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Games to circle in Greg Newsome’s first year

NU’s highest-selected defender since 2005 will endure offensive dynamos in his initial NFL season.

Cleveland Browns Off-Season Workout Photo by Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

Leading up to the 2021 NFL Draft, Greg Newsome was a name effectively locked in to be picked in the first round. That proposition became reality when Andrew Berry made Newsome the newest member of the Cleveland Browns at pick 26.

Although Newsome has yet to sign his rookie contract, it’s all systems go for the consensus First-Team All-Big Ten corner. Newsome is joining an upstart Browns squad fresh off of their first playoff appearance in 18 years, with aspirations as high as the Lombardi Trophy.

Just as I did with Rashawn Slater, I’ll be breaking down the matchups to hone in on as Newsome begins what figures to be a lengthy and successful professional career.

Week 1 (at Kansas City Chiefs)

Like Slater, Newsome will face a steep, high-octane obstacle in his first ever NFL game when the Browns go to Kansas City.

Led by three-time Pro Bowler and 2018 NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes, the Chiefs boast one of the premier offenses in football — one at the helm of a gunslinger who very well could be the most talented quarterback in history. On top of that, Andy Reid’s team features weapons among the best at their respective positions in Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce, both of whom finished in the top eight in receiving yards a season ago.

Given that Newsome doesn’t figure to be Cleveland’s outright CB1 — that presumably belongs to fourth-year corner Denzel Ward — he may not be lined up against Hill or Kelce on many snaps. However, it’s almost inevitable that Newsome will face both as the Browns attempt to avenge their AFC Divisional loss in a high-leverage season opener.

Week 3 (Chicago Bears)

When the Browns usher in the Chicago Bears, it should be a memorable game for Newsome for a multitude of reasons.

First, Newsome will square off against his hometown team, a professional squad around 20 miles from where he reached his collegiate zenith in Evanston.

Also, Newsome could have the opportunity to battle with former Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields once more. The No. 10 overall pick likely won’t be starting by this juncture, as it seems that Matt Nagy has his mind made up that veteran Andy Dalton will be the team’s initial starter. But if Fields sees any playing time, Newsome will undoubtedly look to shine in a third opportunity against the two-time Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year, especially since Newsome left the 2020 Big Ten Title Game with an injury.

Finally, the Bears feature a bonafide superstar wide receiver in Allen Robinson. Though his future in Chicago seems murky, Robinson is, pound-for-pound, one of the best and most consistent receivers in the game, posting over 1,100 receiving yards each of the last two years. Not only would this be a litmus test for Newsome, but he could prove that Penn Sate really isn’t, well, unrivaled.

Week 4 (at Minnesota Vikings)

In the following slate, Newsome will see yet another NFC North foe — and another team packing a powerful offensive punch.

The Vikings are led by two great wide receivers in Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson, the latter of whom set the rookie record for receiving yards in 2020. Additionally, Dalvin Cook is a superstar back known for home run-hitting plays, as he finished fifth in Next Gen Stats’ list of the most explosive runners in 2020.

Newsome should also be wary of QB Kirk Cousins. Though Cousins is mocked for his inability to win on Monday Night Football — he’s 1-9 in such contests in his career — he’s still an extremely underrated, veteran passer who’s hungry to lead his team to another postseason appearance.

All in all, Minnesota’s offense will truly reveal Cleveland’s defensive prowess, especially in terms of its burgeoning cornerback room.

Week 5 (at Los Angeles Chargers)

This is the third straight week to make this list, and for good reason.

To begin with, the Chargers have a talented WR tandem of their own in Keenan Allen and Mike Williams. When Newsome stares down Justin Herbert, he’ll have a look at the reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year and one of the brightest young stars in the sport.

Moreover, Newsome’s history with Ohio State will come to the forefront once again. The former Wildcat standout will likely go toe-to-toe with K.J. Hill, who totaled three catches for 27 yards in two career games versus Newsome and NU.

And as detailed in my article about Slater, purple will be the undertone of this matchup, as six professional Wildcats look to capture the stardom (and the nation’s hearts, but they’ve obviously already done that).

Week 6 (Arizona Cardinals)

As Week 6 rolls around, Newsome and the Browns will definitely be weary from having encountered such high-scoring units. However, their itinerary of scorching offenses won’t get any shorter by playing the Cardinals.

Arizona is galvanized by DeAndre Hopkins, an unguardable force with the fourth-most receiving yards since 2010. Hopkins receives plenty of throws that seem nearly preposterous from former Heisman winner Kyler Murray, a Pro Bowler in his own right.

Although Newsome probably won’t be lined up directly opposite Hopkins for much of this contest, he figures to see action against fellow rookie and former Purdue Boilermaker Rondale Moore. Moore is listed at just 5’7” but elicits comparisons to Steve Smith Sr. due to his combination of physicality and speed.

In his one battle versus the ‘Cats, Moore amassed a gaudy 79 rushing yards, 109 receiving yards and two touchdowns. Newsome will hope to put the clamps on this time around in an upper-echelon duel.

Weeks 8 and 17 (Pittsburgh Steelers)

The Steelers concluded the 2020 season in unceremonious fashion with an embarrassing loss to the Browns. Last year’s result only adds gasoline to the fire in this testy rivalry.

On offense, Pittsburgh has a myriad of stars, particularly at receiver. JuJu Smith-Schuster will be entering his fifth NFL season at just 24 years old and has shown promise, as he is the youngest receiver to ever eclipse 2,500 receiving yards. Furthermore, future Hall-of-Famer Ben Roethlisberger possesses other shiny toys in Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool, both of whom are projected for breakout seasons.

In the run game, Newsome will be greeted by yet another first-round pick in former Alabama running back and Doak Walker Award winner Najee Harris, the No. 24 overall pick.

Given the Steelers’ position player depth, Newsome will likelyoppose several top-notch, youthful offensive cogs in these two matchups — games that will preview years-long battles in the AFC North between powerhouses.

Weeks 9 and 18 (Cincinnati Bengals)

The Bengals may not have earned a playoff victory since George H.W. Bush was in office, but a new buzz is in the air in the Queen City — and no, it’s not from the infamous Skyline Chili.

With the No. 5 overall pick in this past NFL Draft, Cincinnati acquired former LSU wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase. Chase is one of the most decorated wide receivers in SEC history, as his 1,780 receiving yards in 2019 set a conference record that was ultimately broken by 2020 Heisman winner DeVonta Smith.

Chase also features outstanding running mates in Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins, so it’s clear that former No. 1 overall pick Joe Burrow is surrounded by one of the best receiving trios in the league.

If Newsome has bouts against Chase, the Wildcat legend may have a slight upper hand due to the latter not suiting up during the 2020 college football campaign, but both players should be acclimated to professional play this late in the season.

Whether countering Chase, Boyd or Higgins, Newsome will have ample opportunity to mirror superb wide receivers — a mantra for the decorated corner’s first season.