The Cleveland Browns are a very talented team that sits at 2-3 five games into the 2022 NFL season. Whether they are talented or not, they have a losing record and couldn’t put away three games that they should have won.
There is solace in the losses but not much. The Week 5 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers was at least against a team that was expected to be good and that is very talented as well. At least the losses to the New York Jets and Atlanta Falcons weren’t blowouts.
Again, very little solace but solace.
There is also long-term comfort in knowing that this Browns team started the year with the youngest roster in the NFL. In fact, over the past five years, Cleveland’s initial 53-man roster has never been lower than the fourth youngest in the NFL. Joel Bitonio, Chris Hubbard and Charley Hughlett are the lone players 30 years old or older.
The upside of youth is exciting. Players can get better. Younger players are less likely to get injured and, generally, heal faster. In the NFL, players with four or fewer years of experience are much, much cheaper.
The problem with youth is very clear on the Browns roster. They don't have enough veterans who have been around the block, that have already earned their stripes in the league and who are now just playing to win games and for the love of football.
One of the team’s veterans, LB Anthony Walker Jr. (at the ripe age of 27) is sorely missed on run defense. While not perfect, Walker’s experience and steady hand were helpful to the young guys around him. Outside of the quieter Bitonio, the offense is led by a veteran QB in 29-year-old Jacoby Brissett but he’s a stopgap player at his position.
Even WR Amari Cooper, an eight-year veteran, is on the quieter side.
Perhaps it is too late for GM Andrew Berry to add some older veterans that can still play to the roster. Perhaps the need to roll over this year’s cap space to cover future charges limits what he is able to do. Without added experience, Cleveland needs their youngsters to learn quickly and become grizzled, disciplined veterans quickly.
So far, that has not happened. That is the problem with youth in the NFL.