OPINION: Five Cleveland Browns we need to see more of in second half of 2017 season

CLEVELAND -- The Cleveland Browns are halfway through the 2017 season, but at 0-8 for the second consecutive year, they find themselves entrenched in fourth place in the AFC North Division and out of the playoff hunt.

Despite not being in the hunt for the postseason for the 15th consecutive season, the Browns have plenty of things to play for over the second half of the year, namely individual and team improvement.

Here is a look at five players we need to see more of in the second half of the season:

DEFENSIVE END MYLES GARRETT

After missing the first four games of the regular season because of a high ankle sprain suffered in a practice leading up to the home opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Garrett reported concussion-like symptoms after a loss to the Tennessee Titans, was entered into the NFL Concussion Protocol shortly after and did not make the trip to London for the 2017 International Series matchup against the Minnesota Vikings at Twickenham Stadium.

Despite being limited in his number of snaps in games against the New York Jets and Houston Texans, Garrett registered three sacks and seven total tackles.

In the lead-up to his NFL debut against the Jets, Garrett talked about how much he looked forward to getting his first career sack, and it took him all of one snap to accomplish that goal in front of the home fans.

Late in the second quarter, Garrett once again sacked Jets quarterback Josh McCown.

Garrett followed up his debut performance against the Jets with a sack of rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson in a 33-17 loss to the Texans. Then, Garrett collected a sack of Marcus Mariota in a 12-9 loss to the Titans at FirstEnergy Stadium.

Through three games this season, Garrett has registered 11 total tackles, seven solo stops and a team-best four sacks.

QUARTERBACK DESHONE KIZER

Kizer was benched in each of his previous two starts and sat out a full game in-between heading into the London game against the Vikings.

However, for the first time in a month, Kizer played a full game, completing 18 of his 34 attempts for 179 yards with no touchdowns and five carries for 18 yards with one score in a losing effort. More importantly for the Browns, Kizer did not turn the ball over in the loss.

In his first seven NFL starts, Kizer completed 111 of his 213 attempts (52.1 percent) for 1,144 yards with three touchdowns against a league-worst 11 interceptions. Additionally, Kizer took 15 sacks for 81 lost yards and compiled a 51.1 quarterback rating.

RUNNING BACK DUKE JOHNSON

Despite being the backup to Isaiah Crowell, Johnson has been the Browns’ most productive per-carry running back, as well as a dual threat catching the ball out of the backfield this season.

Johnson has rushed for 176 yards and two touchdowns on just 34 carries. Now in his third year out of the University of Miami, Johnson is averaging 5.2 yards per carry. His touchdowns and yards-per-carry average are the highest among the Browns’ running backs this season.

Additionally, Johnson leads the team in catches (36) and receiving yards (324) and has one touchdown reception.

TIGHT END DAVID NJOKU

Njoku struggled with consistency and catching the football throughout training camp and the preseason, but as of late, the rookie tight end has been a weapon for the Browns’ offense.

Njoku has turned just 18 catches into 195 yards and a team-leading three receiving touchdowns. No other Browns player has more than one receiving touchdown.

SAFETY JABRILL PEPPERS

After trading back from No. 12 to No. 25 in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft, the Browns selected Peppers in an effort to rebuild a struggling secondary and add explosive playmaking ability to multiple phases of the game.

In three years at Michigan, Peppers made 86 solo tackles and assisted on 33 other stops, including 18.5 for lost yardage with three sacks. Peppers intercepted one pass and defended 10 others in 12 games for the Wolverines during the 2016 season.

Additionally, Peppers accounted for 167 yards and three touchdowns on 27 carries and a combined total of 570 return yards, as well as one punt-return score last fall.

However, in six games with the Browns, Peppers has made just 26 total tackles, including 20 solo stops, with one pass defended. On special teams, Peppers has gained 148 yards on seven kickoff returns and averaged 6.4 yards over 17 punt runbacks.

© 2017 WKYC-TV


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