Wishing Time Would…Hurry for the Browns
Okay, so I typically post informative posts on either writing, what I learn from marketing my own work, Northern Knights, themes from Northern Knights, and Global Conspiracies. But every now and again I like focusing on something off-topic.
I know some of you like this and others just scroll by, it’s hit or miss, but it’s very important to post the occasional fun post in the midst of all the work I’ve been doing getting my little book business up and moving.
Today, I want to make a few predictions on my Cleveland Browns. Now, many of you have seen how I posted my seasonal predictions last month and had them going 11-5, which isn’t going to happen. The 11-5 and AFC North Title is nothing more than a guarantee I made last year and I’m holding up to it.
My Real Thoughts About the Browns
Record-wise, I’m saying 7-9. The Browns are much better off this year than last, and just took another step closer by trading receiver Corey Coleman to Buffalo for a 7th round pick. While some may laugh at this, it tells me they wanted him gone and someone, either Rashard Higgins or Antonio Callaway, has been stepping up big.
The Browns in 2018
For one, I see 7-9 as a realistic goal. This time last year, the Browns, from a Triplet (quarterback-running back-receiver standpoint) had DeShone Kizer, Isaiah Crowell, and Corey Coleman. This group may’ve won a couple games in the CFL.
This year, the Browns have Tyrod Taylor, who is literally a polar opposite of Kizer, Carlos Hyde (though Nick Chubb will be here by the end of the season), and Jarvis Landry.
Here are some mind-boggling stats:
About the Browns Offense
Like I said, Taylor is a polar opposite of Kizer. In fact, Taylor turned the ball over fewer than any other quarterback in the league second only to a man named Brady. Taylor also led a very mediocre Bills team to the playoffs, where they narrowly lost to the Jacksonville Jaguars, who went on to the AFC Championship Game.
Hyde isn’t the most durable nor the greatest back, but as mentioned, he’s keeping the seat warm for Chubb. Also, don’t be surprised if the Swiss Army Knife, Duke Johnson, takes the spot here. Johnson finished third behind Le’Veon Bell and Christian McCaffery in receptions among running backs in 2017.
Landry led the league in receptions with 112. While his 8.8 yards-per-reception is meager, he has solid hands and finds ways to get open, very reminiscent of former NFL Great Wes Welker, who also played a few seasons in Miami before going elsewhere. Landry also holds the NFL record for most career receptions in any players’ first four seasons in the league with 400.
While the Browns lost Future Hall of Famer Joe Thomas, the line has also improved. Filling in for Thomas in 2018 is Joel Bitonio, also a former Pro Bowler. Austin Corbett lines up beside Bitonio, JC Tretter returns at center, Kevin Zeitler will be at right guard, and coming from the Pittsburgh Steelers is Chris Hubbard at right tackle.
Right tackle plagued the Browns last season, as did left tackle when Thomas went down with a torn triceps. Now, both positions have been addressed.
The Browns’ offense led the league in turnovers in 2017, but with sure-handed receivers like Landry, a fantastic game manager in Taylor, and an improved offensive line, the offense is sure to click on all cylinders.
Offensive Depth Chart
Here’s my projected Week One Depth Chart:
Quarterback: Taylor…Baker Mayfield…Drew Stanton
Running Back 1: Hyde…Duke Johnson*
Running Back 2: Chubb…Duke Johnson
Receiver 1: Landry…Rashard Higgins
Receiver 2: Josh Gordon…Antonio Callaway
Receiver 3: Duke Johnson…C.J. Board
Tight-end: David Njoku…Darren Fells…Seth DeValve
Left Tackle: Bitonio…Greg Robinson
Left Guard: Corbett…Austin Reiter
Center: JC Tretter…Austin Reiter
Right Guard: Zeitler…Spencer Drango
Right Tackle: Chris Hubbard…Shon Coleman
*Duke Johnson has been playing slot receiver in addition to running back.
Look for Baker Mayfield to make an appearance or two if the Browns are out of contention by December. If anything, Mayfield may see time in Week Seventeen. If the Browns are out of it early, look for him to start after the bye-week.
Nick Chubb will lead the Browns in rushing yards. Hyde has struggled to stay on the field all sixteen games and Chubb will claim the starting job for himself. Chubb is durable other than missing most of 2015 with a serious knee injury; he has proven he can stay healthy.
Josh Gordon is spending time in Gainesville, Florida focusing on rehab. It’s clear that he neither failed a drug test nor is suspended, and it’s simply part of his treatment plan. Word has it he’ll be back before the season opener, if not sooner.
