Five reasons we are excited about Cleveland Browns on 'Hard Knocks'

HBO's reported choice for 2018 training camp series offers lots of intrigue

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According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, the Cleveland Browns are set to be the choice for the HBO series "Hard Knocks" this summer.

Yes, the Browns are 1-31 in their past 32 games and HBO-and-16 last season. No, this is not a "boring" team.

There are guidelines to which teams are eligible — i.e. can be forced to participate — and the Browns were among the more interesting possibilities among the other five teams on that list that included the Ravens, Broncos, 49ers, Chargers and Washington.

We think it's a good selection. And here are five reasons why you should actually be enthusiastic about the show — one that has been in a bit of a rut, we'd argue, the past few years:

1. Baker, Baker and more Baker

OK, so everyone loves the backup quarterback — we get it. But this is a justified love affair in bloom, we believe, as No. 1 overall pick Baker Mayfield enters the fray of a quarterback room the franchise took a firehose to in the offseason.

That the Browns of all teams somehow managed to trade three quarterbacks and get anything in return makes GM John Dorsey the modern-day Joseph of Cupertino of the agate pages. Gone are DeShone Kizer, Cody Kessler and Kevin Hogan. Enter Tyrod Taylor, Drew Stanton, someone named Brogan Roback (let's find out who that is exactly) and Mayfield.

We know who the star in-waiting is. Taylor is the starter, though — so says Hue Jackson, who is still amazingly listed as head coach on the team's website. What these quarterbacks lack in height, they more than make up for in intrigue, at least in terms of how Mayfield will battle Taylor for the starting job.

This is great reality TV action right here. Mayfield walked on at Texas Tech and won the starting job less than a month into his freshman season. He then transferred into Oklahoma (without his head coach actually knowing it had happened) and toppled every other QB in his way to becoming one of the best college passers in the past decade. Can Mayfield end the Browns' long QB role call of doom? We're gonna see how it all begins.

2. Those feisty receivers

You've got trade acquisition Jarvis Landry. There's Josh Gordon, his immense talent and the fear that he could flush it all away at a moment's notice. Ditto fourth-rounder Antonio Callaway, whose off-field issues knocked him off many a draft board.

Talent-wise, there aren't a ton of top threes that are better. Safety-wise, there might not be a riskier trio. Landry comes at top dollar — $15.5 mil this year — for a slot receiver with so-so speed. But he could be a highly productive volume pass catcher for one of the NFL's most changed offenses.

And If Gordon and Callaway can stay out of trouble, they could be a fantastic playmaking unit. But Gordon's past substance-abuse issues and Callaway's positive drug test at the NFL combine and a reported incident that got him kicked out of Florida have him entering the league on semi-probation.

There's also ex-Packers great Jeff Janis, who saves his best work for preseason fourth quarters, on the roster for those keeping track. Throw in a few talented tight ends, including 2017 first-rounder David Njoku (who doesn't turn 22 until July), and you've got a lot of interesting dudes catching passes from Taylor, Mayfield and the rest.

3. Can anyone replace Joe?

Joe Thomas' retirement really is the saddest development here, and his dry wit would have been an absolute touchdown on this show. The best thing about "Hard Knocks," from our view, is the personality stuff — getting to know the players as men. Some are funny. Some are serious and shockingly intense. Others are clearly nervous.

Other than pulling back the curtain on how NFL franchises are run, the players' personalities are what shine the brightest, and we are regretting the fact that Thomas has chosen to step away following a brilliant career now even more. He's just a funny and interesting dude.

Of course, there's also the fact that he's one of the best ever to play left tackle. That's notable. The Browns can go a number of directions to try to fill that void — holdover Shon Coleman is one and second-rounder Austin Corbett is another. The Browns also could shift over Joel Bitonio if it got to that, and free-agent signing Chris Hubbard played that spot in Pittsburgh a bit, too.

Lot of options. Are any of them as good as Thomas? No, not yet at all. But replacing him will be one of the stories of the summer in Cleveland. And if Thomas, whose podcast with Andrew Hawkins is terrific listening, makes a cameo on the show we would not be upset. At. All.

4. A few awkwardly wonderful moments on the staff

Jackson enters this season without a lot of support, it would appear. Why he wasn't just fired earlier is anyone's guess, and his hold on the coaching job certainly is a big theme entering the year. It's hard to get a read on where he and Dorsey are right now as a pair, so this show could be pretty revealing on that front.

Jackson also has a strange habit of saying weird things, which always leaves room for head-scratching. Then there's the owner, Jimmy Haslam, whose Flying J truck stop chain was investigated for fraud, whose team is 20-76 on his watch and who has an undeniably quicksand like ability to sink farther the harder he seems to try to make things better. Lot going on here.

The Browns also have two real rapscallions for coordinators. New offensive play caller Todd Haley is a real whiskey rock-n-roller who reportedly shattered his pelvis at a bar called "Tequila Cowboy" as the Steelers' offensive coordinator before a playoff game last year, so that's fun. He and Baker either feel like a match made in heaven or two wrong ends of a magnet being shoved together. Either way, we're here for it.

Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams is best known as the man who helped orchestrate the Saints' "Bountygate" scandal and who blitzes like football is a game of Red Rover. He also commandeered his first-round safety, Jabrill Peppers, to play deep safety on the wrong side of the Cuyahoga River for most of last season, drawing the ire of long-tormented Browns fans.

Dorsey recently said that he wasn't a fan of "Hard Knocks" coming to town, and he can old-school grump with the best of them. This really could be a fun series to see how Dorsey talks about his team, along with the elephant no longer in the room — Sashi Brown, the man he replaced. There's a 76ers-ish vibe on this Browns squad, and Brown is the Sam Hinkie of this equation, having acquired the zillion draft picks that has helped beef up this pretty talented roster.

5. Myles Garrett is a dinosaur fan

Remember what we said about personality? The Browns' 2017 top pick, Myles Garrett, is oozing with it. Like Thomas, he's a bit quirky — and he's surprisingly old school in one regard. And we're talking Mesozoic school, really.

"I grew up loving dinosaurs, digging up things," Garrett told in 2013. "I love it."

Yes, he's an unabashed lover of paleontology, and he's got some personal favorites among the extinct species, per a interview from 2015: 1. Spinosaurus (Garrett: “[It’s] unknown, sort of. Has a big sail. It’s the largest quadruped. It’s fast. It’s kind of adaptable, it could go on water and land.”) 2. Deinonychus (Garrett: “It’s what Jurassic Park raptors were based off of. Intelligence, quickness.” 3. Triceratops (Garrett chalked up the herbavore's ability to fend off its nemesis, the T-Rex, with their killer horns: "great defense.")

This is all great education, and it flies in the face of deniers such as 2016 "Hard Knocks" performer William Hayes, then of the Los Angeles Rams, who infamously said he didn't think dinosaurs ever existed. For the science-is-king crew, Garrett easily should win over a lot of hearts. And perhaps a lot of kids who also are fans of the beasts that used to roam the earth. We expect dulcet-toned narrator Liev Schreiber to treat these dino-sessions with the utmost respect they deserve.

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