Analysis

Sports Info Solutions: Cleveland Browns Team Preview

Cleveland Browns Preview

In 2021, the Cleveland Browns had high expectations for a deep playoff run after making the AFC Divisional Round in 2020. With a roster that included one of the best offensive lines, backfield duos and one of the top-3 pass rushers in the game, all the Browns needed was quarterback Baker Mayfield to get the ball to his playmakers and limit mistakes to get them to the next level.

Unfortunately, the Browns finished with an 8-9 record and missed out on the playoffs. Mayfield played with a partially torn labrum in his left shoulder from Week 2 onward. This hindered his ability to run the Browns effectively. From Week 3 on, Mayfield ranked 37th out of 42 quarterbacks with at least 100 passing attempts, which was 7.2 Total Points per 60 plays worse than average.

Moving on from Mayfield

With a talented roster and 2020 Coach of the Year, Kevin Stefanski, the Browns decided to move on from Mayfield by trading him to the Panthers after trading for and signing Deshaun Watson to a 5-year, $230 million contract.

However, Watson was suspended for 11 games on Thursday. The Browns also brought in quarterback Jacoby Brissett from Miami this offseason. As it currently stands, Brissett will have to lead the Browns for most of the season.

The Browns will look to one of the best backfields and run-blocking offensive lines in football to carry them forward. Running backs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt both finished in the top 10 in Total Points per rush last season.

The offensive line ranked 8th in Run Blocking Total Points in 2021 with 103 (roughly 1.5 points per game better than the average offensive line). This unit did struggle in pass protection due to starting tackles Jack Conklin and Jedrick Wills Jr. missing games with injuries. It ranked 17th in Pass Blocking Total Points.

With the departures of both Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry, the Browns traded for former Cowboys receiver Amari Cooper. Last year with the Cowboys, Cooper averaged 8.5 yards per target (16th among receivers with at least 100 targets) and obtained a broken tackle plus missed tackle per reception rate of 22% (7th). In addition to Cooper, the Browns have Donovan Peoples-Jones and rookie David Bell as the other projected starting receivers. They also extended David Njoku at tight end this offseason.

Cleveland Browns Pass Catchers Key 2021 Stats

Statistic Donovan Peoples-Jones David Njoku
Yards Per Route Run (Rk) 1.6 (T-70th) 1.7 (T-58th)
EPA per Target (Rk) 0.28 (T-34th) 0.16 (T-59th)  

Defensive Strengths

Defensively, the Browns will once again have one of the best pass-rushing units in the NFL. Defensive Player of the Year betting favorite Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney finished 8th and 11th in Pass Rush Total Points last season.  They will once again look to anchor the defense in 2022. As a run defense, the Browns ranked 10th with 23 Run Defense Total Points per 60 plays (just 0.72 points per game better than average). 

According to the Total Points Team Strength Model from SIS, the Browns have the ninth-easiest projected strength of schedule. Brissett is the quarterback for now, but the rest of the Browns roster is constructed to compete with the AFC elite and contend for a spot in the Super Bowl.

James Weaver contributed to this report. 

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