Chandler Adams, NFL Analyst
A lot of hype surrounded the Cleveland Browns this off season with the acquisition of Odell Beckham Jr., Olivier Vernon, Sheldon Richardson and Kareem Hunt. The Browns currently sit at 1-1. An ugly loss to the Titans didn't seem to effect them too much as they came to Met-life stadium, OBJ's old stomping grounds, and allowed just 3 points to their 23. A 20 point victory for the Browns, yet people seem to be jumping off the ship. Let's take a deeper dive into the franchise, and see if this is a classic overreaction.
First and foremost, the Cleveland Browns have not one, not two, but three new coaches on their staff. Head Coach Freddie Kitchens was the interim OC last season. Offensive Cordinator, Todd Monken, was calling plays in Tampa Bay. DC, Steve Wilks, was the HC down in Arizona. What does this mean? It means it's going to take some adjustment time. These three are still getting used to one another. Play calling, scheme, situational play and so on. But more importantly, these players are still getting used to these coaches. Steve Wilks brings an entirely new system to this Browns defense, and Todd Monken is trying to please about 5 playmakers, which can be very hard to do. With that all being said, the Browns play has been lackluster, but they are still 1-1 and tied for 2nd in the AFC North. Things could be worse. But let's take a look at the Browns gunslinger, Baker Mayfield.
With great hype comes great responsibility. Many would probably think that Baker is playing awful, but he isn't. He has a better PFF grade than Aaron Rodgers, Matt Ryan, Kirk Cousins, Jimmy Garappolo, Jared Goff, Matt Stafford, Andy Dalton, Marcus Mariota, and the list goes on to the bottom dwellers of the NFL. He has identical PFF grade to Phillip Rivers, who has had no flack this season so far. If you are reading this thinking something along the lines of "but my eyes say..", I can assure you, with great confidence, your eyes don't watch every detail of every play of every game and grade it. I would also like to remind you that Baker has yet to play a full 16 games in the NFL.
This offense has a lot of weapons, but many of them have been absent so far this season. Calloway and Higgins were both out vs the Jets. Hunt and Hiliard were both inactive as well. Njoku got injured right in the beginning of the game. This offense does have a lot of weapons, but they have been absent for most of the season. On top of that, Beckham and Mayfield have had 8 total quarters to gel so far.
The defense, after an awful outing vs the Titans, bounced back and did their job against the Jets. With their 3rd string QB in the game, the Jets accumulated a total of 3 points and had 3 turnovers. Myles Garrett was everywhere, getting 3 sacks on the night. However, he did have 5 penalties called on him, something that needs to be nipped in the ass right now. At this pace, Myles is on pace for 40 sacks. While that won't happen, 20-25 is still not far out of question. Denzel Ward has played very poorly through 2 weeks, but that will change. He is in a new system, one that doesn't fit him properly, but he needs to adjust his game. Last year, the Browns put him on an island with WR's and he was excellent. This year, Wilks has him playing more zone and giving WR's more cushion. Something that will take time for Ward to master.
The Browns are definitely a work in progress, but Rome wasn't built in a day, folks. This team needs time to gel. There next 6 games go as follows: Rams-Ravens-Niners-Seahawks-Patriots-Broncos. If they can come out of that with 2-3 wins, the back stretch of this schedule is much easier. Their last stretch of games are: Bills-Steelers-Dolphins-Steelers-Bengals-Cardinals-Ravens-Bengals. A run of games where they could realistically go 6-2 or better. That would put them at 9-7 / 10-6 range. With a depleting Chargers roster and a Big Ben injury in Pittsburgh, that just might land them in the playoffs. Give this team time, they are a work in progress, but once this team gels, watch out. They will be an explosive force to reckon with. If you're hopping off the wagon after two weeks you are making a rash and bad decision.