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Browns notebook: Mack Wilson, Donovan Peoples-Jones among intriguing young players

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After a knee injury hampered him for much of the 2020 season, Cleveland Browns linebacker Mack Wilson appears primed for a strong rebound.

The third-year pro has looked explosive and disruptive and is having his best training camp since entering the NFL as a fifth-round pick out of Alabama.

It’s a welcome sight for the Browns and feeling for Wilson, who told reporters earlier in training camp that his lingering injuries last season took such a mental toll on him that he considered retiring.

“Mentally, we go through a lot as football players. When I got hurt, it was one of my worst moments in my life,” Wilson said during a recent news conference. “Just coming back, I never felt like I was myself. I did not feel like I was producing on the field. I could not move like I wanted to. I was missing plays that I knew I should make. I was in a dark place. I was able to climb back because that is what true fighters do. I am happy where I am at right now, but there is still work to do.”

Cleveland Browns linebacker Mack Wilson (51) runs a drill during training camp at CrossCountry Mortgage Campus.
Cleveland Browns linebacker Mack Wilson (51) runs a drill during training camp at CrossCountry Mortgage Campus.

Wilson has worked as the starting weakside linebacker during training camp. He suffered a sprained shoulder earlier this week but returned to take part in individual drills on Wednesday.

The team hopes that a healthy Wilson can help further solidify a Browns defense looking for a breakthrough after ranking 17th in the NFL last season. Based on his start to camp, the 6-1, 240-pound Wilson seems primed to do so.

McDowell’s comeback quest

Defensive tackle Malik McDowell has started to turn heads in Cleveland this summer as he seeks redemption on and off the football field.

Drafted in the second round of the 2017 draft by Seattle, the 6-6, 295-pound Michigan State product sustained a head injury in an ATV crash and never wound up playing for the Seahawks after being placed on the non-football injury list.

In February of 2019, McDowell was involved in an altercation with a police officer in Michigan and was charged with assault, resisting arrest and operating a vehicle while intoxicated. Later that year, he was arrested and charged with receiving and concealing stolen property after police found a stolen car in his possession. He was sentenced to 11 months in prison and was suspended by the NFL for the first two weeks of the 2019 season. The Browns elected to give McDowell a shot, signing him to a one-year deal this past March.

Working his way back into football shape has had its hiccups, as a hamstring injury hampered him in OTAs and a rib injury sidelined him last week. But McDowell, who got off to a promising start in training camp, returned to the practice field this week, and the Browns remain intrigued by what he has to offer.

Battling for a spot on a crowded defensive line, McDowell has shown flashes of the potential that made him the 35th overall pick of the 2017 draft.

DPJ ready for next step?

One player that seems primed for a year of growth is wide receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones, the Browns 2020 sixth-round pick out of Michigan.

The 6-2, 204-pounder has made a number of eye-catching plays during training camp and aims to carry that momentum over into the remainder of the preseason and regular season.

Peoples-Jones is displaying a better understanding of how to better use his size to his advantage.

Peoples-Jones recorded 14 catches for 304 yards and two touchdown passes as a rookie. Now he has a chance to carve out a key role in the Cleveland offense, where opportunities should present themselves with defenses devoting attention to stopping Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr.

Follow USA TODAY Sports' Mike Jones on Twitter @ByMikeJones.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Cleveland Browns: Mack Wilson, Donovan Peoples-Jones stand out