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NFL Draft

Cleveland Browns’ 2020 Season Will Be Successful If…

  • The Draft Network
  • August 10, 2020
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There were six things to like about the Cleveland Browns last season. Those six wins included a blowout 40-25 win against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 4, which may have been the best thing to happen to the Browns in 2019. Everything else was disastrous.

Quarterback Baker Mayfield regressed in his sophomore season. Freddie Kitchens proved he wasn’t up for head coaching duties. Cleveland ended the year 6-10 and missed the playoffs for the 17th consecutive season.

The Browns have tried to end their terrible skid with Mayfield, who they selected as the first overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft and went from a zero-win season to seven that year. They tried to complete the makeover with the elevation of Kitchens and the addition of top talent when they acquired wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. before the 2019 season. It, however, did not pan out. Cleveland has been so far removed from a successful season that it would seem a .500 record would be enough, but it’s not. In order for the Browns to be successful in 2020, Mayfield has to improve on his way to a playoff berth.

Both things need to happen: Mayfield, if he is the team’s franchise quarterback, has to get back to his rookie form, if not better, and Cleveland needs to end its postseason drought. The Browns changed nearly every aspect of the team to be competitive including the front office and coaching staff while adding an influx of talent via free agency and the draft. They brought in general manager Andrew Berry and head coach Kevin Stefanski, who was reportedly a favorite for the position last year but saw the job fall into Kitchens’ lap. 

Stefanski, who was most recently the Minnesota Vikings’ offensive coordinator, is seen, by some, as one of the better play-callers in the NFL. But he might not be in charge of what has plagued this offense since Mayfield entered the league. Stefanski hasn’t decided who will be in charge of play-calling duties and is leaving multiple options on the table until the scheduled start of the season. Whoever takes over will have an embarrassment of riches to work with. 

The Browns’ offense has six Pro Bowl players alone, which makes it even more maddening that they aren’t better than a six- or seven-win season. While Mayfield is the unquestioned starting quarterback, Cleveland added veteran passer Case Keenum, who has played under Stefanski, as a viable backup. Keenum had his best season (2017) working with Stefanski, who was Minnesota’s quarterbacks coach at the time. Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt man the backfield, with Hunt being one of the best backup running backs in the league. Jarvis Landry and Beckham star in the receiving corps, with rookie Donovan Peoples-Jones in the mix as well. The offensive line even underwent a necessary upgrade with No. 10 overall draft pick Jedrick Wills at left tackle and free-agent addition Jack Conklin on the right side. Cleveland also added depth with rookie center Nick Harris and multiple tight ends (including signing Austin Hooper).

The new-look on defense came largely via the draft. Safety Grant Delpit, who was a second-round pick, is slated to start in the secondary. Defensive lineman Jordan Elliott and linebacker Jacob Phillips were added for depth, although Phillips could see a starting role early. Myles Garrett is the face of this unit and one of the NFL’s elite pass-rushers. He was on pace for a career-high 16-sack season when he was suspended after an on-field incident with Pittsburgh Steelers’ quarterback Mason Rudolph in Week 11. Now reinstated, Garrett will be working under new defensive coordinator Joe Woods.

The Browns’ competitive urgency should be renewed with all of the additions, but their expectations should be managed. There might not be a deep playoff run or even a playoff win, but seeing better quarterback play and a postseason berth will give Cleveland some hope for the future.

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