What would a strong performance from Cleveland look like?
Heading into the 2019 NFL season, the Cleveland Browns were the most hyped team in the league.
The squad had a prolific young quarterback in Baker Mayfield who put together an impressive rookie campaign the year before, along with talented receivers in Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr. and a star running back in Nick Chubb.
On the defensive side of the ball, they had a great pass-rusher with Myles Garrett and a great cornerback with Denzel Ward.
Despite all the hype surrounding the squad, and an incredibly talented roster, Cleveland disappointed last season going 6-10. They finished third in the division and didn’t even qualify for the playoffs.
Now as the Browns are looking to kickoff their 2020 season in September, they return a great deal of talent from last years’ roster, and also used the draft and free agency to fill some glaring holes.
But there was another change that occurred outside of the roster with the hiring of Kevin Stefanski from the Minnesota Vikings to be the new head coach in Cleveland.
The coaching of previous head man Freddie Kitchens came under a great deal of scrutiny last season, and Stefanski will surely be itching to improve upon the teams’ dismal record from 2019.
While the Browns do seem primed to improve from last season, many are debating on what would result in a successful 2020 season for Cleveland after going into the previous season with such high expectations and then becoming a disappointment.
Some surely still believe that the Browns can seriously compete to win the AFC, but now with how great Kansas City has proven themselves to be, that goal may be a long way off.
The Browns should still be keen on making the playoffs this season
Even winning their division seems like a big challenge with reigning NFL MVP quarterback Lamar Jackson lighting up the gridiron with Cleveland’s division rival, the Baltimore Ravens.
Although the division is tough, the Browns should still find a way to make the playoffs in 2020, which would constitute a successful season for the squad.
Last season, one of the glaring weak spots on the team was the play of the offensive line. By the end of the year, the Browns’ offensive line allowed a massive 41 sacks, and Mayfield was constantly running for his life, along with taking a huge amount of hits.
Cleveland first used free agency to address this problem with signing All-Pro offensive tackle Jack Conklin from the Titans in March. They then used the No. 10 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft to select Alabama offensive tackle Jedrick Wills.
On top of the poor offensive line play that greatly hindered the entire offense, the Browns were playing sloppy on both sides of the ball, which pointed to poor discipline and poor coaching. And the team ended the season ranked No. 4 overall in penalty yards with 1106.
This is part of what led to the firing of Kitchens and the team has made an attempt to remedy that problem by brining in Stefanski who coached a Vikings team that committed very few penalties.
As well as fixing the glaring problems, the Browns have also bolstered some of their strong points, such as adding tight end Austin Hooper to an already talented receiving core. And bringing in quarterback Case Keenum to serve as a solid backup to Mayfield.
Although Cleveland has made some improvements during the offseason, they will still be missing some key pieces from last season like linebacker Joe Schobert, who led the team in tackles, and safety Damarious Randall who departed for the Raiders.
Overall, the Browns seem to be a better team on paper than they were last year. And they shouldn’t be expected to make a championship run, but if they fail to make the playoffs it will be yet another failure of a season for Cleveland.