The New Look Cleveland Browns
It has been twelve years since the Cleveland Browns have had a winning record. It has been sixteen years since they have even made the playoffs. For years, the state of the Browns’ organization has been a dumpster fire. But going into this season, the attitude around the team has changed.
Since taking over the job in 2017, general manager John Dorsey has taken the right steps in making the Browns a respectable organization once again. After going 1-31 over the 2016 and 2017 seasons, it was time to make some drastic changes. Now coming into 2019, the Browns have one of the most talented rosters in the NFL.
After serving as the running backs coach last season, Freddie Kitchens was promoted to head coach. Kitchens was someone that Baker Mayfield was comfortable with, which was a large part of his hiring process. In his first season, Kitchens will be given an array of weapons to work with. How he works with this talent should determine his future as head coach of the new-look Cleveland Browns.
From Tim Couch to Johnny Manziel, the Browns have struggled when it comes to finding a franchise quarterback. It now feels like they have finally found their guy in 2018 number one overall pick, Baker Mayfield. Mayfield jumped onto the scene last season throwing for 3,725 yards and an NFL rookie record of 27 touchdown passes in just 13 games started. He led Cleveland to a 7-8-1 record, their most wins since 2014. The former Heisman Trophy winner has brought a new attitude to the Browns and plays with a huge chip on his shoulder. Coming into his second season, history has shown us how effective sophomore quarterbacks can be. Players such as Carson Wentz and Patrick Mahomes broke out in a huge way in their second seasons, and I anticipate Mayfield to do the same. Perhaps even more impressive than the former Oklahoma quarterback is the pieces around him.
Arguably the biggest move of the off-season has been the acquisition of star wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. The Browns traded for Beckham Jr. on March 12th in exchange for safety Jabril Peppers and draft picks. Since being selected 12th overall in 2014 by the New York Giants, Beckham Jr. has proven to be one of the most talented receivers this league has ever seen. The LSU product posted big numbers despite having average quarterback production from Eli Manning. The Baker Mayfield-Beckham Jr. connection could become the most lethal quarterback-receiver duo in the NFL. Banking on the progression of Mayfield, Odell is set to have a monster season if he stays healthy.
Beckham Jr. won’t be the only LSU receiver doing big things for the Browns this season. Jarvis Landry is coming off a solid 976 yard, 4 touchdown season where he was keyed on by opposing defenses. With the addition of his former college teammate, the focus will be primarily based on him, setting up Landry for a potential sneaky good season. Along with Landry and Beckham, the Browns will also have young talent with Antonio Callaway and tight end David Njoku to round out Mayfield’s receiving corps.
The Browns can also be very dangerous on the ground. In his rookie season, Nick Chubb solidified himself as the starting running back, putting up 996 yards with 8 touchdowns. Also joining the backfield will be former Kansas City Chiefs Pro Bowl running back, Kareem Hunt. Hunt will be suspended eight games before he can suit up due to domestic violence charges dating back to 2018. Once Hunt is activated, this should be a dangerous backfield that will significantly open up the play-action game.
On the defensive side of the ball, Cleveland is very solid. Myles Garrett will look to anchor the defensive line coming off with an impressive season that involved 13.5 sacks. The linebacking corp of newly acquired Olivier Vernon and Christian Kirksey will be an effective, versatile duo as well. The secondary is where this defense will be at their strongest. With promising second-year corner Denzel Ward leading the group, opposing quarterbacks will have to be careful when trying to chop up this secondary. Along with Ward, the group will rely on Terrance Mitchell, Morgan Burnett, Demarius Randle, and rookie Greedy Williams to carry the rest of the load.
This will be a different year for the Cleveland Browns. Different as in they actually have high expectations. The sky's the limit for this talented Browns squad. This team will go as far as Baker Mayfield takes them. Having the outgoing, confident quarterback under center for a full season will be as entertaining as anything in the NFL this season. Add Odell Beckham Jr. to the mix and you have something special brewing in Cleveland, Ohio.