By Steve Doerschuk GateHouse Media Ohio
BEREA — As the Browns move from the draft and rookie minicamp to full-squad practice, good luck trying to recognize their offense.
And who would want to?
The 0-16 team averaged 14.6 points, nearly a full point lower than the next-worst team in the league (Giants).
The scope of the changes is rounding into a big picture heading into spring practice, officially known as OTAs (organized team activities). Here’s what that looks like heading into the meet of spring practice.
2017 starters: DeShone Kizer (886 snaps), Kevin Hogan (134) and Cody Kessler (48) handled the load.
2018 prospects: Tyrod Taylor (927 snaps for the 2017 Bills) is the starter, and according to Hue Jackson, "That won’t change." It’s a strange and nebulous statement in light of the No. 1 overall pick Baker Mayfield, but we’ll just have to see what it means. Taylor’s struggles weren’t like Kizer’s, but he had his share of tumult with the Bills, who gave 98 snaps to Nathan Peterman and 39 to Joe Webb.
2017 starter: Isaiah Crowell started all 16 games, but with 536 snaps, he actually played less than backup Duke Johnson (566).
2018 outlook: Fifth-year pro Carlos Hyde and rookie Round 2 pick Nick Chubb are in line to be platooned, with Johnson’s role as a "third-down guy" to be determined on the fly.
The perception Hyde is fragile needs updated. He played 783 snaps in 2017 for San Francisco, never going below 40 in any of his 16 starts. In 2016, he logged 537 snaps and missed three games. His last year of losing substantial time to injuries was 2015, when he played 272 snaps through six games before suffering a season-ending injury in Game 7.
2017 starter: Shon Coleman, a Round 3 pick in 2016, played 1,044 of a possible 1,068 downs.
2018 outlook: Free agency pick-up Chris Hubbard played 70 percent of the Pittsburgh’s offensive snaps in 2017, his fourth year with the Steelers. John Dorsey basically made Hubbard the new right tackle via a five-year, $36.5 million contract, with $15 million guaranteed.
2017 starters: Joe Thomas played 465 downs before getting hurt. Most of Spencer Drango’s 606 snaps came as Thomas’ replacement. Drango was a Round 5 draft pick in 2016.
2018 outlook: Coleman probably will have to win the left tackle job to remain a starter. He will be pressed by rookie Austin Corbett, the first pick of the draft’s second round. Drango is in the mix, with the odds against him.
The experienced option is Donald Stephenson, who played right tackle for about half of Denver’s offensive snaps the last two seasons. Previously, he made starts at left tackle in three different seasons for John Dorsey’s former team, the Chiefs.
The sleeper is ultra-athletic, undrafted rookie Desmond Harrison.
2017 starter: J.C. Tretter was last year’s Chris Hubbard, a guy who mostly was a backup with his previous team (Green Bay), but got starter money as a Browns free agent. Tretter didn’t miss a down during the 0-16 year.
2018 outlook: New personnel VPs Alonzo Highsmith and Eliot Wolf were part of the Green Bay regime that acquired Tretter, but they also were part of the regime that let him walk. Keep an eye on the rookie, Corbett, whose versatile skill set could allow him to be a good starter at any O-line spot.
2017 starter: Kevin Zeitler played all 1,068 offensive snaps last year.
2018 prospects: Zeitler, 28, enters the second year of a $60 million contract that extends through 2021. The ex-Bengal hasn’t missed a start since 2014.
2017 starter: Like Zeitler, 2014 Round 2 pick Joel Bitonio played every down.
2018 starter: There’s a chance Bitonio could move to left tackle. Wherever he plays, a backup must be ready. Bitonio missed 17 games across the 2015 and ‘16 seasons. The rookie, Corbett, and Drango provide solid insurance.
2017 starters: Randall Telfer, a Ray Farmer draft pick, played 299 snaps based on his blocking. Rookie first-round pick David Njoku (500 snaps) and 2016 Rund 4 pick Seth DeValve (531) were the main receiving options.
2018 outlook: Telfer was pushed off the roster by free agency pick-up Darren Fells, who played 549 snaps for the 2017 Lions. Njoku’s role will expand. The new regime is scrutinizing DeValve.
2017 starters: Playing time was all over the place. The snap leaders were Hollywood Higgins (663), Ricardo Louis (574), Corey Coleman (449), Kenny Britt (352), Josh Gordon (258), Bryce Treggs (162), Kasen Williams (133) and Sammie Coates (92).
2018 outlook: Trade acquisition Jarvis Landry saw more action with the Dolphins (929 snaps) than any wideout did with the Browns. The Browns are paying him to play like a Pro Bowler. Gordon is in line to be available for a season opener for the first time since 2012. Of 2016 first-round pick Coleman, Dorsey condenses a long story into saying, "This is an important year for him." Rookie Round 4 pick Antonio Callaway drew minicamp raves from Baker Mayfield. Rookie Round 6 pick Damion Ratley is a sleeper with deep speed.
Check back after next month’s full-squad minicamp. The big changes sure to come might expand by a few notches.
Steve Doerschuk is a writer for the Canton Repository.