The Cleveland Browns are preparing to wrap up their second decade in the NFL since returning in 1999. What are the biggest questions surrounding this club?
Perhaps the less said about the recent history of the Cleveland Browns, the better. Yes, the club just wrapped up the second 0-16 season in NFL annals. The team has lost a total of 17 consecutive games dating back to Week 17 of ’16. The club has dropped 49 of its last 53 contests since opening the 2014 season with a 7-4 record.
Current head coach Hue Jackson owns a 1-31 record with the club. But late last year, there was another change to the front office with the hiring of general manager John Dorsey. He’s taken an aggressive approach to restocking this club with talent. And for the first time in a few years, there is some genuine excitement surrounding the team.
Of course, there’s a lot of work to be done if the Browns are going to climb back to respectability. But there appears to be many more positives these days opposed to other recent versions of the club. So what five questions are the most pressing in regards to Jackson’s intriguing squad?
5. Who will emerge as the team’s second-best pass rusher?
Defensive end Myles Garrett is certainly an up-and-comer. The first overall pick in the 2017 NFL draft made his presence felt during his debut campaign. And under defensive coordinator Greg Williams, the Cleveland Browns made serious strides when it came to his specialty. This was a unit that rebounded from finishing in the bottom 3 of the league in rushing defense in three consecutive seasons (2014-16) to ranking seventh in the NFL against the run this past year.
All told, the Browns were 14th in total yards allowed per game. But Hue Jackson’s club wound up allowing a disappointing 42 offensive touchdowns and 25.6 points per contest. A lot of that can be chalked up to the fact that this team couldn’t hang onto the football (NFL-high 41 turnovers) and struggled to come up with the big defensive play (NFL-low 13 takeaways).
Back to Garrett. He finished with a club-high seven sacks in ’17, nearly one-quarter of Cleveland’s total (30). He should be better this year now that he has a year of NFL experience under his shoulder pads. Including the former Texas A&M standout, a total of six players on the team finished with at least four sacks, including outside linebacker James Burgess (4) and end Emmanuel Ogbah (4).
Looking for a suggestion? How about versatile linebacker Mychal Kendricks, picked up from the Philadelphia Eagles after the club released him this offseason. He could wind up in various roles when it comes to Williams’ defense.