Editors Note: OurTurf Football has had a great, long-time friendship with Russell Baxter and we were honored when he asked a few of our writers to do team season previews for his website, PFG Vibe/ProFootballGuru. OTFB’s Kate Arhar wrote up her thoughts on the upcoming season for the Cleveland Browns. The article was originally published on Aug 27, 2019, and can be seen here.
2019 Cleveland Browns Preview
By Kate Arhar (@ClvlndK8)
Special to Pro Football Guru
Even with a first-time head coach, new offensive coordinator and new defensive coordinator, the Cleveland Browns have never engendered higher hopes among their fans than they have in this off-season. While a 7-8-1 record is not usually something to give one much hope, the Browns were a combined 1-31 for the two previous seasons.
Their woes at the quarterback position are the stuff of legend – and ESPN film reels. But the drafting of quarterback Baker Mayfield seems to have changed all that. For the first time in my memory, and I’ve been following the Browns since 1975, the talent on this roster may actually be up to the challenge of meeting the fans expectations.
Offense: QB Baker Mayfield. RB Nick Chubb. WR Odell Beckham Jr. WR Jarvis Landry. TE David Njoku. To you, it’s just a list of names. But for the Browns, it’s the most starting offensive talent this team has had in 20 years. Seriously.
The biggest concern at this point is the offensive line, as they have still not found a consensus replacement at left tackle for pro-bowler Joe Thomas. While left guard Joel Bitonio and center JC Tretter are holding solid to their positions, there seems to be some shuffling going on between Greg Robinson, Chris Hubbard and Austin Corbett.
The loss of Kevin Zeitler as part of the Beckham trade has raised concern for pocket integrity to protect Mayfield and being able to effectively create gaps for Chubb.
Defense: New defensive coordinator Steve Wilks (formerly head coach of Arizona Cardinals) has a lot of talent to work with on this unit. DE Myles Garrett and CB Denzel Ward are highly touted but the additions of DE Olivier Vernon, DT Sheldon Richardson and S Morgan Burnett in the off-season make things much more solid. Now factor in draft picks Greedy Williams, Mack Wilson and Sione Takitaki who are already making an impact and you can see that this unit has greatly improved.
Turnovers became a fun stat to track last year as they finished with 31 takeaways. The biggest problem they had was tackling. It was awful, abysmal, horrible, frankly, embarrassing. Ward spent too much time off the field with head injuries due to poor tackling techniques. Long runs, 15+ yard third down conversions, and giving up big plays was clearly a result of their tackling woes. Wilks MUST get that fixed before the season starts.
Special Teams: The kicking game has drawn much attention across the NFL during the past couple season and that is no different here. Greg Joseph is battling for his job against 7th round draft pick Austin Seibert. And right now, neither one is winning. The bright spot has been Jamie Gillan, aka The Scottish Hammer. I have no clue what a “Reverse Banana Kick” is but I know I’d love to see one used in a game!
Prediction: The Bengals don’t pose much of a threat to win the division. I’m not trying to be mean, just realistic. And frankly, the Steelers are getting older and especially after missing the post-season last year, it looks like the Ravens are the biggest threat in the division. That being said, if the Browns manage to actually live up to the hype, if head coach Freddie Kitchens can get some magic going in his first year as an NFL head coach, this team could be something special.
The toughest games on their schedule are LA Rams week 3 and Seattle Seahawks week 6. The only way they make it to double-digit wins this year is to find a way to be 4-2 at they head into their week 7 Bye. And oddly enough, the schedule makers put five of their six divisions games into the last seven weeks of the season. So, this whole thing will come down to the wire! I can’t wait!
Win-Loss Record: 11-5 (1st Place in the AFC North, they should make it through the first round of the playoffs but I don’t have much hope for after that)