After overhauling their roster this off-season, the Cleveland Browns have a good opportunity to surprise people the same way that the Jacksonville Jaguars did last season.
The Cleveland Browns have been a team picked by many NFL analysts to be the biggest surprise during the 2018 season.
After a win-less season in 2017, the Browns winning more than five or six games will certainly be a surprise. But with the amount of talent that is on the roster, it is not unreasonable for the Browns to reach that five or six win mark.
The thought of the Browns making a massive improvement this season and having a win percentage close to .500 seems crazy to many. That is mainly rooted in the stigma that the Browns can never get anything right and will never be successful. The 2018 Browns have the talent necessary to prove that idea wrong.
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This thought around the Browns is similar to what the Jaguars faced last season. They had gathered good talent, but many thought they were not going to be able to turn that team around in one season. The result was the Jaguars making a seven-win improvement and reaching the playoffs.
The quick turnaround for the Jaguars was a shock to many. But with arguably the best defense last season and an explosive offense, the young Jaguars were able to win their division. Granted the AFC South was one of the worst divisions in football last year, but the Jaguars beat good teams throughout the season.
When looking at the 2017 Jaguars, the team had characteristics that are similar to the characteristics of the 2018 Browns. Both are young teams that have a good mix of veterans. The Browns will also have a defense that will give offenses a lot of trouble, just like what Jacksonville did.
The biggest reason why the Browns can be successful is how good the defense can be. They showed last year that they can stuff the run. After having the second-worst run defense in 2016, the Browns improved to being a top-ten run defense in 2017, giving up the seventh-fewest rushing yards.
The Browns returned all but one of their starters from last season, replacing Danny Shelton with Larry Ogunjobi. They are also healthier then they were last season, with Myles Garrett, Emmanuel Ogbah, and Jamie Collins returning from injury. Cleveland also upgraded their secondary, with good starting talent and quality depth.
Overall, the Browns could be one of the top defenses in the NFL in 2018 if every player plays to their potential. Jacksonville’s defense last year is what helped them make such a huge jump in wins.
Jacksonville also had an explosive offense last season, which heavily relied on running back Leonard Fournette. As a team, the Jaguars led the NFL in rushing last season. They did not feature as good of a passing offense, needing quarterback Blake Bortles to only be a game manager.
The Browns do not have single back like Fournette to carry the entire offense. But the Browns are going to rely on the run, and they have a solid trio of runners that have different styles that will create issues for defenses for all four quarters.
The Browns will also be a much more balanced offense then the Jaguars were last season. With the amount of weapons the Browns have at receiver, the passing offense will create a lot of opportunities for big plays. So even if the Browns defense is not as good the Jaguars defense was last season, Cleveland will have the offensive firepower necessary to make up for any downfalls the defense has.
All-in-all, the Browns have a team that has the potential to do what the Jaguars did last season. It may be hard to make the playoffs like Jacksonville, as the Browns have a difficult schedule in 2018. But there are similarities to both teams, and it seems the Browns are the team most likely to be the 2018 version of what the Jaguars were last season.