Tuesday, October 20, 2020

State of the Franchise – Cleveland Browns

It is a fair assumption that last season was surrounded by hype and disappointment for the Cleveland Browns. After a huge build-up in the preseason and the signing of some huge names, coupled with the outstanding performance from first-year QB Baker Mayfield, people had high hopes that the ailing Browns fans may see their team finally reach a playoff position.

As a Browns fan, I was hoping for more after going 0-16 the season before, but as always, we fell short at the first hurdle. As we approach the new NFL season, we take a look at the Browns and how they can overcome disappointment and what we can expect to see this season.

The questions surrounding Cleveland Browns QB Baker Mayfield

Cleveland Browns QB Baker Mayfield needs a bounce back season
Cleveland Browns QB Baker Mayfield needs a bounce back season

The 2018 first round pick has his share of haters and critics. To many, it seems he is more concerned about making TV commercials and signing sponsorship deals than he is about translating his team from the punch bag of the league to legitimate contenders for the Lombardi Trophy.

I have and always will be a huge fan of Baker Mayfield. After breaking the rookie record for touchdowns and showing slices of brilliance in his rookie year, it is no wonder that the Browns fans and organisation had huge faith in him moving forward. Freddie Kitchens was promoted to Head Coach from Offensive Coordinator after meshing with Mayfield and bringing out his full potential.

The blockbuster signing of OBJ gave Mayfield additional weapons alongside Jarvis Landry and David Njoku. On paper, the Browns have all the hallmarks of one of the best offences in the year, however, as Colin Cowherd from the Herd said on many occasions; it’s just a roster of guys!

The signing of veteran QB Case Keenum is a great addition to the Browns for two reason. The first, and probably most obvious reason is that it provides a legitimate fallback plan for Kevin Stefanski should Mayfield fall apart. The other reason is due to his experience. I have always been a huge advocate for allowing rookie quarterbacks to sit behind a veteran and learn how to transition into the league. This worked well for both Aaron Rodgers and Patrick Mahomes. With Keenum guiding Mayfield and helping him to mature both as a player and a leader, we can expect great things from the young signal caller next year.

Repair the offensive line

The writing was on the wall early last season when the Cleveland Browns were struggling to find assets to bolster their offensive line just before for the start of the official season. As a result, Mayfield spent more time being hurried in the pocket and being floored by opposing defences that he did making outstaning plays.

After Stefanski took the helm, the first big addition he made was signing Jack Conklin to Right Tackle from the Tennessee Titans and drafting Jedrick Wills Jr with the 10th pick of the draft, who will probably go on to fill the hole at Left tackle left by Joe Thomas when he retired. The addition of these two stud linesmen will help Mayfield stay on his feet and help him to make plays downfield.

Improving the offensive line will also help them expand on the already outstanding running game. Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt have the potential to become one of the best running back duo’s in the league (a bold call I know!) which also helps to expand Stefanski’s play calling options and keeps opposing defences on their toes.

Jedrick Wills will help solidify the Cleveland Browns offensive line
Jedrick Wills will help solidify the Cleveland Browns offensive line

Defence, Defence, Defence

Allowing Joe Schoebert to walk during free agency was both a huge blow and massive disappointment to the Browns organisation. Not only did they loose easily one of their best Linebackers, but they also lost their leader on defense. As a result, it’s time for the rest of the defense to step up to the plate and show the NFL what we are capable of.

Myles Garrett is easily their best player on defense and also has the potential to become the new leader of the defense if he can show restraint and not hit opposing QB’s over the head with their own helmet. The Browns drafted Grant Delpit in the second round, a steal which will help rookie Greedy Williams bring his full potential to the organization and bolster up a leaky secondary.

However, adding first-class talent to the defense is all well and good, but Stefanski must find a way to ensure that those players remain with the Cleveland Browns when their contracts are due to expire.

Finally, one of the biggest issues I had with the Browns last year was their lack of discipline on the field. The amount of yards given up via penalties in their first game of last season was, to be frank, embarrassing. Stefanski needs to establish a culture of hard work and discipline early on to ensure the Browns remain calm and collected. Reducing the amount of penalty flags will help move the chains and allow them to score more points. I know this sounds extremely straightforward, but it is one of the biggest issues that needs to be addressed going forwards.

Looking forward to 2020, the Cleveland Browns have had a complete overhaul after firing both Freddie Kitchens and John Dorsey, hiring Kevin Stefanski and Andrew Berry to take over the reins. So far, both men have proven themselves as clear headed leaders after making some outstanding signings during Free Agency and drafting the right players for the organisation.

The Browns also have one of the most forgiving schedules in the league, however, a win over the Ravens, Bengals and Washington in the first three weeks will help establish a good base as they go on to play the Cowboys in Week 4. If the Browns are careful, then they could easily book a playoff place by Christmas.

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