One of the laughing stocks of the NFL for the past decade has been the Cleveland Browns. It was basically a guaranteed victory for your team if they were playing the Browns (especially in 2017 where they went 0-16). Between the constant top draft picks not working out, all the coaching changes and management changes it really seemed like Cleveland would remain as an irrelevant team for years to come. So we thought…
This season continues to throw surprises at us. Between Atlanta collapsing every week, Pittsburgh being undefeated and the Bears 5-2 start, there’s one surprise that is way more relevant than these. What is it? The Cleveland Browns are 5-2 and a contender to make the playoffs this season. This could be the season that Cleveland ends their 18 year playoff drought. Why is it that finally 2020 the Browns are a legit team in the NFL?
Cleveland may have finally found their head coach for the long run in Kevin Stefanski. Stefanski, who was the offensive coordinator in Minnesota previously, brought his offensive mindset to Cleveland and so far it has worked. Before his injury, running back Nick Chubb was thriving in this new offensive and was seriously looking like he was going to run away (pun intended) with the rushing yards title this season. Kareem Hunt has since been the main running back and he’s been looking 100 times better from a season ago. When Chubb returns, Cleveland will have their double headed monster rushing attack once again.
Baker Mayfield is really the only sore spot of this offense. Yes, Baker is coming off of an amazing game against Cincinnati, but it took him almost the entire first quarter to get going. Throwing an interception on the first pass attempt is never good. On top of that, the Browns also lost Odell Beckham Jr. for the season as he tore his ACL trying to make a tackle. On the season however, Baker has thrown for 1,392 yards, 15 touchdowns seven interceptions. It may not look pretty, but this is a huge improvement for Baker. Again, even though he’s the sore spot of the offense, Kevin Stefanski may have already saved Baker’s young career.
Lastly, lets talk defense. When you think of defense for the Cleveland Browns, the first player that comes to mind is Myles Garrett. If you don’t remember, Garrett last year was suspended late in the season for swinging Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph’s helmet at Rudolph’s head at the end of their game. This was because of a scuffle that completed escalated between the both of them. Myles Garrett has been an issue this year for offensive lines. Garrett has nine sacks on the year and isn’t showing any signs of slowing down. Other than Garrett, the secondary has stepped up when needed to. Just like Baker Mayfield, they aren’t the best spot of the team. But, when needed, Denzel Ward rises to the occasion and makes a play for the Browns.
So, has Cleveland figured it out? As we approach the mid way point of the season, it’s looking like they have. But time will only tell once the second half of the season starts.
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-Matt Burnett (@mattthew_jordan on twitter)