CLEVELAND, OH – By now you’ve heard all too much about Baker Mayfield, Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr. this off-season, and with the NFL’s centennial season set to kick off, you cannot help but wonder if the pre-season hype about the Cleveland Browns too much, too soon?
Whether you’re a casual fan, or one who regularly peruses some of the top sports betting sites with a great monthly profit, you must know and understand the following lines. the Cleveland Browns are the “it” team of the moment, as Cleveland currently has the tenth-best odds at 10-1, per CBS Sports, ahead of playoff teams such as the Dallas Cowboys, Seattle Seahawks, Houston Texans and their longtime rival and current AFC North division champion, Baltimore Ravens.
Naturally fans of the aforementioned teams might be feeling some kind of way—and they should—as the browns for the last twenty-plus years since coming back into the NFL in 1999 have been THE Browns. They haven’t proven anything. They haven’t done nothing. They are paper champions. Too many big-name personalities. These are the common refrains and rebuttals heard across social media and parroted by the talking heads and so-called “analysts” and experts.
Again, one can understand why all the attention and seemingly non-stop buzz and hype about the Browns is for real, or the prelude to the biggest dumpster fire since the Cuyahoga went ablaze fifty years ago. But is it justified?
Not to say that the obvious answer is no, but a yes isn’t necessarily the wrong answer either.
While on paper—there’s that word again!—Cleveland has assembled the NFL version of the Avengers in the form of Mayfield, Landry and OBJ, the REST of their offense is proverbially stacked and loaded with the likes of RB’s Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, TE David Njoku and WR’s Rashard Higgins, Antonio Callaway, Derrick Willies and Jaelen Strong.
And this is all without the recently-traded RB Duke Johnson, who is now down in H-Town with the Houston Texans.
While the offense may get all of the attention and hype, it may be the defense that steals the show.
As I remarked from being out in Berea on Day 2 of Browns Training Camp here, the Browns defense is going to bully and simply dominate opposing offensive lines that would make Thanos blush. Cleveland boasts perhaps the most formidable defensive line in the AFC with Pro Bowl DE Myles Garrett—who may mess around and win NFL Defensive Player of the Year!—DT Larry Ogunjobi, one of the most unsung heroes on defense and less-talked about run stoppers and penetrators in the league, DT Sheldon Richardson, who is a human tank and has no off-switch and DE Olivier Vernon, the OTHER former New York Giant not named Odell look primed to give quarterbacks nightmares and opposing offensive coordinators headaches on Sundays.
Bring your aspirin! Because it’s going to be a long day when facing the Browns “Lake Front” defense.
While starters at linebacker such as Christian Kirksey and Joe Schobert are set in Cleveland’s new 4-2-5 (base 4-3) defense led by former Arizona Cardinals head coach Steven Wilks, one name to keep an eye on is rookie linebacker Mack Wilson out of Alabama, who is showing flashes of athleticism and a nose for the football. While it is only two pre-season games so far, he is what former DB Jabrill Peppers was not, a hard-hitting “joker” on defense capable of making plays as the “nitro” LB/S hybrid so far.
Look for Wilson to be featured a lot in sub-packages and on likely passing downs, if he continues his level of play. Also, don’t sleep on second-year pass rusher Genard Avery out of Memphis and rookie LB Sione Takitaki, who looks to be a run-stuffing tackling machine that always seems to find the ball.
Lastly, Cleveland boasts perhaps the best young and promising tandem in the NFL in Pro Bowl cornerback Denzel Ward and Terrance Mitchell along with rookie Greedy Williams, safeties Morgan Burnett, Denarious Randall and TJ Carrie as the nickel back on passing downs, and the Browns secondary could be a major boon for the team in 2019.
Like all things football, luck can come and go, injuries can—and will happen, knock on wood anxious Browns fans!—and on any given Sunday, a team can come out of nowhere and shock another. At 7-8-1, the Browns snuck up on a lot of teams not expecting them to be as competitive as they were. In 2019, they no longer have that luxury and teams will be hip to them and what they like to do. The NFL changes and adapts unlike any other league in sports, and while many fans are predicting division titles, AFC championship games and dare I say it, Super Bowl, I have one thing to say.
PUMP. THE . BRAKES.
Yes, Cleveland is loaded, has talent for days on offense and defense, it is better to be cautiously optimistic and take it one Sunday at a time instead of booking your flight and hotel for South Beach.
Slow your role, just a bit my fellow Dawgs, and sit back and enjoy what promises to be one of the best seasons in out beloved Browns’ storied history.
The hype is real, but don;t let yourself get too caught up in it, as it is a long season, and anything can happen.