The upcoming Cleveland Browns campaign will be an ode to old-school football. At least for the first 11 games.
The suspension of newly-acquired quarterback Deshaun Watson will mean an increased reliance on the run game and defense, two of their strengths. That won’t be enough for the Browns to earn a playoff spot, leaving little value in backing Cleveland at +3000 in NFL odds to win the Super Bowl.
Ground and Pound Offense
Even with a serviceable quarterback in Baker Mayfield, the Browns still ran the ball the sixth-most often in 2021, calling run plays 46% of the time. Surely, rushing plays will increase now that the team is left with a third-string option under center.
Nick Chubb has been nothing short of sensational since being drafted in 2018. Chubb has rushed for at least 996 yards per season, going north of 1,200 in two of his last three years. The Georgia product will be relied on as the featured player on offense.
NICK CHUBB UNLEASHED 😤
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) January 3, 2021
The Browns also have a 1B option at running back in Kareem Hunt. The former Pro Bowler has been rumored to be unhappy with his situation in Cleveland, preferring to play elsewhere in a lead role. However, there may be some apprehension on the Browns’ front, knowing that running backs have a short shelf life and that rushing plays will be a focus. The Browns are aware that their best-case scenario is rotating both backs with the starters, meaning Hunt should plan on staying put.
Limited Continuity in the Passing Game
The Browns made some offseason moves to upgrade their receivers, trading for Amari Cooper and drafting David Bell and Michael Woods II in the third and sixth rounds, respectively.
Still, those moves are unlikely to return dividends in the short term without Watson throwing them the ball. With Jacoby Brissett behind center, there’s no confidence in the Browns’ aerial attack, which will be a limiting factor.
Still a Great Defense
One could look past some of the shortcomings on offense thanks to the Browns’ defense. Cleveland limited opponents to the third-fewest yards last year, relying on imposing forces in every layer of the defense.
Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney kept offensive lines up at night with their unrelenting pass rush. Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah and Greg Newsome II flourished in their rookie seasons and could be difference-makers in 2022. As good as they were last year, this is still a young, up-and-coming unit.
MYLES GARRETT. 4.5 SACKS.
— NFL (@NFL) September 26, 2021
The Browns will be excellent on defense, but unless they lead the league in fewest points allowed, it’s unlikely to make a big enough difference to offset their ineffective offense.
Super Bowl Insights and Analysis
Unless the Browns plan on winning low-scoring games, it’s inconceivable that they will make a run to the postseason in 2022. The good news is that Browns fans are used to disappointment.
The Browns are underserving of their current price and could easily be looked past in the futures market.
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