Cleveland needs to straighten out their situation at QB. Will Baker be the same after surgery? He can run the ball with the better QBs in the league, and doesn’t turn the ball over – that’s something that brings structure to the Cleveland Browns. He is a 26 year old guy with the opportunity of being a guy stepping in and being the guy, unless he gets outplayed, as being the next QB for the Browns. He has struggled with pushing the ball downfield at times, as his 6.7 YPA has shown, but on the whole, he is going to be a better QB for the Browns, than what they have tried to establish over the last many, many seasons. As they had gone through 9 different starting QBs over the last 10 years.
Every time the Browns take the field to play a game in the NFL there’s never seemingly a question of if the Browns will win – but more of just how badly will they get beaten? As the Browns have been among one of the most inept and pitiful franchises in the league for many seasons, not having a 10 win season since 2007 – and only 2 seasons with 10 or more since 1989.
Then, they drafted Baker Mayfield from Oklahoma at the #1 spot in the 2017 draft. Baker Mayfield comes with his own baggage and fire, but if the roll of the dice pans out, they could have a Brees-like player that can lead the team with confidence and skill. Worst case scenario, they draft the next Johnny Manziel and they have a bench player as their top pick draft pick – not perfect, but having low turnover Taylor as their other QB plan isn’t the worst situation to be in. And as of the pre-season, Baker has shown some definite flashes of being a good player for them.
Defensively, Cleveland addressed some big issues that definitely needed to be addressed, when they drafted Myles Garrett from Texas A&M and Jabrill Peppers from Michigan. Garrett has given them push and has been anything but bad at the DE position, giving them strong pass rush. Cleveland’s defense has been nothing short of awful with 9 games giving up 27 or more in 2017 – and putting them 31st in the league giving up 25.6 ppg. But having a utilitarian guy like Jabrill Peppers planted in their secondary is a great addition to bring some hope to Cleveland.
Over the last 3 years, the Browns have been sludging along with a pitiful team rank for opponents 26.9/game. Cleveland looks to have at least made a serious effort to fix that with Peppers and Garrett. Getting a pass rush at the DE spot is essential for any team to compete and having a talented guy with some very good coverage abilities like Peppers brings is a huge benefit. They look to have a team that is attempting to be ready to show up during the game now, and compete with their opponents when they step onto the field. Cleveland DC Gregg Williams, has looked to have made some definitive progress for his defense.
The Cleveland Oline has been getting demolished- when their guys aren’t getting open on their routes – it isn’t giving their QB any time to find a guy to throw the ball to, as they have given up 169 sacks since 2015 including 50 in 2017. Players had been trying to hold their own, trying to keep their terrified QBs upright, but their line potential has been looking dark. The Browns offensive line has been a wet paper bag while giving up a lot of free runs to opponents – and their RBs have been gaining a very average 4.1 YPC. Cleveland has to make some serious adjustments with better running and better blocking and it will take more than a few games for the Browns to build something the team can feel solid about.
On of the things, I look at with admiration for this dismal franchise, is they actually seemed to still play with some protection of pride and unity. They always play tough as nails. That says a lot for any team. As we all know, Cleveland hasn’t won a bunch of games, with only 4 W’s over the last 3 seasons – but showing up and at least swinging back when on the field, says a lot for the teams character.
Playing in the tough and gritty AFC North is no small task. As the division has obviously been the Steelers division for 3 of the last 4 seasons. And the Ravens are that scrappy team that no-one really wants to deal with because of their defense and their tendency to find a way to get 9 or 10 wins every season, somehow. The Bengals show up and roll in every year – which is the first stop for Cleveland to try and get around. The Bengals have only been playing mediocre ball for years, as they are seemingly splitting apart at the seams. They are primed for the takedown – and Cleveland is pushing along with some young talent, a new hope – and a dedication to the very near future.
The division has been brutal for the Browns, as Cleveland has not finished out of the bottom over the last 5 years. Fans are getting frustrated with knowing where the team will be ending up after every single season. They need to start by taking down the weakest of the teams – and like it or not, that weak link is Cincinnati. Every single year, the same thing plays out, high draft picks, draft busts from the previous years picks, and hoping for 3-4 wins, – it never fails.
If the Browns are truly looking to make that huge turnaround – now is the time.
They have had more of their share of busts with their draft picks over the last several seasons. RB Trent Richardson, NT Danny Shelton and QB Johnny Manziel have all fallen to the wayside – with the painful reality that none of them were ready to play NFL football and top the Vegas odds.
I feel that in 2-3 years time, the Steelers and an aging QB and the Ravens are not a lock down dominant team – the Browns could be back to at least being in the mix, very soon. Cleveland will wont have an easier task going forward having to face both the Ravens and Bengals in their division. Due to the fact they have some hope and WR talent like Jarvis Landry and Josh Gordon, some serious RB help in Nick Chubb. If they can stay healthy they’ll be a threat next season in the NFL.