Faces of the 2019 Cleveland Browns

2019 Cleveland Browns

Throughout the month of July, the Last Word on Pro Football department will be taking a look at the three most recognizable faces of each NFL team. For this series, we’ll be looking only at active players. Here are the three most prominent faces of the 2019 Cleveland Browns.

2019 Cleveland Browns: Faces of the Franchise

The Cleveland Browns have been the laughingstock of the NFL since their return in 1999, but that changed last season. After starting out 2-5-1, Cleveland fired head coach Hue Jackson, replaced him with defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, and ended the year on a 5-3 run to finish 7-8-1, their best record since 2007.

Baker Mayfield set the rookie passing touchdown record with 27, despite playing in only 13.5 games. Nick Chubb ran for nearly 1,000 yards after touching the ball just 16 times over the first six weeks. The team started to show its personality, and things only got better over the off-season. Now, the Browns are in a position to make their first playoff appearance since 2002, and the hype surrounding them is at an all-time high.

Honorable Mentions

Jarvis Landry

If it weren’t for a certain blockbuster trade for a superstar wide receiver, Landry would likely have a spot on this list. Acquired from the Miami Dolphins last off-season, Landry was a major part of changing the losing culture in Cleveland. His famous Hard Knocks speech to the wide receiver room aside, Landry was a true leader for the entire season, displaying great toughness and work ethic. He may not have had the season Browns fans were expecting when he signed a five-year contract worth $75.5 million, but Landry was a reliable target for Mayfield, and will finally have a chance to play with an elite number one receiver, which should help him out immensely.

Joel Bitonio

Offensive lineman usually don’t get much of the spotlight, but fans have seen quite a bit of Bitonio on the Emmy-winning behind-the-scenes series Building the Browns. One of the NFL’s best guards for the past few seasons, Bitonio made his first Pro Bowl in 2018 and will look to have a repeat performance this season. He’s a laid-back and fun-loving guy who isn’t afraid to get up close and personal with a crocodile.

Christian Kirksey

The vocal leader of Cleveland’s defense missed nine games last season and is chomping at the bit to return to the field. Kirksey is active in the Cleveland community and can be heard barking on Sundays. The sixth-year pro will look to have a rebound season in Steve Wilks‘ defense.

Damarious Randall

A bit of an afterthought in Green Bay, Randall was traded for DeShone Kizer last off-season and was one of the best safeties in the league. Building the Browns showed him graduating from Arizona State this past spring, and the best moment from his season was handing the ball to former head coach and then-Bengals assistant Hue Jackson after an interception in Week 10.

3. Myles Garrett

One of the best young defenders in football, Garrett’s chiseled frame and weight room habits have earned him internet fame, most recently a video showing him doing 40-inch box jumps while holding a 50lbs dumbbell in each hand. But as great as he is on the field, he’s much more interesting off of it. He attended Texas A&M over bigger football schools like Ohio State specifically because of A&M’s archaeology program. Garrett has an extreme interest in dinosaurs, is a fan of anime and video games, and writes poetry in his free time. He’s been organizing puppy playdates around Cleveland this off-season so his dog Gohan can make some new friends.

A Pro Bowler last year after collecting 13.5 sacks and 29 quarterback hits, Garrett is a Defensive Player of the Year candidate, and should see a significant uptick in production now that defenses can’t gameplan to stop only him. With a legitimate pass rusher in Olivier Vernon playing opposite of him, Garrett should be able to get more one-on-one opportunities, which he often wins. Oh, and he apparently played last season while using just two pass-rush moves at the instruction of Gregg Williams. The consensus first overall pick from 2017 has become Cleveland’s defensive cornerstone, and should wear a Browns jersey for a long time.

2. Odell Beckham Jr.

There’s a convincing argument to be made that Odell Beckham Jr. is the NFL’s most popular athlete. He has nearly 19 million total followers on his social media accounts and is constantly involved in branding for products. He is a fashion icon and a worldwide ambassador for the game of football. The NFL community is still talking about the trade, over four months after it happened. The Browns were already going to be an exciting team to watch in 2019, but the addition of Beckham made them must-see TV.

Since the trade went down, Beckham has talked about playing with a new quarterback, being in a new city, and how excited he is to play for Browns fans after being in the Big Apple affected him mentally. The national spotlight is now focused on Cleveland, and while the team may have more expectations than the Giants in recent years, there may be less pressure on OBJ just because of the smaller market he’s in now. Add in the fact that he once again gets to play with his best friend Jarvis Landry, and Beckham Jr. is primed for a huge year.

1. Baker Mayfield

As famous as Beckham is, he is not the face of the Browns. That distinction is Mayfield’s, the first overall pick from 2018 who is as outspoken and brash as they come. Throughout his entire football career, Mayfield has had to face adversity and overcome the odds, and he’s done it every step of the way. His unapologetic attitude and tireless work ethic mesh perfectly with the blue-collar city of Cleveland, and he is beloved by its fans. From his ongoing feud with Colin Cowherd to attacking Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger, Mayfield says what’s on his mind and doesn’t back down.

Perhaps the moment Cleveland truly fell in love with Mayfield was when he refused to mince words about his opinion of former head coach Hue Jackson after Jackson was fired. The entire team rallied around him over the second half of the season, and his leadership ability will be a major reason why the Browns make the playoffs in 2019 if that does indeed happen.

Odell Beckham Jr. may be the more popular player, but the Browns are Baker Mayfield’s team.

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