cornerstones of their offense and defense for years to come. Dorsey also had two second round picks and a third round pick in the 2018 draft, which he turned into Austin Corbett, Nick Chubb, and Chad Thomas. They also added troubled playmaker Antonio Callaway, a first round talent, in the fourth round. In his first offseason with the team, Dorsey was able to add potentially 11 starters to a team that already had some young talent on their depth charts. That is an extraordinary offseason.


People are now interested in what will happen in Cleveland this fall. With that kind of intrigue, it did not shock me that the Browns’ were picked to be the team on this year’s HBO series Hard Knocks. The series has done a great job in the past of creating storylines and bolstering players’ personalities. I believe the Browns’ will make for great television in the fall. Here is why it makes sense for the Browns to want to be on Hard Knocks and also why it makes sense for Hard Knocks to have chosen the Browns.


Why Hard Knocks Make Sense for the Browns

Even though John Dorsey publicly said that there was nothing good that could come from being on Hard Knocks earlier in the offseason, I actually think they could get a lot out of the television series. This is a great opportunity for the Browns’ to show off their new talent, attitude, and direction of their franchise. They have a very loyal fanbase in northern Ohio, but for the most part, there are not a ton of Browns’ fans outside of the state. Opening up their doors and allowing fans to see what happens on a day-to-day basis in training camp is a great opportunity to try to get more fans on a national level.


Having the cameras on during training camp in northeast Ohio will also allow players around the league to see that the Browns have some serious young talent now that is ready to actually compete. For too long, the perception has been that the Browns have had bad players, which was true for the most part. Now that they have players like Myles Garrett, Baker Mayfield, Denzel Ward, and David Njoku, things should look more appealing to other NFL players. This franchise has dealt with so much negativity over the past several seasons that it would be nice if they could prove to the NFL world that they are moving in the right direction. For years the Browns have had to overpay free agents to come to Cleveland, mostly because players wouldn’t even consider signing with them unless they were making way more money there than somewhere else. If they can have a positive experience on Hard Knocks, it would certainly help their perception with players around the league.


Why the Browns Make Sense for Hard Knocks

Although it makes sense for the Browns to want to be on Hard Knocks, it should be crystal clear why Hard Knocks wants to be at the Browns’ training camp this fall.


Position battles on offense will be interesting for viewers to follow. I think that the cameras will naturally follow this year’s number one overall pick Baker Mayfield. He is great in front of the cameras, and Mayfield already has to prove that he was worthy of the number one pick this year in a quarterback rich draft. I think he will tone down his antics this season just to prove his doubters wrong. The storyline that he will be competing with Tyrod Taylor for the starting quarterback position will be must watch tv. Even though the Browns have already publicly stated that Taylor will be their starting quarterback, a good showing from Mayfield on Hard Knocks could spike a new level of intrigue around the league. The fact that Baker is a great leader will also be highlighted this fall. Everyone that has been around him in the past has talked about his leadership in the locker room. That will play out well in front of the cameras.


The Browns signed Carlos Hyde during free agency, but they also drafted Nick Chubb with the 34th pick in the draft. Their battle for touches should make for some good television. Hyde played at Ohio State, and I could see him being very popular amongst Browns’ fans. The problem for Hyde has always been the fact that he is injury-prone. If he could stay healthy, he could easily be a top 15 running back in the league. Now he will have to deal with Nick Chubb vying for carries as well. While at Georgia over the past four seasons, he had 4769 yards and 44 touchdowns. Both players can really be a big part of Cleveland’s offense this season. In today’s fantasy driven NFL world, many fantasy owners could tune into Hard Knocks to see which running back looks the best during camp.


The Browns also now have some of the best receiving options in the league. This is pretty shocking because over their tenure in Cleveland, they really have lacked playmaking receivers. Josh Gordon has enormous talent, but he obviously has some baggage. HBO will definitely talk to Gordon about his problem with staying on the field due to drugs. With a new quarterback, Gordon could absolutely go off this year if he can stay healthy and eligible to play. The Browns also obtained Jarvis Landry from the Dolphins in a trade that happened right before free agency started. Landry has a big personality, and he has already been out in the Cleveland community attending public events. Can Landry have the same production that he did in Miami? This will be a storyline in the fall. The Browns also have Corey Coleman, a former first round pick that needs to produce this year. Finally, the Browns drafted Antonio Callaway in the 4th round this year. Callaway had first round talent, but off the field issues at Florida pushed him way down in the draft. The receiver room in Cleveland should be highlighted this fall on Hard Knocks.


The young defensive talent will also play very well on HBO. The Browns’ young defensive players like Myles Garrett and Jabrill Peppers have some personalities that will play great in front of the cameras. Myles Garrett has already proved his worth on the field, and now he will have the opportunity to prove just how interesting he is off of it. Before the 2017 NFL Draft, ESPN highlighted Garrett’s personality by dubbing him “the most interesting man in the 2017 draft”. He has done interviews in which he has talked about his favorite dinosaurs, as well as his favorite off the field activities. I think viewers will fall in love with him this fall. Jabrill Peppers is also very interesting. He is all about football, and he had a very tough rookie season last year. Hard Knocks will probably follow Peppers on his journey to become a true strong safety in this league. The Browns had him playing a free safety type position almost 17 yards off the ball every play last year. Between Peppers’ personality and his position change, I could see Hard Knocks honing in on him.


During the 2018 NFL Draft, the Browns decided to pick Denzel Ward over Bradley Chubb with the 4th overall pick. This was shocking to many NFL and Browns’ fans alike. Fans around the league will be interested in seeing why the Browns fell in love with him during the draft process. Denzel Ward has the potential to be a shutdown cornerback in this league. He will probably want to prove that he was worthy of the number 4 pick this year, and being in front of the cameras on Hard Knocks during training camp is a great opportunity for him to prove himself. Like Garrett and Peppers, Ward is outgoing and likes to be entertaining. This will play well in front of the cameras in August.


The Browns have been an absolute dumpster fire over the past decade. When there is a wreck on the side of the road, everyone slows down to see what just happened. This is what the Browns are currently dealing with at this point. With Hue Jackson at the helm, anything could happen in Cleveland. Fans around the league could simply turn on Hard Knocks this fall with the expectation to see just how bad it is in Cleveland. Fans all around the NFL will be shocked at just how much talent is now on their roster. I think that the Browns are past the wreckage that has happened since the team came back into the league in 1998. With the new regime, young players, and the excitement from their fans about the next NFL season, I think that many viewers will see a team that is hungry to compete. Everyone loves an underdog, and the Cleveland Browns may be the biggest underdog franchise in the history of sports.