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Cleveland Browns: 2017 Preview

Another new season means yet another new signal caller under center in Cleveland. Will the Browns finally get some consistent quarterback play and some games?


The Cleveland Browns enter 2017 with new quarterbacks, a new and improved offensive line, and many other new players on both sides of the ball. While expectations for this season may be low, the team may finally have some young and talented players on their roster, and a bright future ahead. 

2016 recap

2016 was most definitely a season to forget for every single Cleveland Browns player, coach, and fan. The Cleveland Browns opened their season in typical Browns fashion when their starting quarterback, Robert Griffin III, could not even make it through a full game, as he went down with a serious injury in their season opener. The Browns were defeated by the Eagles 29-10 and Griffin III remained on the sidelines until mid-December. 

The Browns would go on to lose 13 more consecutive games, until their Week 16 victory over the Chargers. During their 14 game skid to start the season, the Browns suffered some heartbreaking defeats including a 30-24 overtime loss to the Dolphins, a 28-26 loss to the Titans, and a 31-28 loss to the Jets. After their victory over the Chargers, the Browns suffered another heartbreaking defeat to close out the season, this one a 27-24 loss to the Steelers in overtime.  

Throughout the season, the Browns were plagued with extremely inconsistent quarterback play. After Robert Griffin III went down with an injury in Week 1, Cody Kessler filled in admirably for him, until he also suffered an injury that kept him out for several weeks. Kessler was actually a somewhat pleasant surprise for the Browns as he completed 65.6% of his passes and threw for 1,380 yards and six touchdowns while tossing just two interceptions in his limited playing time.

The next man up was veteran journeyman Josh McCown, who put up dreadful numbers. McCown completed just 54.5% of his passes, and threw for 1,100 yards and six touchdowns, while also tossing six interceptions. Robert Griffin III returned from injury to play the last few games of the season and just like McCown, he played terribly, completing 59.2% of his passes and throwing for 886 yards, two touchdowns, and three interceptions. 

The Browns were consistently outplayed by their opponents on both sides of the ball. The Browns quarterbacks threw for 3,693 yards, 15 touchdowns, and 14 interceptions while opposing quarterbacks threw for 4,173 yards, a whopping 36 touchdowns, and just ten interceptions. 

Furthermore, the Browns’ absolutely putrid offensive line gave up 66 sacks all season, while their dreadful defensive line managed just 26 quarterback sacks all season. The Browns’ offensive line definitely deserves some of the credit for their atrocious quarterback play, as getting sacked 66 times can certainly cause some damage to the quarterback and most definitely does not make his job any easier.

Offseason moves

InOut
DeShone Kizer, QB (Draft)Josh McCown, QB
Brock Osweiler, QBRobert Griffin III, QB
Kenny Britt, WRTerrelle Pryor Sr., WR
David Njoku, TE (Draft)Andrew Hawkins, WR
Kevin Zeitler, GGary Barnidge, TE
JC Tretter, OLDemario Davis, LB
Myles Garrett, DL (Draft)
Jason McCourty, DB
Jabrill Peppers, DB (Draft)
Calvin Pryor III, DB

The additions of Kevin Zeitler and JC Tretter were much needed and should significantly improve a horrendous offensive line that allowed 66 quarterback sacks in 2016 and was arguably the worst offensive line in the league last season. The revolving door of quarterbacks continues to revolve in 2017 as Josh McCown and Robert Griffin III were replaced by Brock Osweiler and rookie second round pick DeShone Kizer.  

Kenny Britt is a reliable wide receiver who had the best year of his career last season with the Los Angeles Rams.  David Njoku is an explosive and athletic tight end who has the potential to be a star and could end up as the best tight end in this draft class.  Browns quarterbacks will love to have him as a weapon this season.

On defense, the Browns used the first overall pick to draft sack machine, Myles Garrett. Garrett should infuse some much-needed production into a terrible defensive line that only managed 26 sacks last season and was among the NFL’s worst pass rushing groups last season. There may finally be a Browns defensive lineman opposing quarterbacks are actually afraid of. 

The additions of Jason McCourty, Jabrill Peppers, and Calvin Pryor III give a much-needed boost to the Brown’s secondary and should do a much better job of keeping opposing wide receivers out of the end zone.

