The Kansas City Chiefs are the best of the AFC. They are considered AFC Royalty.
Yet, last year in the playoffs, the Browns had their chances to defeat the best of the conference. And perhaps, should have.
In the Super Bowl, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers showed the remainder of the AFC how to defeat the Chiefs. Back up a bit, in Week 5 the Las Vegas Raiders exposed the Chiefs and beat them down 40-32. All the Bucs did was rewind that tape and duplicate what the Raiders displayed.
The Browns should have a very good season this year. That much everyone knows. Just how good is yet to be seen, but some media outlets have predicted a 13-4 or even a 14-3-0 season. No, really. While others have placed Cleveland as coming in third in the division once again behind the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers.
Plus, the Buffalo Bills will once again be one of the conference’s best clubs. Up-and-comers to watch out for are the Los Angeles Chargers, Indianapolis Colts and Miami Dolphins.
What the Browns lacked Part 1
There are two glaring issues Cleveland needed in order to compete with AFC Royalty.
For one, the defense had to stop the run and defend the pass better with an emphasis on limiting the other team’s tight ends.
GM Andrew Berry was on a mission this off-season to fix the defense. In all, there could be nine new starters this year. Think about that: nine out of 11 defenders from opening day of 2020 will be brand new.
Now, if Malcolm Smith and Ronnie Harrison should start, that number would change to seven new starters from the end of last year instead of from opening day. But still, that is a lot of new bodies.
And finally, the safety position just might be complete. It has suffered greatly in the past few years ever since Jabrill Peppers was unceremoniously shipped out to the New York Football Giants in the Odell Beckham, Jr. trade. No longer will Browns’ fans have to suffer watching guys like Andrew Sendejo, Usama Young, Derrick Kindred, Damarious Randall, Ed Reynolds or Morgan Bennett.
John Johnson will bring a winning tradition to the safety room and help groom Grant Delpit and Richard LeCounte. Along with Harrison, this is going to be a productive, hard-hitting group.
The linebacker group may not be the best group of the entire defense, but will hit and the pass coverage will improve from last year. Anthony Walker was a steal in free agency and an instant leader. A tackling machine, he will get help from Smith. Hopefully Jacob Phillips will be able to come back from IR at some point. Rookie Tony Fields will come along gradually at Special Teams if he isn’t placed on IR as well while Sione Takitaki has shown he can be that pass defender this unit has coveted with speed. Mack Wilson had a great camp for veteran depth. And before all is said and done, JOK may become the most complete player in the group.
And holy cow regarding the defensive line. While Myles Garrett is considered All-World, defensive schemes were focused on shutting him out since there was minimal help with consistent pass rush. Now, he is suddenly paired with Jadeveon Clowney to form a lethal duo. With backup Takk McKinley and a probable waiver wire pickup, this will be a fun group.
On the interior, Jordan Elliott is expected to start this year after a productive second half of the season in 2020. Either Andrew Billings or Malik Jackson will pair with Elliott to help stop the run and put some pressure on the opposition’s passing game. Malik McDowell was the darling of the preseason and might push Elliott for starting time while rookie Tommy Togiai will get his reps.
And with the addition of first-round draft pick Greg Newsome, instantly the cornerback unit will have four viable starting caliber options come game day along with Denzel Ward, Greedy Williams and free agent signee Troy Hill. M.J. Stewart and A.J. Green round out the depth. The injury bug may be the only obstacle to this bunch.
What the Browns lacked Part 2
Are you ready for the second phase? Are you sure because you may not have even thought about this. So, here goes.
What the Browns lacked was that elite speed on offense. There is plenty of speed mind you, but not top-shelf speed.
Who has top-shelf speed? The Chiefs of course - and that is one of the many ways they beat you.
With that pesky Number 10. You know the guy: WR Tyreek Hill.
With jet sweeps and short passes, he simply cannot be covered and is extremely difficult to stop once he gets his hands on the football. He can take a 9-yard square out route and go 30-plus yards with it. He is not only fast but shifty and elusive.
Thankfully, GM Berry identified this as a weakness with the Browns’ offense. And what did he do about it?
