The Cleveland Browns have one of the more potent collections of talent in the NFL — from a perennial 1,000-yard receiver like Odell Beckham Jr., to an up-and-coming MVP candidate like quarterback Baker Mayfield.
While the big stars will play their designated roles in the team’s success, there are also key contributors that are not getting the same amount of attention that could be in for Pro Bowl caliber seasons.
Here are three Browns that aren’t necessarily in the spotlight, but could have big things ahead.
3. Damarious Randall, Safety
When Damarious Randall came over to the Browns through a trade with the Packers, he filled a big hole in the secondary at one of the safety spots.
However, before arriving in Cleveland, Randall had played 1,734 of his 2,281 snaps with the Packers at corner. After the first-round pick departed Green Bay, then head coach Mike McCarthy admitted the Arizona State product was playing out of position.
“I think (free safety) is his natural position. I think we all recognize that. Him playing as much corner for us was the best thing for our defense at the time, with Morgan (Burnett) and Ha Ha (Clinton-Dix) and really utilizing the players the best way we can,” McCarthy said, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “Obviously, we’ve had issues outside with corners staying healthy the last two years and that’s a product of him playing out there, and he played it well when he was healthy, when he stays in the game.”
In his first full year at safety, Randall excelled, recording a career-high 85 tackles and four interceptions with the Browns.
Last season, Randall played pretty far off the ball, but in Steve Wilks’ defense, Randall expects to be closer to the line of scrimmage to utilize his tackling and playmaking ability.
“I don’t think I’m going to be 25-30 yards deep,” Randall said at minicamp. “I’m going to be more along the line of scrimmage … I’m going to be around the ball, making plays.”
This will likely help Randall boost his numbers and land on the radar as a Pro Bowl candidate, especially as he eyes either a contract extension from the Browns or free agency next offseason.
2. Larry Ogunjobi , Defensive Tackle
You don’t have to look far to find a believer in Larry Ogunjobi. Defensive end Myles Garrett — who made his first Pro Bowl last season with the Browns — sees big things ahead for his defensive line buddy.
“I don’t think people have been able to see all of Larry,” Garrett said this offseason. “I think that first year we both were just getting our first looks at the NFL. Some people come in and have this gigantic splash, some people just got to smoothly transition into it and I think he made that large leap last year, he was just a little bit hindered (by a torn biceps). I think he’s out for a breakout year.”
Last season, Ogunjobi started all 16 games, recording 5.5 sacks and 52 tackles. He also had 15 QB hits and 10 tackles for loss.
Garrett will always demand a certain amount of attention, but the Browns also traded for Olivier Vernon and signed veteran free agent Sheldon Richardson this offseason to bolster the defensive line. Those moves should pay huge dividends for Ogunjobi as he looks to make his first Pro Bowl.
1. Antonio Callaway, Wide Receiver
- On a wide receiver depth chart that features names like Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry, Antonio Callaway doesn’t make any argument that he’s an “underdog” to get a large share of the targets. However, instead of simply accepting that fate, Callaway is using it as motivation.
At minicamp, Callaway told reporters his goals for the season are 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns — at least.
“I need goals like that to push me,” Callaway said.
Callaway is setting lofty goals for his sophomore season, but the speedy pass-catcher should find some room with OBJ and Landry attracting the attention of the defense.
“I love being the underdog, I’ve always been the underdog,” he said. “I like competition, so we’re going to work. I ain’t never been the type to cry over not getting the ball. I will want the ball, but … If I don’t get it, I don’t get it.
“Baker makes the right decisions,’’ he added. “He’s the quarterback. When you’re on the field, that’s the leader right there, so whatever decision he makes we’ve got to roll with it.’’