Photo by: Dave Spano
Any new fan of the NFL should think seriously about a decision to follow the Cleveland Browns.
The lack of long-term success for decades makes people act strangely, and that’s the situation surrounding the Browns. Social media lights up like a Christmas tree during and after each Browns loss, which have been far too many in a season that was among the most anticipated in a long time.
Entering the bye week with a 6-6 record, the odds of winning the AFC North Division are just about off the books. The only realistic playoff hope with five games remaining is to earn one of three wild card berths.
That fact has been a major disappointment to what has become a disgruntled fan base. It lead to tweets and posts that don’t always make sense. Like Baker Mayfield is an awful quarterback. Kevin Stefanski needs to be replaced, etc., etc., etc.
It seems obvious by now that Odell Beckham Jr. was more of a hindrance to offensive success than he was a help. The impact that had on the struggles in the passing game can’t be overlooked.
A trickle-down effect of Beckham’s former employment was that the front office basically turned its back on receivers in the draft and free agency. The highest a receiver has been selected in the last five drafts was in the third round this year (91st overall) — Auburn’s Anthony Schwartz.
Schwartz, who was touted as among the fastest receivers in the draft, has been a non-factor. Take away his speed, and Stefanski is left with a noticeably slow and inefficient corps of receivers, which is why he often uses sets with three tight ends.
Mayfield is clearly hurt, which is having an adverse effect on his performance, but he has few options in the passing game. The Baltimore Ravens, a 16-10 winner over the Browns last Sunday, knew that and loaded the box to stop the runs of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt.
The good news in the loss in Baltimore was the total effort of the defense, which played as advertised. Myles Garrett had perhaps the best game of his career, and it wasn’t all about sacks. Garrett harassed quarterback Lamar Jackson most of the game, as did Jadeveon Clowney.
Then there was rookie Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah who looked like the best linebacker the Browns haven fielded since the days of Clay Matthews. Koramoah is more than just a speed freak. He’s a head hunter that isn’t afraid of filling a gap and making a hard hit.
That defense needs to show up every week for the rest of the season if the Browns have any serious hopes of making the playoffs, because the offense will likely remain stuck in neutral until help arrives at the receiver positions.