By Jake Moore—Asst. Sports Editor
Two years ago, the Cleveland Browns were the laughing stock of the NFL, as they failed to win a single game during the 2017 season. However, with John Dorsey taking over as general manager at the end of the season, Browns fans got a feeling of something they have not felt in a while—optimism.
Dorsey led the charge on several franchise-altering moves for the Browns like drafting the outspoken Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield and trading for receivers like Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr., but saying that Dorsey inherited a totally sinking ship would be inaccurate. The Browns still had great pieces around which to build like hulking defensive end Myles Garrett and the intimidating presence of tight end David Njoku (who has quickly become one of Mayfield’s favorite targets).
Regardless of whether or not someone believes Dorsey to be the true mastermind behind the Browns’ meteoric rise, one thing is quite clear—the Browns have the most hype around them compared with any team in the NFL, for better or worse.
As of the writing of this article, the Browns have the fifth-best odds to win the Super Bowl, which makes sense on paper. The Browns have one of the most exciting defenses complete with a full secondary as well as an explosive pass rush. However, the aspect of the game that is garnering the most attention is their offense. Two of the league’s best receivers, Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr., find themselves within the crosshairs of one of the most aggressive quarterbacks in the league.
The spotlight is bright on Baker Mayfield currently, and there are no longer any excuses on which to fall back. But if anybody is up to the task, it’s Mayfield. Last year, Mayfield was on the league’s list of breakout stars and captured the heart of a downtrodden yet ravenous fan base.
The Browns have also established a dynamic run game, courtesy of breakout rookie RB Nick Chubb. This rush attack will only improve when former Kansas City Chief, Kareem Hunt, returns in week nine. However, there are several elements going against the Browns.
The most glaring of these issues is the offensive line, which was constantly broken up last year upon a significant rush. Luckily, Baker Mayfield has the ability to scramble out of the pocket, but if the Browns want to secure the well-being of their franchise centerpiece, they must build upon the offensive line. The unexpected retirement of superstar QB, Andrew Luck, goes to show that it doesn’t matter how many offensive weapons you have if the front seven cannot protect them.
Another major issue the Browns may face is the dreaded quarterback sophomore slump. Teams have a full off-season to study Mayfield, and he was already prone to turnovers.
The Browns are also being led by first-time head coach Freddie Kitchens. Kitchens did a fantastic job managing the Browns’ offense late last season, but managing every aspect of a football team is an entirely different beast, especially with a roster this volatile. There is a significant amount of high-maintenance personalities in this locker room and it will be fascinating to see how the organization handles it.
On paper, the Browns possess a Super-Bowl contending roster, and anything short of winning the relatively weak AFC North will be considered a massive disappointment for the “Dawg Pound.” Regardless, this team is captivating and loaded with star talents. Even if the Browns turn out to be a disaster, which the history of the league indicates is a strong possibility, there will certainly be enough chaos going on with this team to draw an audience. But after watching the Browns suffer miserably for the past decade, one can only hope they are finally on track for better days.