Cleveland Browns

Can The Browns Be Fixed In 2020?

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By Kyle Fahey February 28, 2020 1 Comment
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Though 2019 was one of the best years in Browns history (that’s sad but it’s true) it seemed that everything that could go wrong did go wrong. Let’s look at where things went wrong in the dawg pound and how it can be fixed this off season.

Offense: The Browns went into 2019 with the assumption that they were going to have one of the most explosive offenses in the league. The then General Manager John Dorsey went out and acquired play makers like Odell Beckham Jr and signed Kareem Hunt. Baker Mayfield was primed to make his second-year jump after impressing late in his rookie year and new Head Coach Freddie Kitchens had the offense rolling in 2018 during his tenure as play-caller.

Defense: Much like the Browns offense… the Browns defense was expected to be very good. Myles Garrett was coming off a great 2018, Oliver Vernon was added to be his running mate, Denzel Ward was showing great promise and many veteran depth additions suggested that they would be ready for anything.

What Happened: Leadership was one of the biggest problems all year for the Browns. Head Coach Freddie Kitchens lost the locker room around mid-season and ultimately lost the trust of his QB Baker Mayfield. Veteran players like Jarvis Laundry and Odell Beckham Jr were reportedly doing anything in their power to get out of the dawg pound. And the on the field the product just wasn’t good enough. Baker Mayfield struggled quite a bit in his second year despite the increase in talent around him. The offensive line was putrid at times and didn’t help the lack of production and explosiveness on offense. The defense was riddled with injuries and clearly missed their former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.

How to Fix the Browns:

1)  Attack the Offensive Line this Offseason

The 2019 Browns offensive line was ranked 23rd in the league and was arguably the biggest problem for the Browns all year. The Browns and new General Manager Andrew Berry hold the 10th pick in the 2020 draft and should be in prime position to grab one of the many blue-chip talents to help their offensive line.

 

With LT Greg Robinson likely going to prison (and just being a bad football player) prospects like Andrew Thomas (Georgia) and Mekhi Becton (Louisville) should be at the top of their board. Beyond the draft, the Browns should look to Free Agency and target RT Jack Conklin (Titans) who would help sure up their right side. Some names to also watch for are Lloyd Crushenberry III, Jedrik Wills, and Daryl Williams.

2)  Install Confidence back into Baker Mayfield

Confidence is not something Baker Mayfield naturally lacks. At his best Mayfield is swagger personified, tiger print and planting flags in the middle of College Football holy flags immediately come to mind. But if the Browns want to get on track early in 2020, they must get Mayfield rolling early.

 

Mayfield was the first overall pick back in 2018 and frankly has been getting beat out by most of his fellow 2018 QB draftees. Lamar Jackson dominated the NFL (and the AFC North) in his first year as a full-time starter, Josh Allen helped get his Buffalo Bills to the playoffs, and Sam Darnold has been the pulse of the Jets offense despite working with next to nothing. All three QBs had a better record than Mayfield in year two despite working with less around them. Baker supporters can rightfully point to Freddie Kitchens, putrid offensive line play, and young mistakes that held Mayfield back, but for the Cleveland Browns to succeed and be a legit title contender… Baker Mayfield must come into 2020 with his Oklahoma attitude and show the league (and the Browns) why he was the first overall pick.

 

3)  Make it impossible for Kevin Stefanski to fail

The Cleveland Browns had a window of about five years from when they drafted Myles Garrett (yes, Myles Garrett not Baker Mayfield) to be a winner. They are now entering year four of Garrett’s rookie contract and it won’t matter how many skulls Garrett cracks… he is going to get paid a lot of money. Why does this matter for Kevin Stefanski? Well, Myles Garrett is going to get paid a crippling amount of money and will be followed up by Baker Mayfield, Denzel Ward, and Nick Chubb who are all slated for decently sized contracts at highly paid positions. This means that these next two years for Kevin Stefanski and the Browns are the “prove it” years for players of Garrett’s caliber to stick around in the dawg pound and possibly consider taking a hometown discount to stay put. Losing any of those core players… especially Garrett (Edge), Mayfield (QB), or Ward (CB) … will likely put even more distance between the Browns and contending.

 

Kevin Stefanski walks into Cleveland with an eerily similar situation (talent-wise) to what he had in Minnesota. A middle of the pack QB who can get it done when needed, two phenomenal receivers, an elite level running back, a dependable tight end, and a shaky offensive line. Stefanski helped the Vikings get to the playoffs last season and historically has been credited with helping QBs get their full potential unlocked under his tutelage (Keenum and Cousins) and is more than capable of doing that with Mayfield as well.

 

General Manager Andrew Berry is obviously aware of his future circumstances cap-wise and must collaborate with Stefanski to make this work at all cost with the risk of another rebuild on the horizon. I’d expect the Browns to be even more aggressive than the last offseason, both Coach and GM need to prove to Ownership that they mean business… and the best way for Andrew Berry to do that is to make it impossible for Stefanski to fail.

 

Offensive line help must be in abundance, Stefanski can’t run into the same problems he had in Minnesota on the offensive line. If this means the first three picks in 2020 are dedicated to the offensive line… then so be it. Luckily for both Stefanski and Berry, this offense is already loaded, the defense is rounded enough but in need of some pieces, and ownership is not afraid to spend in order to make the playoffs.

 

Overall the Browns are in a weird middle ground. They have pieces that other teams around the league would sell their soul for but at the same time are on the horizon of cap hell or a complete rebuild. It will be interesting to see how Baker Mayfield and the Browns will fair this season and offseason. Be excited Browns fans, you’re not too far off the title path.

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1 Comments

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Thomas Kaylor

February 29, 2020

Very well written. Cleveland needs to address the significant issues on the O-line, and I would like for them to get another piece in that secondary

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