Piece by Griff
Yeah, go on, laugh, it’s a bad title for any article, but once you stop to consider what has been written here, you may be left wondering if the Browns are finally getting it right. A flurry of free agency signings (technically not complete until the 14th of March) has started to shape this organisation into one with real potential. If I were a Bengals or Ravens fan I’d be looking over my shoulder and asking, “what just happened”?
Cleveland now has the no.1 draft choice (BARKLEY-RB??), the number 4 choice (Any young QB) and nearly a dozen more selections in the later rounds to bolster their squad, along with F.A additions, Jarvis Landry (WR-Dolphins) and Tyrod Taylor (QB-Bills). They’ve also acquired Damarious Randall (C.B) from Green Bay in a trade which saw them offload last year’s 2nd round QB selection DeShone Kizer. Add into this mix last years no.1 overall choice, Myles Garrett, who has now had chance to recuperate and get fully fit after an up and down first season plagued by niggles. Suddenly the Browns look dangerous. More to the point they look better than fellow AFC North contenders.
The Bengals and the Ravens, who both had poor years and are so far yet to make any changes to correct themselves. We know that the Steelers will be the divisional favourites as all their main pieces are going to return but when you lay those said pieces out its had to argue against the Browns for no.2 in the division. Look…
On Offense, Steelers/ Browns/Bengals/Ravens
RB: Bell/Barkley*/Mixon/Anyone who’s fit *Assuming they take him
WR2: Smith-Schuster/Landry/ LaFell/ Maclin~ ~ Could be cut this week
I think its hard to argue that on paper (or screen) at least, The Browns have the 2nd most talented squad in the AFC North. Dalton and Flacco are both QBs who in truth are holding their teams back and neither squad has much depth. Both struggled to get any run consistency, Mixon was average at best and the Ravens couldn’t keep an RB fit.
The Ravens defence is probably the best here on its day, the Steelers and Browns joint second with the Bengals trailing (Pacman Jones is being released too). The Ravens D wasn’t able to overcome the offensive short comings last year and so far I see no reason why they will do any better in 2018. The Browns and Steelers both integrated new defensive personnel last year and this should provide a lot of help for the season(s) ahead. Cincinnati finished 30th overall against the rush, and conceded nearly a thousand yards more than they gained in total offense. That’s going to take some fixing.
A quick look at the coaching tells a slightly different tale. All four teams have kept last seasons head coach in place, and in terms of success there is only one way to rank them:
Tomlin-Steelers, Haubaugh-Ravens, Lewis-Bengals, Jackson-Browns. I couldn’t believe neither Lewis or Jackson were sacked after last year, and both of these remain serious concerns for me moving forward. Lewis is too “safe” and inflexible-hence sticking with Dalton despite limited to zero progression from the QB, whilst Jackson has 1 win in 2 seasons. One. Win. The organisation is certainly to blame for that dismal run, but he is part of that and must shoulder some of the blame. There are few of the old regime left in Cleveland, but Jackson is one of them, I for one do not approve.
Coaching counts for a lot, no point having talent if that talent isn’t used correctly, so I hope Jackson has taken a good look at his own shortcomings in preparation for the new season.
With regards to both Tomlin and Haubaugh their legacies depend greatly on the season to come. The Steelers have all the pieces in place to win the Super Bowl, they must at least make the Championship game, whilst the Ravens will be content with a playoff return. Both coaches will have done enough to maintain their status if these aims are met. Without them doing so, I’m not so sure either guy is back in the AFC North for 2019. It seems harsh to place that burden on them at this embryonic stage but neither team did enough with their rosters or match ups last season.
For the Browns to rise again it isn’t just about what they do to turn their ship around, its what the other AFC North contenders don’t do. For now, the best they can hope for is the spot behind the Pittsburgh Steelers who seem to have so much talent they can’t harness it all at once (Bryant). That second spot in the division nearly got the Ravens the wild card playoff place last year.
The Browns additions will hopefully be enough to persuade their greatest modern-era player, Joe Thomas, to return for at least one more season. He deserves to finish his career with some wins under his belt, not with the last two years of disastrous results ruining his legacy. Now the Bills have ditched the no-playoffs monkey the Browns will be everyone’s 2nd team…the one you route for just because… the playoffs may be a long shot, but the rise of the Browns is a very real possibility.