NFL PREVIEW: Browns, Robert Griffin III getting fresh start together


By Tom Withers - AP Sports Writer



FILe - In this June 1, 2016, file photo, Cleveland Browns quarterback Robert Griffin III looks to pass during practice at the NFL football team's training campin Berea, Ohio. Griffin said he's not overtly trying to win over teammates. He believes his actions will determine how he's perceived. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak, File)


FILE - In this April 6, 2016, file photo, Cleveland Browns quarterback Robert Griffin III answers a question during a news conference at the practice facility in Berea, Ohio. The Browns, with a laughable track record for developing quarterbacks, signed Griffin to a two-year, $15 million contract in March. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane, File)


FILe - In this June 7, 2016, file photo, Cleveland Browns head coach Hue Jackson directs practice during NFL football minicamp, in Berea, Ohio. With boundless energy, Jackson is determined to make the Browns not only competitive but champions. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane, File)


CLEVELAND BROWNS (3-13)

OPEN CAMP: July 29, Berea, Ohio

LAST YEAR: More of same for Browns, who couldn’t get out of own way and remained one of NFL’s most inept teams. Although Cleveland’s offense was serviceable, defense couldn’t stop pass or run and coach Mike Pettine, a former defensive coordinator, was fired following finale, along with general manager Ray Farmer. Owner Jimmy Haslam overhauled entire front office, hiring several young, analytical minds who will see if they can turn things around.

IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: Coach Hue Jackson, QB Robert Griffin III, LB Demario Davis, OL Alvin Bailey, DB Rahim Moore, LB Justin Tuggle, rookie WR Corey Coleman.

IMPORTANT LOSSES: Farmer, C Alex Mack, OT Mitchell Schwartz, Ss Donte Whitner and Tashaun Gipson, LB Karlos Dansby, WRs Brian Hartline and Dwayne Bowe, QB Johnny Manziel, TE Jim Dray.

CAMP NEEDS: Griffin is getting chance to resurrect once skyrocketing career which crashed badly in Washington. Jackson believes he and offensive system can help rehabilitate RG3, who didn’t play last season and showed some major rust during spring practices. Lack of playmakers hurt last season, which is why Browns used first-round pick on speedy Coleman, who must develop quickly.

EXPECTATIONS: Jackson’s infectious enthusiasm has players excited about possibilities. He doesn’t want decision on starting quarterback to be distraction — it always is in Cleveland — and Browns have to keep fingers crossed that Griffin pans out and clearly wins job over veteran Josh McCown. Manziel’s departure was long overdue, but at least Browns made that move. Look for RB Duke Johnson’s role to increase in Jackson’s offense.

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP_NFL

BEREA — Following his unceremonious exit from Washington, Robert Griffin III left behind a note in his locker that encouraged forgiveness and a positive attitude.

In Cleveland, he’s seeking redemption.

Benched and booted by the Redskins, Griffin has a fresh start with the Browns, who are hoping a player who flashed great promise and potential just a few years ago can find it again.

Unable to change his past, RG3’s eyes are fixated ahead.

“I’m moving forward,” he said.

Griffin’s comeback will be the main story line during training camp for the Browns, who underwent yet another monumental overhaul during the offseason and have placed one of the NFL’s worst teams in the hands of coach Hue Jackson.

With a history for mentoring and refining young quarterbacks, Jackson appears to be the perfect person to resurrect Griffin, a former rookie of the year slowed by injuries who didn’t take a single snap during the 2015 regular season.

The Browns, with a laughable track record for developing quarterbacks, signed Griffin to a two-year, $15 million contract in March. Although Jackson hasn’t formally selected Griffin as his starter, the 26-year-old is expected to line up behind center when Cleveland opens the season on Sept. 11 at Philadelphia.

Before then, Griffin needs to knock off the rest of the rust that was apparent during the team’s spring minicamps. Griffin’s explosiveness and mobility seems to have returned following two knee surgeries, but his throws were off target and he lacked touch on deep passes. In time, those components of his game should improve.

Griffin, too, may have to work on his off-field game. His fall in Washington was accentuated by a rift with some teammates, who resented the 2011 Heisman Trophy winner and failed to have his back when things began to crumble.

He’s got a clean slate with the Browns, but Griffin said he’s not overtly trying to win over teammates. He believes his actions will determine how he’s perceived.

“That’s the best thing you can do is be who you are, show them that what you might have heard maybe some of it’s true,” he said. “But a lot of the stuff can be extremely false. You can come in here and prove to them who you really are, and that’s what the blessing of a new opportunity with a new team and new organization has blessed me with — a chance to just go out, be myself and let guys make their own determination about who I am.”

Here are some other things to watch as the Browns, who haven’t had a winning record since 2007, open training camp:

CROWELL’S MISTAKE: Running back Isaiah Crowell caused a recent firestorm by posting a horrific illustration to protest recent shootings by police. Crowell apologized for his actions and pledged to donate his first game check next season (more than $35,000) to a fund for fallen officers. But while Crowell has tried to make amends, it remains to be seen if it’s enough to satisfy fans. The Browns are under pressure to release Crowell, their leading rusher last season.