Antonio Callaway and Rashard Higgins have reportedly had good camps, which might explain the Coleman trade. Also, Dez Bryant rumors have also been circulating. Is this a sign? And, as noted above, Duke Johnson has been seeing time at slot receiver.
David Njoku is listed at the top of the depth chart for tight-ends. That’s big, because he suffered a four-drop practice last week, but he’s reportedly come back on form over the past eight days.
What can I say about the D?
Myles Garrett, Trevon Coley, Jamie Meder, and Emmanuel Ogbah make up a deadly front four. However, Coley went down with a high-ankle sprain and his status for the season opener is in question. That’s a blow, because Coley’s performance in 2017 led the Browns to trade away Danny Shelton to New England. However, the Browns have depth at defensive line, and a lot of it.
As for the linebackers, we have a lot, and I mean a lot of depth, just as much as the defensive line. So much depth, in fact, many around the NFL are stating it’s unfair for the Browns’ linebackers to have so much depth. Hey, they’ve gone 1-34 since December 2015; there’s nothing to apologize about. Anyway, Jamie Collins is a former Pro Bowler and Joe Schobert made his first Pro Bowl in 2017. Christian Kirksey is a willing tackler whose been a steady starter since his rookie season in 2014. Behind them are James Burgess, who could start on any roster. Ditto for Michal Kendricks, who comes over from Philadelphia. And don’t forget about Genard Avery, the rookie fifth-round pick.
And the defensive backs look scary, too, also with depth all over the place. At corner, we have rookie first-round pick Denzel Ward, Terrence Mitchell, T.J. Carrie, and E.J. Gaines. None of these players were in a Browns uniform in 2017, and all were playmaking corners.
At safety, Jabrill Peppers returns to his familiar spot at strong safety, and is ahead of backup Derrick Kindred at the moment. However, both can play the position well. Peppers was a free safety in 2017 and was not comfortable; he’s a box safety in the mold of Marc Barron and Deonne Buchanan, meaning don’t be surprised if he’s a hybrid linebacker/safety. At free safety is Demarious Randall, who comes over from Green Bay.
The entire secondary, minus Peppers, has been made over.
Defensive Depth Chart
Here’s my projected depth chart for Week One:
DE: Garrett…Chris Smith…Nate Orchard
DT: Jamie Meder…Caleb Brantley
DT: Trevon Coley (Q)…Larry Ogunjobi
DE: Ogbah…Chad Thomas…Carl Nassib
OLB: Christian Kirksey…Genard Avery
MLB: Joe Schobert…Michal Kendricks
OLB: Jamie Collins…James Burgess
The Browns gave up the second most amount of points in 2017, but these numbers are misleading considering the number of turnovers in 2017. Far too many times, the offense started with the ball in Cleveland territory.
The Browns were routinely gashed in the secondary with Peppers playing out of position and the corners no more than mediocre starters who’d likely have been backups on other teams (Jamar Taylor, Jason McCourty, Boddy-Calhoun).
This season, both Peppers and Boddy-Calhoun are in their correct positions, while Denzel Ward is believed to have been the quickest corner in the NFL Draft, while Gaines, Mitchell, and Carrie combined for eight interceptions in 2017.
The run defense ranked 7th in the league, and much of it was Danny Shelton’s ability to plug the gaps. This season, Shelton’s in New England, so General Manager John Dorsey is gambling on Coley, Meder, Brantley, and Ogunjobi to continue their impressive play from a season ago. If it doesn’t work, Dorsey has some explaining to do.
For me, I see the Browns’ defense playing even better football for two reasons:
1) The offense is light years better than they were a season ago, where not a single quarterback that won a game was on the opening day roster. They won’t be turning the ball over like they were in 2017.
2) The secondary is much improved. Dorsey brought in four new corners and traded for Randall, allowing Peppers to move back to strong safety.
3) Keep in mind, the unit ranked 14th in 2017 and boasted a 7th ranked run defense. Not half-bad for an 0-16 franchise.
Will the Browns be better?
Can they make the playoffs?
I’m not counting on it, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they snuck in as a fifth or sixth seed.
Offensive MVP? Landry.
Defensive MVP? Garrett.
Pro Bowlers? Landry, Bitonio, Garrett, Schobert.
Deviation? 5-11 to the low end, 9-7 to the high end.
Points Scored? 350 (21.8 per game)
Points Allowed? 385 (24.06 per game)
Division Record? 2-4
Conference Record? 5-7
Vs. NFC? 2-2
Division Finish? 3rd.
Will Hue Jackson remain? Yes, unless someone absolutely hot hits the coaching market.