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Turn the Page Tuesday: Developing young players and focusing on the process

At 3-7, the Browns season is all but over while still having 7 games left.

NFL: Cleveland Browns at Buffalo Bills Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

The Cleveland Browns fell to 3-7 with their loss to the Buffalo Bills. While the end score made it seem closer than the game was, Cleveland was dominated by Buffalo for the vast majority of the game.

With the loss, the team’s 2022 season is all but over while still having seven games remaining on the schedule. A really tough place to be for Browns fans who don’t have hope of a top-five selection in the 2023 NFL draft to at least be excited about.

Instead, the rest of the season will be about next season and beyond which isn’t what most expected given the talented players on the roster. While most are calling for Joe Woods and Mike Priefer to be fired this year, it seems that they will both survive at least another week.

Most likely, any major changes won’t happen until the season is officially over.

Today, Tuesday, we turn the page. Normally this feature is focused on turning the page from one week of the season to the next but today is a little different. Today is the day we officially turn the page from outcome-oriented thinking to more process-oriented thinking.

Closing the Book on the Playoffs

Just doing the simple math, Cleveland could finish the year with a 10-7 record. While a quality record, there are already eight teams in the AFC with at least six wins and another with five. While it is possible that at least two of those teams could win just three of their last seven games, there is a little problem with tiebreakers as well.

The Browns have lost to six of the nine teams with five or more wins in the AFC. While they have another chance at Baltimore later this year, the other five teams will hold tiebreakers over them with Cincinnati having a chance to tie the season series later this year as well.

Six losses in the conference also hurt the secondary tiebreaker as well.

Closing the book on the playoffs, opening the book to focusing on development.

Deshaun Watson’s Return

While the offense hasn’t played badly under Jacoby Brissett, Deshaun Watson should take it to a whole different level. It may take just a little while for Watson to get his feet underneath him but watching him run Kevin Stefanski’s offense should be a treat and create hope and excitement going into the 2023 season.

Questions on defense will likely continue but Watson’s ability to keep drives going and getting touchdowns instead of field goals should help that side of the ball as well.

Knowing that the team has a franchise-level quarterback going into the 2023 season will be a real boost to the team and its fans.

Young Players' Chance to Develop

We will do a bigger breakdown of the Browns roster later this week but it is interesting that they have 18 players that are 23 years of age or younger. Age has been an important decision-maker for GM Andrew Berry. While it may have led to some less-than-stellar decisions, it does create hope for development.

For the rest of 2022, especially with Watson returning, putting the young guys in a position to succeed and develop will be crucial. Cleveland doesn’t have to just sit their veterans but giving some of their snaps to the young guys will give them a chance to grow. For example, Amari Cooper doesn’t need to be on the field for 80% of the snaps anymore. Instead, Anthony Schwartz and Michael Woods II should see more time to see if Watson can unlock their potential.

Resting Nick Chubb a little more to give Jerome Ford a chance or to showcase Kareem Hunt and D’Ernest Johnson (for compensatory picks) also makes sense.

On defense, Martin Emerson and Alex Wright have already been given a lot of time on the field but Isaiah Thomas shouldn’t be inactive just to get a much longer look at vets like Chase Winovich.

The rest of 2022 is about how all those young players can show that they belong on a team that plans to contend in 2023. Game-day reps are one way to prove that.

Process Over Outcome

Very simply, the rest of 2022 is not going to be about outcomes. We’ve closed the book on the playoffs and now need to focus on the little things. Player development and Watson’s return are the two big ones but the process is about so many other things.

  • Can coaches adjust their scheme?
  • What can players do or not do? (Trial and error)
  • What young players are a big part of the future versus just backend roster guys?
  • Are there new roles players can try out and be successful at?
  • Do coaches/the front office need to “send messages” to underperforming veterans?

Seven games left for the Browns with all of the focus now turning toward the 2023 NFL offseason and season. Can the team do enough to keep the fans engaged despite all the losing? Will you still watch if development and the future, instead of winning games this year, becomes the focus?