HUE TURN: With boundless energy, Jackson is determined to make the Browns not only competitive but champions. His second stint as a head coach — he led Oakland to an 8-8 record in 2011 — is a monumental challenge as Cincinnati’s former offensive coordinator leads a franchise stuck in a cycle of losing and dysfunction.

HEALING HADEN: Former Pro Bowl cornerback Joe Haden will likely be eased into camp as he continues to recover from offseason ankle surgery. Haden was limited to just five games last season because of concussions and his NFL career could be at a crossroads. Cleveland’s defensive backfield has been overhauled with a mix of veterans and rookies fighting for jobs. Troubled cornerback Justin Gilbert may be down to his last chance after two underwhelming seasons.

LINE DANCING: Cleveland’s offensive line, once considered the team’s strongest unit and anchored by Joe Thomas, has a new look following the departures of Pro Bowl center Alex Mack and starting right tackle Mitchell Schwartz. Cam Erving struggled as a rookie playing both guard spots, but the Browns are giving the former Florida State standout a chance to replace Mack. Alvin Bailey and rookies Shon Coleman and Spencer Drango will battle for the job at right tackle.

PLAYMAKERS WANTED: Jackson has made fixing Cleveland’s receiving group a top priority, and it’s a massive project. He was spoiled with the Bengals, who had star A.J. Green and others as targets. The Browns believe rookie Corey Coleman, the No. 15 overall pick who scored 20 touchdowns last season for Baylor, can have an immediate impact. Quarterback-turned-receiver Terrelle Pryor continues to show promise as a playmaker.

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP_NFL

FILe – In this June 1, 2016, file photo, Cleveland Browns quarterback Robert Griffin III looks to pass during practice at the NFL football team’s training campin Berea, Ohio. Griffin said he’s not overtly trying to win over teammates. He believes his actions will determine how he’s perceived. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak, File)
http://wnewsj.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/web1_111498451-96511fcc644e4397bb313fa6850c3d60.jpgFILe – In this June 1, 2016, file photo, Cleveland Browns quarterback Robert Griffin III looks to pass during practice at the NFL football team’s training campin Berea, Ohio. Griffin said he’s not overtly trying to win over teammates. He believes his actions will determine how he’s perceived. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak, File)

FILE – In this April 6, 2016, file photo, Cleveland Browns quarterback Robert Griffin III answers a question during a news conference at the practice facility in Berea, Ohio. The Browns, with a laughable track record for developing quarterbacks, signed Griffin to a two-year, $15 million contract in March. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane, File)
http://wnewsj.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/web1_111498451-c5a40a61e5164b278c31bc7d29744115.jpgFILE – In this April 6, 2016, file photo, Cleveland Browns quarterback Robert Griffin III answers a question during a news conference at the practice facility in Berea, Ohio. The Browns, with a laughable track record for developing quarterbacks, signed Griffin to a two-year, $15 million contract in March. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane, File)

FILe – In this June 7, 2016, file photo, Cleveland Browns head coach Hue Jackson directs practice during NFL football minicamp, in Berea, Ohio. With boundless energy, Jackson is determined to make the Browns not only competitive but champions. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane, File)
http://wnewsj.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/web1_111498451-b131df80c6c14256bda8c17021975f00.jpgFILe – In this June 7, 2016, file photo, Cleveland Browns head coach Hue Jackson directs practice during NFL football minicamp, in Berea, Ohio. With boundless energy, Jackson is determined to make the Browns not only competitive but champions. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane, File)

By Tom Withers

AP Sports Writer

CLEVELAND BROWNS (3-13)

OPEN CAMP: July 29, Berea, Ohio

LAST YEAR: More of same for Browns, who couldn’t get out of own way and remained one of NFL’s most inept teams. Although Cleveland’s offense was serviceable, defense couldn’t stop pass or run and coach Mike Pettine, a former defensive coordinator, was fired following finale, along with general manager Ray Farmer. Owner Jimmy Haslam overhauled entire front office, hiring several young, analytical minds who will see if they can turn things around.

IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: Coach Hue Jackson, QB Robert Griffin III, LB Demario Davis, OL Alvin Bailey, DB Rahim Moore, LB Justin Tuggle, rookie WR Corey Coleman.

IMPORTANT LOSSES: Farmer, C Alex Mack, OT Mitchell Schwartz, Ss Donte Whitner and Tashaun Gipson, LB Karlos Dansby, WRs Brian Hartline and Dwayne Bowe, QB Johnny Manziel, TE Jim Dray.

CAMP NEEDS: Griffin is getting chance to resurrect once skyrocketing career which crashed badly in Washington. Jackson believes he and offensive system can help rehabilitate RG3, who didn’t play last season and showed some major rust during spring practices. Lack of playmakers hurt last season, which is why Browns used first-round pick on speedy Coleman, who must develop quickly.

EXPECTATIONS: Jackson’s infectious enthusiasm has players excited about possibilities. He doesn’t want decision on starting quarterback to be distraction — it always is in Cleveland — and Browns have to keep fingers crossed that Griffin pans out and clearly wins job over veteran Josh McCown. Manziel’s departure was long overdue, but at least Browns made that move. Look for RB Duke Johnson’s role to increase in Jackson’s offense.

___

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP_NFL

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