The Browns entered the 2022 offseason expecting massive changes on offense.
As the 2021-22 season wound down, questions about Baker Mayfield’s long-term viability, paired with tumult at wide receiver, saw a once-promising Browns season trashed.
Flash forward to June and the offense is already looking vastly different.
Cleveland decided to cut bait with Mayfield, opting instead for Deshaun Watson.
Back in March, the team traded a boatload of draft picks to the Houston Texans in exchange for Watson.
The team proceeded to hand out a $230 million fully guaranteed contract to the former Clemson signal caller.
But questions about Watson’s availability remain as he currently faces two-dozen civil suits over sexual misconduct, harassment, and assault.
The league office hasn’t yet stepped in with its punishment, though heavy sanctions are likely headed Watson’s way.
One player that, barring injury or some unforeseen tragedy, will certainly suit up for Cleveland is Donovan Peoples-Jones.
And the Browns will need every ounce of effort from the third-year receiver.
Need, Not A Want
Over his first two seasons, Peoples-Jones has been in a strange position.
By some accounts, he’s been asked to do too much too quickly, hampering his development.
Donovan Peoples-Jones breakout 🔜 pic.twitter.com/yEfWtRzyrf
— PFF Fantasy Football (@PFF_Fantasy) June 9, 2022
Yet Peoples-Jones was, when everyone was healthy, a solidly third-option receiver.
That’s because the Browns have entered the last two seasons with a strong first two options at wideout in Odell Beckham, Jr. and Jarvis Landry.
Both men were one-time 1,000-yard receivers for Cleveland, though both players saw their production drop recently.
Nonetheless, with two weapons like that, opposing defenses were typically targeting them over Peoples-Jones.
That will not be the case in 2022-23.
Beckham forced his way out of Cleveland midseason after disagreements over his role in the offense.
The Browns cut Beckham, where he was picked up by the Los Angeles Rams en route to their Super Bowl run.
Landry opted for a reunion in the Bayou, teaming up with former LSU teammate Tyrann Mathieu in New Orleans.
Fortunately, Peoples-Jones isn’t completely alone.
The Browns managed to bring in Amari Cooper, former Dallas Cowboys receiver, who should get the majority of WR1 targets.
But after that…
It’s all Peoples-Jones.
The rest of the options are unproven, still young, or, in the case of tight end Marcos Santos-Silva, still new to the whole “football” thing.
Can Peoples-Jones be that guy?
The Browns sure hope so.
Talent has generally not been an issue; Peoples-Jones is a speed merchant who gives defenses fits by stretching the field.
But over the course of his two-year career, he’s only managed five touchdowns on roughly 35 yards per game.
His supporters will point to an injured Mayfield, whose beleaguered shoulder prevented Peoples-Jones from getting many down-field looks.
With an upgrade like Watson, that shouldn’t be a problem.
6. Donovan Peoples-Jones
This season, Peoples-Jones will be expected to step up. A year ago, Cleveland was a heavy 13-personnel (one back, three tight ends) offense, but it has worked on more three-receiver looks this season.
— Moody (@EricNMoody) June 9, 2022
Provided, of course, Watson sees any game time.
This is a season where regardless of who is under center, Peoples-Jones needs to produce.
The system is also being tailored around three receivers, another boon for Peoples-Jones.
He’s been promoted in the pecking order; if the Browns want to be competitive, they need Peoples-Jones to step up.
It’s simply not enough to only have one solid receiving option.
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