BERIA, Ohio ( Associated Press) — Right guard Wyatt Taylor firmly established himself as one of the NFL’s top offensive linemen last season, earning his first Pro Bowl selection.
The Cleveland Browns rewarded him with a $56.8 million, four-year contract extension.
Praise and big money only go so far, however, when your primary goal is to win championships.
“Last year, I thought we were going to go to the Super Bowl,” Taylor said Friday at training camp. “I think the Browns (and their fans) always have that joke, but I really thought we were a dominating team and we couldn’t stay healthy. So, I can’t focus on anything else right now. I’m doing it, but game one.”
Cleveland is a week away from its season opener in Jacksonville, which its players see as a fresh start after a disappointing 8-9 campaign. Taylor was an absolute rock, being named a Second Team All-NFL for the second year in a row.
The offense has a different form than last season. Quarterback Baker Mayfield, wide receiver Jarvis Landry and center Jesse Traitor are gone, and quarterback Deshaun Watson and wide receiver Amari Cooper are among the new arrivals.
Taylor, who is 6-foot-4 and 315 pounds, has eagerly filled the leadership void on the unit.
“Let’s get healthy, let’s run the ball and let’s kick some butt,” said the four-year veteran. “Whoever is at quarterback, we have a talented offensive line and an amazing running back group, so let’s use them. Let’s do what we do best.
“It puts people’s eyes in the backfield, then you have five guys running with the ball, trying to hit you in the face.”
Cleveland led the NFL last season with a 5.09-yard average per carry, and Nick Chubb finished second in the league in rushing yards. All-purpose back Karim Hunt and emerging threat D’Ernest Johnson completed the three-headed monster in position.
Three-time Pro Bowl left guard Joel Bittonio, left tackle Jedric Wills Jr., right tackle Jack Conklin and center Nick Harris join Taylor on an all-returning starting line. Chris Hubbard again provides depth.
“When you look at last year, I don’t think there was a time when our opening five ended the game together,” Taylor said. “It’s not good. There was always someone hurting. We just have to be healthy and play, and I think we’ll be fine.”
NOTES: Coach Kevin Stefanski said he has not decided how to split play time against the Jaguars at quarterbacks. … The outdoor part of practice ended after 75 minutes when a thunderstorm broke out, forcing fans to exit the suburban training facility. The session continued inside the fieldhouse. … Harris left practice after suffering an eye injury and was replaced by C Ethan Posick. … WR Anthony Schwartz (left knee strain) and rookie WR David Bell (leg) were sidelined, but Stefanski said both are “really, really close” to a return.
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