While Josh McCown and Robert Griffin III will not be missed this season, the loss of Terrelle Pryor Sr. stings badly. Pryor Sr. was easily the Brown’s best receiver last season and managed to consistently put up good production despite the terrible quarterback play that plagued the Browns last season. The Browns made a huge mistake by failing to re-sign him and allowing the Redskins to snatch him up. On defense, linebacker Demario Davis will also be missed.  Davis had the second-most tackles on the Browns last season with 99 and added 2.0 sacks as well.  

2017 schedule

WeekOpponent
1vs Pittsburgh Steelers
2@ Baltimore Ravens
3@ Indianapolis Colts
4vs Cincinnati Bengals
5vs New York Jets
6@ Houston Texans
7vs Tennessee Titans
8vs Minnesota Vikings
9BYE
10@ Detroit Lions
11vs Jacksonville Jaguars
12@ Cincinnati Bengals
13@ Los Angeles Chargers
14vs Green Bay Packers
15vs Baltimore Ravens
16@ Chicago Bears
17@ Pittsburgh Steelers

The Browns should hopefully manage to win more than one game this season. Due to Joe Flacco’s injury, the Browns could win their Week 2 matchup with the Ravens if Flacco does not play. The Browns are also capable of beating the Jets in Week 5, the Jaguars in Week 11, and the Bears in Week 16. Additionally, the Browns could realistically have a shot at winning both of their matchups with the Bengals and their match-up with the Chargers.

While the Browns will miss the playoffs, they are significantly better this year than they were last year. With key additions, this past offseasons on both sides of the ball, look for the Browns to stay more competitive in games and have a shot at winning some of them as well.

Three players to watch

With many new faces in the locker room, it will be interesting to see which players will emerge and make a name for themselves.

Myles Garrett, defensive end

The number one overall pick is a quarterback’s worst nightmare.  He is easily the Browns’ best defensive lineman and provides much-needed improvement to a brutally awful pass rushing unit that only managed 26 sacks last season. Garrett was the consensus number one pick in this year’s draft and the Browns made the right move by picking him, rather than taking a chance on yet another first round quarterback. It will be interesting to see if Garrett does live up to the hype and if the Browns’ front office made the right call by drafting him.

Brock Osweiler & DeShone Kizer, quarterback

It will be very interesting to see who starts the season as the Browns’ quarterback and who finishes the season under center in Cleveland. Perhaps Brock Osweiler can revive his career in Cleveland and play like the once-promising signal caller he was when filling in for Peyton Manning in Denver. There is also a strong possibility Osweiler looks like underwhelming, turnover-prone quarterback he was last year in Houston. Osweiler will have a short leash this season if he is the Week 1 starter, with rookie DeShone Kizer ready to take his job at any moment. 

There is a lot of hype surrounding Kizer, especially among some of his teammates as wide receiver Kenny Britt said in an interview that Kizer is ‘going to be one of the great ones’. Kizer was originally expected to be a first round pick, but dropped to the second round after a disappointing season at Notre Dame last year. Will Kizer have a strong season and make the other 31 teams sorry they passed on him in the draft?

JC Tretter & Kevin Zeitler, offensive line

The Browns made some badly needed additions this offseason to the league’s worst offensive line. The offensive line was absolutely horrendous last season, giving up 66 quarterback sacks.  Tretter and Zeitler are two experienced veteran starters and will help significantly this season. Cleveland is known as the city where quarterbacks go to die and it is not hard to see why. With Tretter and Zeitler now shoring up the trenches, could this season be one where a quarterback actually thrives in Cleveland?

Prediction

The outcome of this season depends almost entirely on the play of the quarterback and the offensive line. The Browns have suffered eternally from terrible quarterback play. With the addition of two experienced starters on the offensive line as well as a quarterback with the potential to be great in DeShone Kizer, this season could be the start of something great in Cleveland. Add in some other weapons such as Myles Garrett, Jabrill Peppers, and David Njoku, and the Browns may finally have a foundation of talented and special young players.  

While the Browns will not make the playoffs and will not have a winning record, they will have a much better outcome this season. I can realistically see the Browns finishing at either 4-12, 5-11, or 6-10. If things go better than expected, they could finish the season at 7-9, but if things go worse than planned, they could end up 3-13. While this season will not bring a winning record or a playoff appearance, it could bring the Browns and their fans a glimpse of what’s to come. 

If all goes to plan and the Browns continue to improve, then we may finally see the Browns end their playoff drought sometime in the not-too-distant future.     

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Justin Boguslavsky

Columbia University student, NFL and NCAAF writer, die hard Philly sports fan #FlyEaglesFly

Hot takes are my specialty

Cleveland Browns: 2017 Preview

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