Cleveland Browns 2019 Season Preview
By Kate Arhar
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 this offseason. While a 7-8-1 record is not usually something to give one much hope, the Browns were a combined 1-31 the two previous seasons. Their woes at the quarterback position are the stuff of legend – and ESPN film reels. But the drafting of Baker Mayfield seems to have changed all that. For the first time in memory (and this writer has been following the Browns since 1975), the talent on this roster may actually be up to the challenge of meeting the fans expectations.
Offense: Quarterback Baker Mayfield, running back Nick Chubb, wide receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry and tight end may be just a list of names to some. 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 10-time Pro Bowler Joe Thomas. While left guard Joel Bitonio and center J.C. 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 right guard Kevin Zeitler as part of the Beckham trade has raised concern in terms of protecting 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. Defensive end Myles Garrett and cornerback Denzel Ward are highly touted but the additions of end Olivier Vernon, interior defender Sheldon Richardson and safety Morgan Burnett were solid moves. Factor in 2019 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. In 2018, the Browns finished second in the NFL with 31 takeaways. The biggest problem the team had was tackling. It was awful, abysmal, horrible and frankly, embarrassing. Wilks must get that fixed before the season starts.
Special Teams: The kicking game has drawn much attention across the NFL the past couple of seasons and that is no different here. Greg Joseph is battling for his job against seventh-round draft pick Austin Seibert. And right now, neither one is winning. The bright spot has been Jamie Gillan, aka The Scottish Hammer. No clue what a “Reverse Banana Kick” but it would be fascinating to see it in a game.
Prediction: Realistically, the Bengals don't pose much of a threat to win the division. And frankly, the Steelers are getting older and especially after missing the postseason last year. So it looks like the Ravens are the biggest threat. That being said, if the Browns manage to actually live up to the hype and if 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 the Rams (Week 3) and Seahawks (Week 6). The Browns will play five of their six division games during the final seven weeks of the season. Look for it to come down to the wire, and…
Win-Loss Record: 11-5 (1st Place, AFC North, reach divisional playoffs)