Over the last few days, the Cleveland Browns finally took the field to kick off their 2022-23 NFL campaign. Well, kind of. Cleveland kicked off its annual rookie minicamp which is geared toward getting the newly drafted rookies acclimated to the NFL playing schemes. It also gives coaches and team administrators the chance to see their new players in action learning plays from their new team's playbook.
Some players stood out as expected, like rookie wide receiver David Bell and rookie defensive stud Perrion Winfrey. Others stood out enough to stick with the team for a little bit longer. Today, we'll break all that down as well as predict how this year's schedule will fare on a minicamp mini-update on the Browns.
But, before we do that – some housekeeping notes. On May 26, Right Down Euclid is partnering with Platform Beer Co. to have the first Right Down Euclid Community Happy Hour! It'll be from 5:30 p.m. EST to 7:30 p.m. EST at Phunkenship and all are welcome to come! Plus, for the first 50 people that arrive, drinks are on Platform!
Register here via Facebook – looking forward to meeting some of you there and celebrating the community that makes this possible!
With that said, let's talk about the latest for the Browns:
Rookie wideout David Bell seems like a favorite to start for the Browns early this season
With news breaking that former Cleveland receiver Jarvis Landry would be signing with the New Orleans Saints over the weekend, there was some speculation on who would take over for the Browns. Well, based on how former Purdue wideout David Bell has looked on and off the field, the guesswork may not last much longer.
Granted, Bell is in the infancy of his NFL career. At this early stage, no one is claiming Bell will become a five-time Pro Bowl selection like Landry, but the Browns clearly envision using him in similar ways.
“[Bell is] a very competitive player,” Cleveland head coach Kevin Stefanski. “Catches the ball really well. We thought he had some savviness.
“When you're looking at the draft, there are so many guys who can fit, and you better have a lot of guys who can fit in your scheme. It's really what traits you feel like you can exploit, so to speak. We thought he was really competitive at the catch and has some versatility to play outside and inside.”
As the receiving corps stands right now, four-time Pro Bowl selection Amari Cooper and Donovan Peoples-Jones are projected to start on the outside with Bell in the slot. Bell filled the role occasionally as a collegiate standout at Purdue, though he played mostly on the outside for the Boilermakers.
“It gets a little crowded out there with the linebackers, defensive line dropping and stuff like that, but it's something I definitely know how to adjust to,” Bell said. “I played a little bit inside at Purdue, so it's not too big of a difference.
“I think [playing the slot] gives you a little bit more freedom. You really don't have that defender right up in your face. He's about 5 to 6 yards off, so you can get him on his toes and have a lot more space to create.”
Bell started 26 of his 29 games at Purdue and compiled 232 catches for 2,946 yards and 21 touchdowns. He set a school record with 17 career 100-yard receiving games and averaged an FBS-leading 101.6 receiving yards per game over his three collegiate seasons. He posted a career drop rate of just 4.7% (11 total dropped passes). Bell will have a bit of a learning curve on the field but, based on his production, he should be just fine.
Cleveland Browns rookie Perion Winfrey (right) sees the Browns as the team of destiny this year due to fans and a certain kid from Akron.
Rookie stud Perrion Winfrey is fitting in so far on and off the field with Cleveland
When rookie defensive tackle Perrion Winfrey arrived in Cleveland, he shared that about 10 Browns fans greeted him at the airport, hoping for an autograph. Earlier this week, when Winfrey went to pick up a pizza, a couple more fans greeted him, and this time, they started barking. Winfrey said he returned the gesture.
“The love has been crazy,” Winfrey said Friday. “The Sooners fans are crazy, but it’s crazy because the Browns fans are crazier than the Sooners fans. I didn’t think it got much crazier. I didn’t know the fans were this wild or this passionate about the team. Just knowing that makes me want to be juiced up even more, knowing if I give that passion and effort to the team, it’s going to be given right back to me.”
Winfrey has already absorbed advice from his favorite basketball player, who knows these Cleveland fans best. After he signed with Klutch Sports Group in the buildup to the draft, he had a phone conversation with LeBron James, who is also represented by the agency.
“[James said] don’t listen to the outside noise, just try to be the best version of myself every single day,” Winfrey said. “[He talked about] enjoying the journey and falling in love with the grind and everything that I want will come into play if I just put my head down and work.”
When NFL Scouting Combine organizers assigned Winfrey No. 23 in early March, he considered it a sign he was meant to be there in Indianapolis because James wore the same jersey number in Cleveland and a sign he's supposed to be with the Browns.
“I’m trying to bring a championship to Cleveland just like [James] did,” Winfrey said.
Now, Winfrey is No. 97, which he considers more proof he's supposed to be with the Browns. He wore No. 97 in high school and at Iowa Western Community College, where he played before Oklahoma. He has 97 tattooed on the back of his hands, with nine on one hand and seven on the other. Each number is surrounded by flames.
“Every time I look at my hands, it’s basically just letting me know that this was adversity I got through and I can basically get through anything,” Winfrey said. “So when the equipment manager called me, he was like, ‘We only have one number available.’ I was like, ‘What number is it?’ He said, '97.’ I feel like it was destined.”
Winfrey spent the past two seasons at Oklahoma, where he played nose tackle. But Winfrey, former Sooners defensive line coach Calvin Thibodeaux and the Browns agree his ideal position is a three-technique defensive tackle. He received an opportunity to showcase his pass-rushing skills from the spot in February at the Senior Bowl and became the game's Most Valuable Player.
Winfrey now is part of a young defensive tackle group with a chance to become an immediate contributor for the Browns. He'll have a chance to early alongside defensive superstar Myles Garrett and, hopefully, can make good on his hopes to bring a championship to Lake Erie like his idol LeBron James.
Rookies like running back Jerome Ford will have to step up for Cleveland if they want to remain in the thick of things in the AFC North.
How will the Cleveland Browns fare this season?
On Thursday night, the NFL announced the regular-season schedule for the Browns. Despite the uproar from fans for the team only getting a handful of primetime games, it's probably for the best. There's a lot of uncertainty around how available start quarterback Deshaun Watson will be this season and there are still plenty of questions at the receiver position.
But, with an easier stretch to start the season, the Browns should be able to remain steady if Watson is suspended. Again, it all depends on how things go from there but, with a heavier slate to finish the season Cleveland will need as much stability as possible – especially with Baltimore and Cincinnati primed to have speculator seasons.
Record prediction: 10-7, third place AFC North
Evan Dammarell is a sports journalist covering all things Cleveland right off the shores of Lake Erie. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. Email him at email@example.com. Did you enjoy this edition of Right Down Euclid? You can get it in your inbox two to three times a week by subscribing here. All it takes is either your Facebook account or email address!