Cleveland Browns Last Season Performance
In 2020, the Browns tallied their first playoff win since 1994. The franchise was trending with some labeling Cleveland as a Super Bowl contender. The 2021 season was a disappointment as the Browns missed the playoffs finishing 8-9.
Cleveland’s defense played well, allowing 311.5 yards per game (3rd), but the offense was sporadic. Baker Mayfield struggled with a nagging shoulder injury, throwing for a career-low 3,010 yards and 17 touchdowns. The Browns finished 27th in passing offense at 195.3 passing yards per game.
inning 3-1, Cleveland finished the season going 5-8. The Browns hovered around .500 and were never true contenders for the AFC North.
Cleveland Browns Key Additions
Cleveland made wholesale changes on offense. Deshaun Watson was acquired for three first-round picks, a third-round pick and a fourth-round pick. Plus, the Browns fully-guaranteed Watson’s hefty $230 million contract. Furthermore, Cleveland traded a fifth-round pick for four-time Pro Bowler Amari Cooper. Quarterback depth was added with the signings of Jacoby Brissett and Joshua Dobbs.
The Browns’ special teams dramatically improved with the signing of return specialist Jakeem Grant. Defensive end Chase Winovich was acquired from New England in exchange for linebacker Mack Wilson.
In the 2022 NFL Draft, Cleveland used three third-round picks on CB Martin Emerson Jr., DE Alex Wright and WR David Bell. Each player flashed intriguing upside throughout their college careers. Bell was a stud at Purdue recording 1,286 receiving yards in 2021. Emerson had one of the SEC’s top coverage grades since 2020 with his lengthy 6-foot-2 frame. Wright brings ideal size at 6-foot-5, 267 pounds for an every-down defensive end.
Cleveland Browns Key Subtractions
After a season filled with drama, the Browns and Mayfield had a damaged relationship. Rumors swirled Cleveland could be looking for a change at QB. Mayfield was the odd-man-out once Cleveland traded for Watson. Reports emerged the former No.1 pick refused to play with the Browns, regardless of Watson’s potential suspension.
After weeks of trade discussions, the Browns sent the fifth-year QB to Carolina for a conditional 2024 fifth-rounder. Cleveland received close to no value for Mayfield, but Watson will be a major upgrade in the future.
Elsewhere, tight end Austin Hooper signed with the Titans and wide receiver Rashard Higgins joined the Panthers. Veteran wideout Jarvis Landry was released and signed with the Saints. Cleveland went all out in revamping its passing attack.
The Browns also made the surprise decision to release center J.C. Tretter. He became one of the NFL’s best centers over his five years in Cleveland. Tretter remains a free agent.
Cleveland Browns Head Coach Analysis
The jury’s still out on Head Coach Kevin Stefanski. After an 11-5 record and playoff win in his first season, Stefanski was beloved by Cleveland fans. That devotion turned sour after a disappointing 2021 season.
Stefanski generated hype as Minnesota’s Offensive Coordinator from 2018-19. The Browns wanted to pair Mayfield with an offensive guru. Freddie Kitchens was a disaster, Stefanski looked like the right choice this time.
Mayfield and Stefanski did not get along last season. Stefanski’s play-calling was partially blamed for Cleveland’s poor passing attack. Was the bad passing offense due to Mayfield’s inability or Stefanski’s questionable decisions? If Watson plays, the 2022 season will reveal the answer.
The Browns ranked fourth in rushing yards per game in back-to-back seasons. Many are questioning if Stefanski’s run-first scheme will mesh with Watson. This could be Stefanski’s most important season.
Cleveland Browns Injured Players at the Beginning of the Season
Many Browns players dealt with nagging injuries in 2021. For instance, left tackle Jerdrick Wills battled an ankle injury for weeks. Right tackle Jack Conklin had the most major injury with a torn patellar tendon. He was placed on Injured Reserve, missing the final six games. Conklin’s recovery is on schedule; he is expected to play in Week 1.
Linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah had a shortened rookie season thanks to injuries. When he played, the rookie shined. Owusu-Koramoah enters this season healthy with high hopes.
Overall, injuries were a big factor last season. Cleveland is finally healthy following an offseason full of recovery.
Cleveland Browns Offense
The Browns’ identity will mostly be unchanged. Watson’s pending punishment will have a big impact on the offensive scheme. If Watson plays in eight or more games, Stefanski could open up the passing attack. The run game will be a big piece, it’s too good to ignore.