He drafted WR Anthony Schwartz in the third-round of the NFL draft.
Berry’s belief is that the transformation of the Cleveland Browns into an AFC powerhouse was completed with drafting Anthony Schwartz. Read on for the explanation.
Schwartz is 6’-0”, 185 pounds - and that is soaking wet coming out of an all-you-eat Chinese buffet.
A former track star that once set a new World record at “Boy’s World Youth Best” in high school in the 100 meter dash with a run of 10.15. The old record had lasted nine years. Schwartz regularly competed in the 60 meters, 200, and 4x100. He has also competed in the USA Junior Championships plus U.S. Olympic Trials.
He was named the Broward County Florida Track and Field Athlete-of-the-Year in 2017. His high school football team won a state championship.
Schwartz played in 32 college games with Auburn over three seasons, but his receiving yards were just average. In his best season he had 636 yards. His entire college career he scored a mere 6 touchdowns in receiving, but his value are the seven TD’s he scored on running plays.
The jet sweep will become his signature play in the NFL. The dude can just go, and once he gets a step by you, then that one step becomes seven. Have you seen highlights on him?
Immediately, he will shift into his second-to-top gear, and then has another gear right behind that one. At his Auburn Pro Day, he timed in the 40 at 4.26. Did you read that? Say it out loud to grasp it’s full effect.
Schwartz is very good at bringing the ball into his body away from the defender and is a solid route runner. An extremely high-character guy. Weeks before the NFL draft on Zoom calls, both Berry and head coach Kevin Stefanski spent time with Schwartz and got to know him.
Now, because of his size, he isn’t going to break many tackles. If you can catch him you can bring him down; or being a thin guy he just simply goes out of bounds. Another negative is that there are times that he doesn’t adjust to the ball and either cannot find it or will make a bad adjustment to where the ball’s end point is.
And there aren’t any stats on punt or kickoff returns while he was at Auburn. This states that he isn’t any good at it, or has a propensity of fumbling, or cannot locate the ball in the air just like he occasionally does as a receiver, or perhaps can’t take that “all Hell breaking loose” type of gunners. Cleveland’s special teams coach Mike Priefer is one of the best in the league so it would be a shame having Schwartz on the roster yet not using him in this department.
Schwartz is definitely a player that would have to be developed. Now, that doesn’t mean the Browns will stick him on a shelf and be patient. He is a valuable weapon, and will used instantly.
It is going to be interesting on how the Browns will use Schwartz.
He has an uncanny ability to cut while maintaining his current speed. Do you realize how difficult that is to accomplish this? This will allow the offense to have a unique weapon. That speed could be used on kickoff returns and punts, but we will see if he fits there. So far, others have taken that role such as fellow rookie Demetric Felton.
It would seem the Browns are building not just to win the division - but to beat the Chiefs. And Kansas City has speed-on-top-of-speed on offense.
Just look at what is currently being put together as we all sit in our tidy chairs pretending to drink sweet tea instead of rum and coke.
Here are the current 40 times for the Browns’ top receivers: OBJ 4.43, Jarvis 4.77, Hollywood 4.64, DPJ 4.48 and Felton 4.58, And now you add a Florida Track and Field Athlete-of-the-Year who has competed in the Olympic Trails and runs a friggin’ 4.26?
Watch some highlight videos of Tyreek Hill. The dude has top-end speed, is great on jet sweeps, has a good route tree, goes out of bounds a lot to save being hit, is easily tackled once you get to him, and is very shifty.
Isn’t all of those things what was just described about Schwartz?
Do we all agree that to get to the Super Bowl, the Interstate highway which Cleveland will have to travel basically runs through Kansas City. Correct?
Remember mentioning that the transformation of the Browns into an AFC powerhouse was complete with drafting Anthony Schwartz?
Schwartz is Cleveland’s Tyreek Hill. And what is Tyreek Hill’s Chiefs jersey number? 10.
Guess what? Schwartz worn #5 in college and #18 in high school. Did you notice that Schwartz is wearing Number 10 with the Browns?
This isn’t irony. It’s iron forging iron.