2017 NFL Season Preview- Cleveland Browns
The best thing about the 2016 Cleveland Brown's season is that its over.
Cleveland finished with the worst record in franchise history at 1-15 including losing the team's first 14 games.
The offense couldn't get much accomplished all season. The season saw six different quarterbacks see playing time. Robert Griffin III was unimpressive in the five games played and missed the other 11 with a shoulder injury. The running backs are the one steady position on the offense. Isaiah Crowell had his best season as a pro with just under 1,000 rushing yards and Duke Johnson has a lot of ability but the team rarely used him as they were often coming from behind. Wide receiver Terrelle Pryor was the team's top target in 2016 with 77 receptions for 1,077 yards and four touchdowns. The team's dream of pairing Pryor with Josh Gordon were dashed when he checked into rehab a week before he was to be reinstated. After a Pro Bowl year the previous season, Tight end Gary Barnidge managed only two touchdowns in 2016. The offensive line was an absolute mess and gave up a franchise record 66 sacks.
As bad as the offense was, the defense was just as bad if not worse. The defensive line was inconsistent all year but does show promise. Defensive tackle Danny Shelton lost 30 lbs. from his rookie year and made big strides. Defensive end Desmond Bryant missed the whole year with a pectoral injury which allowed Jamie Meder to develop. The inability to pressure the quarterback in the 3-4 scheme hurt the defense all year. Cleveland acquired outside linebacker Jamie Collins on Halloween from New England and was a huge upgrade. Inside linebacker Chris Kirksey lead the team in tackles with 143 and doesn't look to show any slump. The Browns gave up a record 35 passing touchdowns in 2016. Cornerback Joe Haden had surgery on both groin muscles and the team saw enough from Jamar Taylor to award him a three-year deal. The biggest issue in the secondary is safety as they couldn't cover tight ends all year and relied on natural cornerbacks to play safety.
The team only had one Pro Bowl player in left tackle Joe Thomas. Thomas made his 10th straight Pro Bowl appearance and continued to show why he's one of the best tackles in the league.
The rookie class showed promise but still needs much improvement. Wide receiver Corey Coleman made 33 catches playing with multiple quarterbacks but missed six games with a hand injury. After starting the year at outside linebacker, Emmanuel Ogbah moved to defensive end and lead the team with 5.5 sacks. Linebacker Carl Nassib continues to be a work in progress but should improve in year two. Quarterback Cody Kessler was 0-8 but has the tools to be a reliable backup.
Browns 2016 Rankings
Opponent Passing Yards
Opponent Rushing Yards
NFL Rank- 28th
NFL Rank- 19th
NFL Rank- 21st
NFL Rank- 31st
NFL Rank- 30th
NFL Rank- 31st
After going 1-15 in his first season, head coach Hue Jackson and owner Jimmy Haslam knew changes had to be made, but Haslam still has all the confidence in Jackson to lead the team.
On January 7, the Browns fired defensive coordinator Ray Horton after one year with team. A day later, they hired Gregg Williams as his replacement. Williams had previously served as the defensive coordinator for the Los Angeles Rams.
On March 1, 2017, wide receiver Josh Gordon again applied to the league for reinstatement, but was denied on May 11, 2017.
Notable Additions- QB Brock Osweiler, WR Kenny Britt, G Kevin Zeitler, CB Jason McCourty
Notable Departures- QB Robert Griffin III, QB Josh McCown, WR Terrelle Pryor, WR Andrew Hawkins, TE Gary Barnidge, RT Austin Pazstor, CB Tramon Williams, CB Tracey Howard, FS Jordan Poyer
Corey Coleman Highlights
2017 NFL Draft
With the first overall pick in the draft and the 12th overall pick from the Philadelphia Eagles, Cleveland had several major holes to fill on the roster. Most notably at quarterback, offensive lineman, and defensive end.
Whether it was RGIII, McCown, Kessler, Whitehurst, Hogan, or even Terrelle Pryor, the Browns got next to no production from their quarterbacks. The team traded with Houston for Brock Osweiler, but shouldn't be excited after the season he had for the Texans last year.
Apart from Joe Thomas, no position is safe on the o-line. Zeitler is an upgrade at guard, but center Cameron Erving hasn't accomplished jack in two seasons and rookie tackle Shon Coleman wasn't good enough to play opposite Thomas.
The defensive line struggled all year to generate a pass rush which is a big reason Cleveland was 31st in total defense last season.
With the first overall pick, the Browns selected Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett. Garrett was viewed as the top tackling edge rusher in the draft as well as the top overall prospect but has a habit of taking plays off from time to time. Cleveland traded the 12th pick to Houston for the 25th pick so the Texans could draft Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson. With pick 25, the Browns drafted Michigan safety Jarbrill Peppers. Peppers was viewed as the top tackling safety in the draft as well as one of the more versatile prospects, seeing playing time at running back, wide receiver, linebacker, and defensive back. The biggest criticisms with Peppers is that he doesn't have a natural position and tested positive for a diluted sample he submitted at the NFL Combine. Cleveland surprised everyone by trading back into the first round with Green Bay's 29th pick. With the 29th selection, the Browns picked Miami tight end David Njoku. Njoku was seen as the best tight end after the catch, but still needs to develop his undersized frame.
The Browns also notably drafted Notre Dame quarterback DeShone Kizer in the second round and Florida defensive tackle Caleb Brantley in the sixth. Kizer was said to have the best mobility of any quarterback in the draft, but tends to hold on to the ball too long. Brantley was viewed as the top run stopping defensive linemen prospect, but fell in the draft because he allegedly attacked a woman by knocking her unconscious with a closed fist while the two were engaged in a dispute. On May 17, 2017, the battery charges were dismissed.
Myles Garrett Highlights
What to Expect
The good thing for Cleveland fans is it can't get much worse than 1-15.
Hue Jackson has stated Brock Osweiler is the team's starting quarterback, but don't be surprised if DeShone Kizer takes the job at some point in the season. Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson could be a great one-two punch if Jackson would utilize Johnson more. The four rookie wide receivers from last year will have to continue to make strides as Kenny Britt is the only long term veteran on the roster. With Gary Barnidge hone, David Njoku should expect a big workload in the offense. The offensive line will continue to have their struggles, but with adding Kevin Zeitler and JC Tretter, they wont give up nearly as much sacks.
The defense line should have enough bodies in rotation to fit Gregg Williams 4-3 scheme with the addition of Myles Garrett and Caleb Brantley. The depth on the d-line won't put nearly as much pressure on the linebackers which should allow Christian Kirksey and Jaime Collins more opportunities to make plays. Signing Jason McCourty will give the secondary a reliable cornerback to play opposite Joe Haden. Drafting Jarbrill Peppers at safety five Cleveland an athletic playmaker capable of playing in the box, covering centerfield, and returning kicks.
All in all, Cleveland looks to be on the right path under Hue Jackson, but thanks to the competition in their own division and missing key pieces on the roster, the Browns won't be seeing the postseason for at least two years.
Best record they can hope for: 6-10