The Cleveland Browns have been the story of the NFL offseason so far.
With Odell Beckham Jr., Olivier Vernon and Kareem Hunt coming to Cleveland in the offseason to combine forces with a young core that showed heaps of potential last season during a 7-8-1 campaign, the expectations are growing by the day for the Browns.
Baltimore Ravens second-year quarterback Lamar Jackson hasn’t been keeping up with the hype of his AFC North rival.
When asked about what he thinks of the attention the Browns have garnered this season, the former Heisman winner shook it off.
“We play Miami first,” Jackson said, according to NFL Network’s Andrew Siciliano “I don’t really worry about the Browns.”
Factually that’s correct. The Ravens and Browns won’t meet up for the first time until Sept. 29 and then again in Week 16.
But there’s plenty of reason why Jackson should be worried about the Browns.
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The team added a wealth of weapons in the offseason, including defensive line standouts Vernon and Sheldon Richardson to pair with Pro Bowler Myles Garrett.
They’ll be coming for Jackson.
It wouldn’t have been such a wild statement two years ago, or even last year for that matter, when the Browns were coming off an 0-16 season and just one win in the previous two.
But Browns are currently favored to win the division, according to WKYC.com. This offseason, the Browns have even been the second most bet on team to win the Super Bowl this offseason, behind only the Chicago Bears.
They’re a real threat.
Last year, the teams split their season series, although Jackson only played in the second game — a 26-24 victory where he was 14 of 24 for 179 yards.
In all, there have been 40 meetings between the teams and the Ravens hold an overwhelming 30-10 advantage in the series. Baltimore even won 11 consecutive games against Cleveland from 2008-13.
But this edition of the Browns are different. Beckham says he can feel it in the air.
“I do see a lot of potential with this team, and not even just because I’m here,” Beckham said at minicamp. “I really feel it, and I feel something in the air, something special that Cleveland hasn’t had for a while. And I’m happy to be a part of that. I hope that I can help do whatever I need to do to push that that way.”
While the expectations continue to grow, Browns head coach Freddie Kitchens has maintained that he’s not letting the opinions of those outside the locker room change their goals.
“Our expectations have nothing to do with the outside world,” Kitchens said. “Our expectations are set in our room in our team room,” Kitchens told NFL.com. “Our expectations are going to be on how we prepare every day and approach every day from a business perspective and on what we want to get accomplished on each day on a day-in and day-out basis. The outside predictions, we are not in that business. We are going to let other people do that. We are just going to be happy with our performance and how we prepare.”
The Ravens are the current title holders in the division, finishing 10-6 a year ago. The Browns have not won the AFC North since re-entering the league in 1999.