In an ongoing offseason series, experts from The 33rd Team offer three things each team can do to improve in 2023.
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Here’s my list, 1 2 3, of how you fix the Cleveland Browns.
3 Ways to Improve Browns
1. Improve Defensive Interior
You have got to work on the defense, particularly the interior of that defensive line. So when you talk about 3-techniques, 5-techniques, those interior defensive linemen, you look at how those guys performed last year. Even when they were getting consistent pressure on the outside from Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney, you didn’t have that interior push. People talk all the time about the front and the coverage being married. What does that mean? If the front can’t get home, the back end has to cover too long, which can create problems. So that back end really got exposed.
If you can get some help on that defensive line’s interior, it will be a big start. They don’t have a lot of space to do it right now. Maybe you try to do it with the draft. You don’t have a first-round pick this year; the first pick right now is at 42. So you really have to wait a while to pick somebody. Can you get a proven starter, a true game-changer at 42 overall? I don’t think so. So the best option, I believe, is that the Browns will have to go out and get an interior defensive lineman in free agency. There are some options out there; people talk about Daron Payne and DeForest Buckner. I think they will be way too far outside of the budget the Browns will have available. So you’ll have to go for a different type of player on that interior, but that’s where I would start.
2. Address Safety Position
Staying on the defensive side of the ball, you’ll have to have some help at safety. Grant Delpit really started to play well toward the end of the year. But you’ll need somebody else in Jim Schwartz’s defense to play that safety spot to complement Delpit on that back end. I don’t believe they’re going to keep John Johnson. They’re going to try to clear up some cap space, is my guess with him. So they’re going need to bring in somebody at that safety spot. Talk about the Browns, talk about that defense; a little bit of help in the front, a little bit of help in the back.
3. Find New Slot WR
Moving around to the offensive side of the ball for number three is an area that needs to be addressed for the Browns. For me, that would be a slot receiver. You talk about Amari Cooper and Donovan Peoples-Jones, great one-two on the outside. On the inside, you just haven’t had the performance that you needed. Anthony Schwartz had the drop issues. David Bell was just in his rookie season; I believe he had 20 or 21 catches. I knew he would be a good player at some point in his career. But just one of those learning curve things for a younger, smaller guy like David Bell.
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So if you try to add a little bit of experience, a little bit of depth to that slot position, I think it’s going to help this offense out tremendously and get this team a little bit closer to where they hoped they would be when they signed Deshaun Watson a year ago.
Robert Smith is a former NFL running back for the Minnesota Vikings and a two-time Pro Bowler. His career with the Vikings earned him a spot on the 50 Greatest Vikings list. Follow him on Twitter at @Robert26Smith.