After years of absolute misery and frustration for Cleveland Browns fans, Cleveland finally has a roster that looks ready to compete for the playoffs. After finishing the 2017 season 0-16, they looked to former Oklahoma Sooners Heisman trophy winning quarterback Baker Mayfield to try and lead the turn around. He didn't start right away, but he came in relief in the third game, led them to their first win since beating the Los Angeles Chargers back of 2016 and didn't look back from there. Mayfield led the Browns to a 7-8-1 record, and fans couldn't be more ecstatic about their team
The Browns looked to add to their talented roster in the offseason. That's exactly what they did. They signed former Kansas City Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt after they released him towards the end of last season. Hunt, of course was released after a disturbing TMZ video came out showing him assaulting a woman. He won't play right away, but when he does, he will join Nick Chubb, who ended the season strong after barely touching the ball the first few weeks of the season. They should make for an intriguing thunder and lightning combo once Hunt gets reinstated.
To help out Myles Garrett, they acquired pro bowl pass rusher Olivier Vernon from the New York Giants. In his seven year career, Vernon has racked up a total of 51.5 sacks, with his career high of 11.5 coming when he was a member of the Miami Dolphins. While Vernon doesn't put up the numbers of an elite pass rusher, but he does have good production, and him combined with Garrett should make up a scary pass rush duo.
If it was just these two guys, it would be considered a great offseason. However, Browns general manager John Dorsey had one more huge splash for us. Boy was it a big splash too. Taking advantage of poor sweet Giants general manager Dave Gettleman again, he acquired all pro wide receiver Odell Beckham for what is equivalent to a penny, a chip and a used napkin(Hell of a Spongebob reference by the way). We know what Beckham can do on the football field. He's arguably the most talented receiver in the game, and gets to join his BFF Jarvis Landry in Cleveland after playing college ball together at LSU. I don't think we have to worry about him having anymore tantrums.
This team looks fantastic on paper, with a collection of talent that not many teams in the NFL can match. The question is though, how good can this team actually be? They do have a new coaching staff as well. Former interim offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens will be taking over the head coaching duties this year. The offense was much improved under him than it was with Todd Haley, and Kitchens and Baker Mayfield seem like they have a great relationship. Browns fans shouldn't really worry about the offense though, as they have the pieces to be one of the league's best.
After Gregg Williams was not retained, the Browns went out and signed former Arizona Cardinals head coach Steve Wilks to be the new defensive coordinator. Wilks had a rough go at it as the head coach of the Cardinals, as he had to deal with a young roster dealing with a ton of injuries, to go along with a rookie quarterback. Fans shouldn't be concerned with his time in Arizona, but should focus on his time as the defensive coordinator with the Carolina Panthers. He led the Panthers to be one of the top defenses in football, finishing seventh in total yards and 11th in points per game. Wilks has a lot of tools at his disposal on defense, so it'll be interesting to see what he's able to do.
When you look at the Browns, its really tough to find a weakness. Is there even a weakness? If you're knit picking, the only weakness you can really point out is offensive line depth. They did trade away guard Kevin Zeitler, who was a quality starter for the Browns for multiple seasons. Looking at this team though, there aren't many clear weaknesses, which could spell danger for the rest of the league.
The Browns do have a difficult schedule, with a few notable games. Of course we know about the divisional games against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals, games that are always physical and emotional games. In addition, the Browns face three teams out of division that made the playoffs last year, including the two teams who represented their respective conferences in the Super Bowl, the New England Patriots and Los Angeles Rams. They also have to face the Seattle Seahawks, who are always one of the toughest teams to play in the NFL.
With all that being said, I think Cleveland will win the AFC North division, and make the playoffs for the first time since 2002. Will they be able to make some noise? That is still to be determined, but Browns fans should by hyped up for the upcoming season. John Dorsey has done a fantastic job of putting this roster together, and has rewarded Browns fans after so many years of losing, and having to deal with so many bad quarterbacks. Luckily for Cleveland, I don't think they have to make a change to that infamous quarterback jersey for a long time.