Nick Chubb has averaged 5.6 yards per carry since 2020, proving he is one of the NFL’s best pure runners. Kareem Hunt comes off a season full of injuries but recorded 1,145 scrimmage yards in 2020. Most importantly, Cleveland has one of the best offensive lines in the league.
The passing game looks a lot different. Donovan Peoples-Jones — who showed glimpses of huge potential last season — and David Njoku are the only familiar faces. Cooper and Bell will fill in the starting WR spots next to Peoples-Jones. Second-year speedster Anthony Schwartz and third-year tight end Harrison Bryant will have elevated roles.
Cleveland Browns Defense
Cleveland’s defense should have another impressive year. Myles Garrett is an annual Defensive Player of the Year candidate. Last year, Garrett recorded a career-high 16 sacks and 51 tackles. The Browns’ pass rush will always be disruptive with Garrett leading the charge.
Taven Bryan is the only new starter as he replaces Andrew Billings at defensive tackle. Jordan Elliott mans the other DT spot while Jadeveon Clowney returns at defensive end.
Anthony Walker, Owusu-Koramoah and Sione Takitaki form the linebacking unit. In his second season, Owusu-Koramoah is a breakout candidate. Before injuries, he was comparable to rookie sensation Micah Parson. Owusu-Koramoah will make a huge impact in his first full season starting.
Cornerback Denzel Ward will attempt to prove his worth after signing a five-year, $100.5 million extension. Greg Newsome II looks to build off a good rookie season. Cleveland’s secondary has a bright future with talented cover corners.
Cleveland Browns Special Teams
The Browns made changes at all major special teams positions. Corey Bojorquez will be the new starting punter. Last year, Bojorquez averaged 46.5 yards per kick and had 18 punts pinned inside the 20.
Kicker has been a revolving door. Chase McLaughlin was inconsistent converting 71.4% of kicks. Cleveland drafted Cade York out of LSU in the fourth round. From 2020-21, York was 33-39 (84.6%) on field goal attempts. Will York be the next successful rookie kicker? The Browns certainly hope so.
Grant is one of the NFL’s best return men. He appeared in last year’s Pro Bowl as a return specialist. Cleveland adds some much-needed juice in the return game. Special teams are often overlooked, but it’s a vital part of the game.
Cleveland Browns Prediction for the 2022 Season
How the season unfolds fully depends on Watson’s situation. Without Watson, the Browns will not make the playoffs in a stacked AFC. If Watson plays, Cleveland could be Super Bowl contenders.
There’s no guarantee Watson is elite this season, he will be rusty. Plus, Stefanski’s offense with Watson is a question mark. The defense and run game feel like the only for sure areas, which will keep them competitive.
If Watson plays most of the season, Cleveland will compete for a playoff spot. Winning the AFC North looks doubtful regardless. The Ravens and Bengals will likely be the North’s best. On paper, the Browns look great but there are too many questions right now.
Cleveland Browns Final Thoughts
Cleveland will be one of the NFL’s most intriguing teams. This is a stacked roster with a ton of upside, but it all depends on Watson. Once he plays, Watson could struggle. He hasn’t played a game since 2020.
Stefanski’s situation will also be interesting. He received plenty of criticism after a disappointing season. Few coaches dramatically change their identity due to one poor season. How much will Stefanski change? Was all of last year’s struggles Mayfield’s fault?
The AFC is loaded with Super Bowl contenders. The Browns could make the conference even more difficult. Cleveland has winning components, like a dominant run game, a game-changing QB and an elite defensive player.
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Cleveland Browns FAQs
Will the Cleveland Browns make the playoffs?
It all depends on Watson. Cleveland will not make the playoffs if Brissett starts the entire season. If Watson starts half the season, the Browns have a great shot.
Have the Browns won a Super Bowl?
The Super Bowl began in 1967. The Browns have not won a Super Bowl, but won four NFL championships from 1950-64. This was the peak of Cleveland’s franchise with NFL legend Jim Brown at the forefront.
Can the Browns win a Super Bowl with Deshaun Watson?
Winning a Super Bowl this season looks unlikely. In future seasons, the Browns can absolutely win a Super Bowl with Watson. The roster has everything you could ask for. Good defense and elite rushing attacks are vital in the playoffs, Cleveland has both. Plus, Watson has the ability to be a difference maker.
Why did the Browns leave Cleveland for four years?
During the 1995 season, it was announced that the Browns were moving to Baltimore and would be renamed the Ravens. The 1996 season was the first year since 1945 with no Cleveland football. The NFL quickly promised the Browns would be back. In 1999, the Cleveland Browns returned as an NFL expansion team.