Los Angeles, Calif. – The Los Angeles Rams will play their first of four AFC North opponents on primetime in what is being considered a potential Super Bowl preview.
When it comes to the Rams and Browns one thing will always link to the two teams, even if it is just a minor thing – the Rams moved from Cleveland to become the Los Angeles Rams. The two teams also haven’t been the best in the league over the last 15 years.
Schedule: Week 3, 8:20 p.m. ET @ Cleveland
The whole 2018 season for the Cleveland Browns was about developing Baker Mayfield and moving on from Hue Jackson. They did both of those things and did them well. The Browns were one of those scary teams that didn’t have playoffs written all over them but they did have spoiler written on them.
Cleveland kicked off the year in dramatic fashion or rather odd fashion tying their rival Pittsburgh Steelers 21-21 to open the season. The Browns moved forward through the first five games at 2-2-1 while looking like a team that could easily be 5-0. The Browns ran into the juggernaut Los Angeles Chargers in Week 6 and it ended in a 38-14 beatdown. They would lose an overtime thriller to the Buccaneers and then suffer a division tiebreaker blowout loss in Pittsburgh. What would soon follow is the firing of Hue Jackson and promotion of now-head coach Freddie Kitchens.
The team ended up going 2-6-1 until Mayfield and co. got hot and ended up winning five of their last seven games of the season. Mayfield finished with a record-breaking rookie season in which he broke the passing touchdowns in a single rookie season record. The final game of the season was exciting but ultimately the Browns were unable to pull off an upset of the Baltimore Ravens on the road.
Biggest Offseason Gains/Losses
The Browns made a blockbuster trade sending safety Jabrill Peppers and multiple 2019 draft picks to the New York Giants for superstar wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. Beckham has always expressed his claim to want to reunite with his LSU teammate Jarvis Landry. That wasn’t the only trade the Browns made with the Giants, they in fact, traded away pro bowl guard Kevin Zeitler to bolster their pass rush with the acquisition of defensive end Olivier Vernon.
A Look at the Draft
The Browns didn’t have as many assets to utilize in this draft due to the aforementioned Odell Beckham Jr. trade. However, Cleveland did come away with one of the more talented cover corners in this draft Greedy Williams. They didn’t stop there when they acquired Sione Takitaki, the linebacker from BYU in the third round. After that, Cleveland got a lot of value from drafting Miami safety Sheldrick Redwine in the fourth and Alabama linebacker Mack Wilson in the fifth.
Biggest On-Field Question
On paper the Browns are one of the best teams in football. The main question remains, will the Browns play up to that on paper. We’ve seen in the past teams put together a lot of talent and end up being average. The fact of the matter is this is still a second-year quarterback running the offense led by a first-time head coach. It remains to be seen how they handle the pressure, but it’s worth noting Greg Robinson will start at left tackle and be assigned to protect seemingly the franchise’s blindside for 16 games. That might be the biggest concern.
Depth Chart Analysis
Quarterback: Baker Mayfield is a rising star. With Mayfield at the helm, this team has leadership, mobility, improvisation, accuracy and big play ability moving forward.
Running Back: Nick Chubb was last year’s drafted running back and he paid dividends. So much so, the Browns have made Duke Johnson readily available and have already traded Carlos Hyde to the Jacksonville Jaguars. Chubb will still have some competition behind him in the form of star running back Kareem Hunt. Hunt will be suspended to start the season but the former Toledo back is much too talented to stay a backup forever.
Wide Receiver: This receiver group might be the best in football. When you look at the fact it has Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry, Rashard Higgins, Antonio Callaway, and Damion Ratley it’s hard to argue against this group being the best.
Tight End: The Browns have their former first-round pick from 2017, David Njoku, who continues to get better year after year. After that Seth DeValve and Demetrius Harris fill out the tight end room in a solid depth-filled position.
Right Tackle: The former Pittsburgh Steeler Chris Hubbard had a solid season. He came to Cleveland to be the guy moving forward and he got paid as such. The right tackle position could be upgraded but Hubbard is still a solid option.
Left Tackle: We already went over this but Greg Robinson is going to manning the blind-side protector position.
Center: A lot of money was psent on former Packer center JC Tretter to come to Cleveland and lock down the center position. The Browns did just that and the 28-year old Tretter isn’t planning on falling off anytime soon.
Left Guard: Joel Bitonio is one of the best at his position and has shown versatility to play all over the line. Bitonio delivers the Browns that rock-solid option at left guard.
Right Guard: Austin Corbett is a former second-round pick out of Nevada. He’s a talented player and he’s so talented the team decided they could live without their prized free agent Zeitler because of the fact that Corbett was ready to take over.
Defensive End: Olivier Vernon joins Myles Garrett on the edge. Yes, Vernon’s play dipped, but he’s still a very talented pass rusher that is going to make things lethal for opposing teams. With the addition of Vernon, expect Garrett to take his game to another level.
Defensive Tackle: When you talk about how good this team is on paper, and then you see that the Browns added Sheldon Richardson to go with former Charlotte third-round pick Larry Ogunjobi – it’s going to be scary for opposing offenses. Having Trevon Coley as the third defensive interior lineman is not a bad option either.
Linebacker: Joe Schobert, Christian Kirksey, Sione Takitaki, Mack Wilson and of course, Genard Avery – that’s a good looking linebacker crop. Schobert and Kirksey along with Avery are expected to log the most snaps but this team really likes Takitaki, so that’s something to watch.
Defensive Backs: The cornerbacks look really good on paper, sticking with that theme. Denzel Ward, who by all means is one of the best young corners in the game already. Then Cleveland has second-round pick Greedy Williams, TJ Carrie, Terrance Mitchell and seventh-round Tulane cornerback Donnie Lewis Jr.
At the safety position, the Browns continue this trend with Morgan Burnett, Damarious Randall, and rookie Sheldrick Redwine.It’s a young defensive back room, and this team should suffer some growing pains at this position, but if these guys all work – watch out.
2019 Outlook: The Browns are looking to get to the playoffs but make no mistake, they are eyeing a Super Bowl. This team is way too talented on paper. Kitchens appears to be a good offensive mind with a great quarterback who in turn has a great defense. The Browns could very well start their dynasty this year and blow away from everyone.