Know Your Enemy continues in the AFC North with the Cleveland Browns. The Browns were awful in 2016 and finished 1-15. They earned the first pick in the draft from the 2016 season. The Browns lone win was Week 16 against San Diego in Cleveland.
The Browns went 1-15 under Hue Jackson. Jackson is also the OC and Gregg Williams is the DC. Cleveland was 31st in scoring only 16.5 PPG. They were not much better in defense at 30th allowing 28.3 PPG. The Browns forced 13 turnovers but gave away 25 turnovers for a terrible negative 12 differential. Cleveland has a lot of work to do in 2017.
The Browns could actually run the ball efficiently. Cleveland ran for 4.9 YPC only 350 carries for 1,712 yards. They had 13 rushing TDs for the year. Isaiah Crowell was a good back with 4.8 YPC and 7 TDs on 198 carries. He earned 952 rushing yards and will continue to be their top back in 2017.
Duke Johnson is serviceable with 4.9 YPC on 73 carries. Johnson is a good receiver with 514 yards on 72 targets in 2016. Cleveland should be able to run the ball well in 2017 with Crowell and Johnson.
The Browns overhauled their offseason line in free agency. Joe Thomas is still a great LT destined to stay with the Browns. Cleveland signed JC Tretter starter money at center and added Kevin Zeilter (top 10 guard) from the rival Bengals. Joel Bitonio is a good guard and was re-signed to a big deal as well. Cameron Irving and Shone Coleman will battle for the right tackle spot. Irving struggled in 2016 and may be more of interior offensive linemen. Coleman was a day 2 pick from the 2016 draft and could grow into a starter. Roderick Johnson was drafted from Florida State to backup Joe Thomas. John Greco is an experienced backup guard. Cleveland actually has a good offensive line with some depth.
Front 7 with Potential
The Browns have a lot of young pieces from the last two drafts where they had many extra picks. Cleveland will run a 3-4 but throw in 4-3 looks. The Browns drafted Myles Garrett with the first overall pick in the draft. Garrett could be a beast early on but may have some growing pains. He is also dealing with a foot injury.
Cleveland also has first round pick from 2015 Danny Shelton at nose tackle. Shelton is a mammoth man that can play the run. Second round pick from 2016 Emmanuel Ogbah will be the other 3-4 defensive end or can stand up and rush. Ogbah had 5.5 sacks in his rookie year.
Desmond Bryant is a solid veteran end and Larry Ogunjobi is from a small school but is a 3rd round pick from 2017. Carl Nassib is a 2nd round pick from 2016 that has a great motor from Penn State. Nassib only had 2.5 sacks in 2016 as a rookie. Caleb Brantley was a potential day 2 pick that fell to day 3 with off-field issues. Cleveland is young but could eventually have a decent defensive line if the line develops.
The Browns traded for OLB Jamie Collins to be their top pass rusher from the OLB spot during the 2016 season. Collins excelled with the Patriots and was traded to the Browns for a day 2 pick. Collins got a huge contract from Cleveland and will now have to earn it by bringing the Browns pass rush. Nassib could find time at OLB too and Joe Schobert (.5 sack) is the other OLB for Cleveland.
The Browns ILB of Domnique Alexander and Christian Kirksey were solid in 2016. Kirksey had a good grade and got an extension this offseason. Alexander was below average in run defense, blitz and coverage. Cleveland is hoping Alexander gets better with more experience. Cleveland is weak at ILB, one OLB spot and OLB depth.
Secondary with Potential
Joe Haden has been a good player in the past but regressed some in 2016. Surprisingly, Jamar Taylor had a good grade in 2016 for Cleveland after failing with the Dolphins. Jason McCourty was added after being cut by the Titans but had an average grade in 2016. McCourty is a former first round pick but has been regressing with age in Tennessee. The Browns may have a solid first three corners in 2017 for a change.
Jabrill Peppers was drafted in Round 1 to be the S and LB hybrid for Cleveland. Calvin Prior failed with the Jets as a first round pick but will get a shot at SS for Cleveland. Ed Reynolds was an average safety in 505 snaps for the Browns. Ibraheim Campbell struggled in 418 snaps for Cleveland. The Browns have safety potential with Peppers and Prior and the backups have experience. Cleveland will still need to provide a pass rush for this secondary or it could be trouble.
Cleveland has some weapons in first round pick from 2016 in Corey Coleman. Coleman only had 413 yards and 3 TDS in 74 targets his rookie year. He was not efficient catching 33 balls of 74 targets. Coleman needs to make a big jump. Kenny Britt was added after decent play for the Rams. Britt had 1,002 yard season with 5 TDS on 111 targets. Britt could be the top target for Cleveland. Britt replaces Terrelle Pryor (1,007 yards and 4 TDs) who bolted for the Redskins in free agency. Britt had 15 plays of 20 plus yards and Pryor had 11 which is surprising for 2016.
The Browns drafted David Njoku in Round 1 at TE and cut Gary Barnidge (612 yards and 2 TDs). Njoku is fast and should be good in space but must work on his drops. First year tight ends often struggle as well. Ricardo Louis has received some offseason buzz but must prove to be a good third WR.
Josh Gordon was denied reinstatement in May. He will probably appeal before the season and the Browns could get a big boost if he ever returns. If Gordon does return, Cleveland could have a solid offense.
The Browns have an interesting QB situation as always. Cody Kessler was a rookie 4th round pick in 2016. Kessler was under the radar with a 92.3 rating in 198 attempts in 2016 with 65.6% completion with 7.1 YPA. Kessler notched 6 TDs and 2 interceptions on the year.
Josh McCown , Robert Griffen III, Charlie Whitehurt and rookie Kevin Hogan are the QBS who struggled for the Browns in 2016. Kessler showed some good things in limited action.
GM Sashi Brown traded for Brock Osweiler but actually received a 2nd round pick to add him. The Texans just wanted the cap space. Osweiler was solid in 2015 with Denver but failed with Houston. He has a chance for the Browns if he can win the job over the younger players.
Finally, rookie Deshone Kizer was drafted in Round 2 of the 2017 draft from Notre Dame. Cleveland’s QB situation is not as dire as people think as one of these three players could develop into a competent starter and Kessler actually played well on paper. These QBs should have the run game and protection to be successful in 2017. They are lacking the proven weapons and defense though to aid in points and wins. We shall see how they develop in the Hue Jackson offense.
The Browns will be better than the 1-15 2016 team. They have some young pieces with a good offensive line and running game. They have potential in the front 7 and secondary, despite extreme youth. Finally their QB situation is better than most people think.
The Browns host Minnesota Week 8 and Green Bay Week 14, which could make weather a factor. The Browns travel to Detroit in Week 10 and to Chicago in Week 16. Cleveland should probably lose every game against the NFC North but could be competitive. If a NFC North team sleeps on them, they could be upset.