In order for the Cleveland Browns to be successful offensively, the buy-in has to be there.
As Cleveland Browns fans know, quarterback Baker Mayfield again should have a plethora of talented pass-catchers to throw to. Odell Beckham Jr., one would hope, should be more effective than he was last season when he was hampered by a sports hernia surgery. It also seems reasonable for Jarvis Landry to be more efficient, even if his basic numbers dip a bit, if Landry can stay healthy coming off hip surgery.
Mayfield himself should benefit from Freddie Kitchens not calling the plays as well, who often after the beginning of games contributed to the passing game being out of rhythm. The offensive line play was far from great, particularly from a pass protection standpoint, too, albeit Mayfield’s completion percentage of sub-60.0 percent didn’t show growth.
Next season, though, with newish head coach Kevin Stefanski at least having a good deal of influence in play-calling, one would assume, Mayfield should be better off. Having the likes of a seemingly re-locked-in and healthy David Njoku would aid Mayfield, too.
Mayfield and Njoku had a budding rapport in Mayfield’s rookie season in 2018, as Njoku then had 56 catches for 639 yards and four touchdowns, and had a healthy 306 yards after the catch. Unfortunately, Njoku, who has seemed to be re-focused in being with the Browns 100 percent, as DPD’s Randy Gurzi alluded to, only appeared in four games in 2019 due to a wrist injury, and that didn’t help Cleveland/Mayfield.
Plus, the Browns adding tight end Austin Hooper, who has made the Pro Bowl the last two seasons with the Atlanta Falcons and tied for third in the league in red zone touchdowns with six last season, should aid Mayfield. So should Cleveland drafting Jedrick Wills Jr., one would think, along with the Browns signing Jack Conklin in free agency, which should help solidify the offensive line/starting tackle spots.
Nonetheless, looking at the 2020 campaign, the buy-in needs to be there for the Cleveland Browns weapons for the offense to be successful overall.
In relation to the upcoming season, however, what will be crucial will be the Browns weapons having the buy-in needed for the overall offense to be succesful. The aforementioned Gurzi hit on how Beckham previously stressed how he wants to have more targets than he had in 2019, but that doesn’t seem likely, quite frankly.
Stefanski will be featuring the run game more and likely will be having a run-first offense, based on what Cleveland.com’s Ellis L. Williams alluded to from early training camp, as h/t Bleacher Report’s Kristopher Knox.
That’s not shocking, either, as Knox seemingly noted, and with the Cleveland Browns having one of the best running backs in the NFL in Nick Chubb, Stefanski and company will be having a steady diet of him throughout games. That should feasibly help out Mayfield and make play-actions more dangerous, and though it’s tough to foresee more targets for Beckham, he could be set for more deep connections via Mayfield as opposed to last season.
To further touch on the run game, that should be continually fruitful, as Chubb had just shy of 1,500 rushing yards in 2019 in his first season as the Browns’ full-time RB1, and was second in the league in rushing and yards after contact. Only the Tennessee Titans’ Derrick Henry fared better, but this upcoming season, Chubb is gunning for the rushing title, and he could definitely accomplish that feat, which ideally, based on more efficiency from Mayfield, would lead to winning ball.
As the aforementioned Knox also noted from early training camp, Kareem Hunt should get his share of workload via the run game, too. With Hunt hopefully in a full season, while Chubb should get the vast majority of rushes still, wouldn’t be the worst thing for Cleveland, given that Hunt is a really talented back and also led the NFL in rushing as a rookie with the Kansas City Chiefs in 2017. Hunt should get his share of catches, too, and feasibly could be more of a passing game threat, anyhow.
So to reiterate, though, for the Browns offense to be operating at their best game-to-game in 2020, the buy-in needs to be there for Cleveland’s weapons. Mayfield will get ample chances to make plays still, and he needs to obviously, and Beckham, Landry, Hooper and company are quite a talented group of pass catchers.
The target-share will likely be spread out from Mayfield, though, and with the Browns’ talented runners/Stefanski’s approach, the weapons might need to sacrifice a bit. Albeit if it leads to quality balance and Mayfield is more accurate/efficient, then there shouldn’t be any complaints.
This squad seems well-equipped for a postseason berth, but it again will need to take full buy-in from the weapons.
This is if the season can play out, given the novel coronavirus pandemic, however, and we’ll have to see in regards to that. But as DPD’s Greg Newland stressed, with these being professionals, there could seemingly be more optimism in that realm, as opposed to the collegiate ranks, for instance.