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Five Players That Will Decide the Cleveland Browns 2022-2023 Season

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After signing Deshaun Watson to a five-year, $230 million contract, the Cleveland Browns have been one of the largest topics of conversation throughout this offseason. Once again, the Browns have a roster that is loaded with individual talent on both sides of the ball, but there is still significant uncertainty on how successful they will be this year. These five players have found themselves in impact roles for the upcoming season, and they will decide whether the Browns find themselves on the field or sitting at home during the playoffs.

1) Deshaun Watson, QB

The largest question mark going into the 2022 NFL season is Deshaun Watson. With constant reports surfacing daily regarding his off-the-field issues, and a lack of transparency coming from Roger Goodell and the NFL League Office, nobody knows when Deshaun Watson may step back on an NFL field. You can ignore the reports of the Browns releasing or moving on from Watson, as they plan for him to be their quarterback of the future. However, his suspension could be lengthy, and it surely will impact the success the Browns have this season. If everything else clicks for this talented Cleveland Browns roster, they are capable of making the playoffs with any reliable quarterback under center. In spite of that, the presence of Deshaun Watson is what will decide whether this team will have any playoff success, should they get there. The AFC is extremely competitive, and the Browns will struggle to win a playoff game with an average quarterback heading the offense. 

2) Donovan Peoples-Jones, WR

With a completely revamped wide receiver room this season, Donovan Peoples-Jones has the opportunity to secure the WR2 role in this Browns offense. Regardless of Deshaun Watson’s presence, Peoples-Jones will be trusted with a larger role in the Browns offense, and he is likely to see upward of 100 targets this year. At 6’2” with good speed and an outstanding 44.5 inch vertical jump, Peoples-Jones will be the deep threat receiver for Deshaun Watson when he eventually returns, who is one of the most aggressive passers in the NFL. In Watson’s last full season, he finished in the top 5 in Yards per Attempt, Air Yards per Attempt, and Deep Ball Completion Percentage. Peoples-Jones has immense potential as a receiver and he should finally flourish in this offense after the departure of Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry. His production will be a deciding factor when it comes to the Browns passing game this season. 

3) David Njoku, TE

After the release of Austin Hooper this offseason, and David Njoku being signed to a four-year, $54 million extension, the Cleveland Browns have fully committed to Njoku as their TE1 going into the 2022-2023 season. Njoku has seemingly been the most talented tight end on their roster since being drafted in 2017, but has only led the Browns TE group in targets and receptions during the 2018 season. During that year, Njoku was effective, finishing in the top 10 in receiving yards, receiving TDs, Yards After Catch, and Contested Catch Rate. Njoku’s largest weakness throughout his career were his hands, which he has improved upon in recent years, proved by his career low drop percentage of 5.7% in 2021. If Njoku is able to secure a lion’s share of targets at the tight end position, he has the opportunity to have the best season of his career and make a major impact on Cleveland’s offense this year. Keep in mind, Kevin Stefanski loves to utilize his tight ends. The Browns have finished top-7 in TE targets for the past two consecutive seasons.

4) Jadeveon Clowney, DE

Jadeveon Clowney is one of the most important players on this Browns defense, simply because of what he is capable of when reaching his potential. When Clowney is at his best, he is one of the most dangerous defensive ends in the NFL. Early in his career, Clowney was a perennial pro bowler, but he has struggled with injuries and inconsistency since the 2018 season. Clowney finally looked like himself once again in 2021, racking up 37 tackles, 19 QB hits, nine sacks, and two forced fumbles. The Browns are going to heavily rely on the health and productivity of Jadeveon Clowney if they wish to have a top-10 defense in 2022. 

5) Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB

It is quite apparent that the weakest position group on the Cleveland Browns are the linebackers, especially after adding depth at wide receiver. Barring any additions at the linebacker position prior to the season, the success of this group will fall directly on the shoulders of Owusu-Koramoah. Anthony Walker may be the signal caller, but Owusu-Koramoah is the defensive playmaker of the group, being the most capable of wreaking havoc on any given week. He only played in 65 percent of defensive snaps in 2021, but that number should increase to above 85 percent in 2022 if he is able to stay healthy. It is likely that Owusu-Koramoah has a 100+ tackle season simply due to snap volume, but his effectiveness as a blitzer and tackler will determine whether or not the Browns linebacker corps will be a major weakness once again in 2022. 

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