These 5 young Cleveland Browns look like they want to shock the world
It’s early, too early to go crazy, but at least five young Cleveland Browns are playing at a higher level than analysts were expecting. Three of them have helped to shore up a weak defense, and two of them have added to an already talented but underachieving offense.
But this article is not about the established stars who you already know about: Baker Mayfield, Myles Garrett, Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt, Odell Beckham, Jr., Jarvis Landry, Denzel Ward, J.C. Tretter, Joel Bitonio, and the other guys already drawing big paychecks though they have all held up their end of the bargain. This article is about five players who have been playing beyond expectations, and who are not mentioned much in the press.
The Browns need to find some players because they are banged up at this early point in the season. They have IR’d David Njoku (who might have made this list based on an outstanding performance against Baltimore), safety Grant Delpit with an Achilles tendon rupture, Mack Wilson with a hyperextended knee, cornerback Greedy Williams with a bum shoulder, cornerback Kevin Johnson with a lacerated liver and linebacker Jacob Phillips with a knee injury.
That makes six players who were expected to start or be major contributors. Some of them may come back in a few weeks but at the moment they are a bit short-handed.
After two games, the Browns had one horror show against the Baltimore Ravens, who must be ranked among the league’s elite teams. They also had a good-but-not-great win against the up-and-coming Bengals, who look like they may be really improving with monstrously talented Joe Burrow replacing smart, tough but more modestly talented Andy Dalton.
In the opener against Baltimore, they looked lost against a vastly superior Ravens team. Still, there were definitely bright spots against the Ravens despite the fact that the game was one-sided. For one thing, the Browns defense against the run has been much better than expected, given that they were disgusting last season, and the biggest change they made was to gift wrap Pro Bowl middle linebacker Joe Schobert for the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Yet neither the Bengals nor even the Ravens were able to bully the Browns on the ground. That is the first clue that some players may be stepping up. The statistics bear this out. Overall, the Browns are ranked 11th against the run. That may not seem fantastic, but for the past two seasons, the Browns have been in the bottom five against the run. For a cold weather, natural turf team (by the way, that does not change, so get used to it), that’s pathetic.
Cleveland faced the nNo. 1 rushing attack in the NFL in Baltimore, with Lamar Jackson, Mark Ingram II, J.K. Dobbins, Patrick Ricard, and Gus Edwards — and they held their own. Baltimore was held to 3.7 yards per carry and 111 total rushing yards, rather than 6.0 yards per carry like last year and 208 yards per game.
The Browns run defense contained Joe Mixon and company on Thursday, holding them to 68 yards and 3.0 yards per carry.
On offense, this analyst believes that the Browns can move the ball if they are a run-first team that relies on tight ends and believes in Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. If they are a one-dimensional offense that looks for Odell Beckham, Jr. to bail them out of difficult situations, they are predictable and will collapse in a pile of self-inflicted errors. They have had the players emerge to allow them to play Browns football.
Without further ado, the first player who merits special attention is wide receiver KhaDarel Hodge.