Kevin Stefanski will change the culture, which was needed. He will get Baker Mayfield back on track, but I think this is a team that is a year away - even if Browns fans don’t want to hear it.
Who’s on the hot seat? QB Baker Mayfield
Why his seat is warm: The QB-starved Browns justifiably had high expectations for Mayfield after he broke the NFL rookie passing TD record in 2018. But last season did not go well for him or the Browns, who finished a disappointing 6-10. This offseason, Cleveland’s new front office was aggressive in giving Mayfield even more support on the field. Now, with arguably the most potent offensive skill contingent in the NFL and potentially the league’s most improved offensive line, the pressure will be on Mayfield to show that he is in fact Cleveland’s long-lost franchise QB.
The Browns open with Ravens Week, a significant challenge for a defense trying to find its footing after a training camp dotted with injuries to key contributors. Cleveland traded for safety Ronnie Harrison following Grant Delpit’s season-ending Achilles injury and added former Super Bowl MVP Malcolm Smith to bolster the linebackers room while Mack Wilson recovers from a hyperextended knee. Lamar Jackson presents a potentially unforgiving litmus test for the Kevin Stefanski era.
The Browns were 13th in our preseason power poll last year, not as egregious an overhype as we thought. But we’re not falling for that again quite yet.
There has been plenty of talk about extensions for young running backs, and Nick Chubb’s contract will have to be addressed soon. He’s a talented runner and a big part of the Browns’ offense, but he’s not concerned yet with an extension.
“I’m a big believer in everything happens for a reason,” Chubb told the Cleveland media. “Whatever happens to me, it’ll be for the best, I believe. So I’m just trying to get better every day here and not worry about the future.”
One year ago at this time, the hype surrounding the Cleveland Browns was in overdrive. After a number of splashy additions, the Browns started off the season inside our top 10 in these rankings. They went on to be one of the season’s biggest disappointments, winning only six games. But perhaps the hype was less misplaced and more premature.
Cleveland has as much skill-position talent as any team in the league. The addition of tackles Jack Conklin and Jedrick Wills Jr. should be a huge boost to both the run game and quarterback Baker Mayfield. And edge-rusher Myles Garrett has the potential to vie for Defensive Player of the Year honors. On paper, the Browns have the makings of a contender. But one of our analysts will believe it when he sees it.
“Mayfield needs to show he can cut down on turnovers after leading the AFC in interceptions last season,” Davenport said. “The linebacker corps in Cleveland was already a weak spot before Mack Wilson got hurt. The Browns might be better than 6-10, but I’ll believe they can hang with the Ravens and Steelers when they show they can.”
Listed below is a summary table of where teams in the AFC North are ranked this week.