Heading into the season the Cleveland Browns roster was considered one of the best in the NFL, but now at 6-5, were those notions wrong?
There is no turning back now. The Cleveland Browns are 6-5 regardless of anything. The playoffs are still in front of this team, but this is surely not where anybody had them at this point in the season. Through the first 11 weeks, Cleveland already has as many losses as they did a season ago, and that was before the roster got yet another makeover.
The defense lacked severely in 2020, so general manager Andrew Berry went out and seemingly bolstered it right up. In the offseason, Berry signed free agents John Johnson III, Troy Hill, Jadeveon Clowney, Malik McDowell, Malik Jackson, while also drafting Greg Newsome II and Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah.
The defense has put together just a few complete outings and other times it looked as if the defense had never played a snap together.
With all the additions to this roster on the defensive side of the ball, you’d think the team would be better than 6-5, yet here we are.
This isn’t even all on the defense. The offense has its fair share of blame and criticism as to why this team is underperforming. So, what’s the issue with this team?
Well, I think it simply comes down to the fact that this roster might be overvalued.
Now, there are some within the Browns fandom, especially on the bird app, that believe Cleveland has the best at every position and other teams don’t have anything close, roster-wise, to what the Browns have. That simply isn’t true. There are players throughout the league that would make Cleveland’s roster even better.
Let’s continue with the defense for a moment. Johnson was one of my favorite offseason signings for this team, but he has underperformed thus far. Sure, he has two interceptions, but other than that, he has been completely lackluster in his first year with the Browns.
Troy Hill was supposed to come in and fill the slot and play alongside the likes of Denzel Ward and Greedy Williams, but he too has been lackluster. Clowney has been solid, recording 3.5 sacks and getting pressure on opposing quarterbacks, but it still feels as if something is missing from him.
Newsome and Owusu-Koramoah have been great as rookies, but both have also missed game time with injuries. Both have had many big plays and are proving why they are going to be impact players for years to come.
Let’s shift to the offense, shall we?
Baker Mayfield is having a roller coaster of a year and is battling a slew of injuries. Each week it feels as if there is a new diagnosis to a part of Mayfield’s body. The piling injuries play a part in why he hasn’t been playing as he did in the second half of last season, but that’s not the only issue Mayfield is facing.
His wide receivers just aren’t as good as many thought they would have been this year. Odell Beckham Jr. was supposed to be the downfield stretch that took this offense to a new level, but he’s no longer playing for the team.
Jarvis Landry, who is one of the leaders of this team, doesn’t really have a huge role in the offense. He has yet to catch a touchdown pass as both of his scores have been on the ground this season. He has just 27 catches for 245 yards this season, which isn’t good for someone making north of $14 million.
Where is Rashard Higgins? On the year, Higgins has reeled in 15 passes for 185 yards and a touchdown. He re-signed with the Browns in the offseason after showing he and Mayfield had great chemistry on the field.
In 2020, Higgins caught 37 passes for 599 yards and four touchdowns. In the last three games, Higgins has been targeted just six times, catching one pass for 17 yards. I remember when there was a lot of chatter about how Higgins would have a huge season as he and Baker are such good friends off the field. Here’s hoping that can still happen.
Second-year wide receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones really had a sensational training camp and has shown promising glimpses during the season, but has also battled injuries. On the season, DPJ has caught 16 of 23 targets for 330 yards and three touchdowns.
At the end of the day, this receiver’s room simply isn’t good or fast enough to make defenses nervous. They get little to no separation from their defenders, which makes it harder for Mayfield to connect with open receivers. Expect a drastic overhaul to this room in the offseason.
The running backs and offensive line really have little to no blemishes, so they are valued accordingly, especially considering the litany of injuries those two rooms have endured this season.
On paper, this roster is loaded with talent. On the field, there are a few examples of the roster playing one complete game of football. The hype that preceded this team is not being lived up to at the moment, or at least on a consistent basis.
There’s still time to turn this season around, even if it seems bleak, as this roster is very talented, but just a bit overvalued. Can Kevin Stefanski get his guys in order to finish out the regular season strong?