Cleveland Browns Super Bowl hopes: Defensive tweaks
Andrew Berry was highly aggressive in free agency last year when he signed Jadeveon Clowney, John Johnson III, Troy Hill, Malik Jackson, Malik McDowell, and Anthony Walker. The year prior the defense wasn’t at its best so Berry took care of that.
It took some work throughout the beginning of the season, but the defensive unit ended up being the best unit on the team and was really why the Browns were in as many games as they were. I’ll go a step further and say the Browns don’t even win eight games if it wasn’t for some of the defensive performances. They say defense wins championships and while the NFL has shifted to an offensive-friendly league, you still have to stop the opposing teams.
Myles Garrett led the defensive charge by posting a career and franchise-high 16 sacks. He didn’t finish in the top three of the NFL Defensive Player of the Year voting, but that doesn’t take away from the season he has. Luckily for the Browns, Garrett has already signed an extension, so he will be on the team for the foreseeable future.
Speaking of extensions, next up on that list should be cornerback Denzel Ward. At this point, it’s more of a matter of when— not if. There’s no reason Ward shouldn’t be extended as he put up another stellar season in 2021. Having a player like Ward will help the Browns immensely over the years, especially within the division and the conference.
The Browns will have to deal with the receiving trio in Cincinnati of Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, and Tyler Boyd. Lamar Jackson will be healthy and ready to do. The Chiefs have Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce, and Tyreek Hill. Buffalo has Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs. The Chargers have Justin Herbert and Keenan Allen. The AFC is loaded with top-tier talent and having Ward will only benefit Cleveland moving forward.
Clowney had a great “prove it” year and certainly proved he is worth a new contract. Now, the bank does not have to be broken to get this done, but make Berry needs to make this a priority this offseason. Having Clowney paired up with a guy like Garrett proved to work wonders and really revitalized Clowney’s career.
The interior defensive line will need to be worked on this offseason as well. Jackson was fine in replacing Sheldon Richardson, but he’s a year older and might want to get one final big NFL payday. McDowell got in trouble off the field yet again, and his NFL career is likely over, which is too bad because he was becoming one of the NFL’s best redemption stories.
It will be interesting to see what direction Berry decides to go this offseason with a bunch of holes needing to be filled. Who will be the starting quarterback? What wide receivers will come to Cleveland? How can the defense improve on the success from a season ago?
Time will ultimately tell the answer to all of these questions, so we will have to sit back and trust that Andrew Berry and his team are trying to figure out these answers in the coming weeks.