Cleveland Browns: 5 matchups to watch for vs Kansas City
The Cleveland Browns head to Kansas City to kick off their 2021 campaign. Here are five matchups to watch for in the season opener.
The 2021 NFL season is finally here. For the Cleveland Browns, it couldn’t come soon enough. The Browns 2020 season ended right where their next campaign is set to begin…Arrowhead Stadium.
The Browns were an uncalled helmet-to-helmet hit and a statistically improbable scramble on third and 14 by Chad Henne from an AFC Championship game appearance. Now, 238 days later, Cleveland will have the opportunity to prove to themselves and the rest of the league that they are true contenders.
Both the Browns and the Chiefs have undergone overhauls of their perceived weak spots from last season. The Browns gave their defense a facelift in the offseason, while the Chiefs did the same procedure to their offensive line.
Here are five matchups to watch when the Browns head to Kansas City to take on the two-time defending AFC Champions in the season opener.
Matchup No. 1: John Johnson III vs Patrick Mahomes
It is no secret that the Cleveland secondary was a glaring weak spot for the defense in 2020. The Browns general manager, Andrew Berry, made strengthening the unit a priority in the offseason. Berry’s first move was to sign free-agent safety John Johnson III.
Johnson cut his teeth in the NFL playing free safety for the Los Angeles Rams. While not a household name (yet), Johnson was known in NFL circles as a physically gifted leader with tremendous communication skills. Johnson was the Rams signal-caller on one of the league’s premier defenses.
Johnson, now in Cleveland, will be tasked with quarterbacking the Browns secondary. His first test while wearing the brown and orange will be to match wits with the league’s most talented quarterback, Patrick Mahomes.
The two first met on a Monday night in mid-November back in 2018 in one of the wildest games in recent history. Johnson was unable to cause any turnovers in the insane 54-51 Rams victory, but he did lead his team in tackles with 11 (nine solo). So, Johnson does have a frame of reference in what Mahomes brings to the table.
Mahomes and Chiefs head coach Andy Reid have an affinity for coming out in odd formations pre-snap to keep a defense guessing. It will be up to Johnson to decipher the looks and get the secondary into the appropriate call. It’s a game of chess at the highest level and it will be up to Johnson to make sure his Knights are in position to checkmate the Chiefs’ King.