The Cleveland Browns schedule is out and while we have known the team’s 2023 opponents since the end of last season, getting a schedule helps assess the outlook on the season. With the quarterback position the most important in the NFL and the AFC being loaded with good to great players at the position, who DC Jim Schwartz’s unit will face off with will be interesting.
The Browns defense starts and ends the season with Joe Burrow, one of the top players at the position in the NFL, but has an interesting mix in between:
- Week 2 - Kenny Pickett - As a rookie, Pickett struggled but showed a few flashes of quality play. With the offensive line upgraded in free agency and the NFL draft, Pickett could develop in his second season.
- Week 3 - Ryan Tannehill - Second-round pick Will Levis will likely take over at some point but it will be Tannehill’s job, most likely, by Week 3. The Titans have looked to replace the veteran in the last two drafts so his leash will be short.
- Week 4 - Lamar Jackson - Signed to a new long-term deal, Jackson has had his weapons upgraded and a new offensive coordinator in place. By Week 4, as long as they stay healthy, Jackson should be very comfortable in the new system.
- Week 6 - Trey Lance/Sam Darnold/Brock Purdy - Three totally different players and very little clarity about who will be starting by the time Week 6 rolls around. Lance will get every shot to take the job as Purdy recovers from arm surgery while Darnold, on his third team, lurks as a Kyle Shanahan reclamation project.
- Week 7 - Anthony Richardson - While veteran Gardner Minshew could take early reps as the starter, Richardson will likely be starting by Week 7. A hyper-athletic prospect, Richardson has speed and power with the ball in his hands and a strong arm. Accuracy concerns are partially due to his surrounding cast in college but the rookie will have to prove he can beat teams through the air.
- Week 8 - Geno Smith - Fresh off a career year and a new contract, Smith will have to prove that last year was not a fluke. Accurate and efficient, Smith threw for over 4,200 yards with 30 touchdowns and 11 interceptions last year while completing 70% of his passes.
- Week 9 - Colt McCoy/Clayton Tune - With Kyler Murray out for the season due to a late-season knee injury, the veteran McCoy or the rookie Tune, a fifth-round selection, will likely take the snaps against the Browns.
- Week 10 - Jackson
- Week 11 - Pickett
- Week 12 - Russell Wilson - After a horrible season in 2022, Wilson hopes to bounce back this year. With Sean Payton riding in (yes, a pun), Wilson has a chance to replicate the success Drew Brees had with Payton. A lot of talented weapons should help his chances as well.
- Week 13 - Matthew Stafford - To be honest, assuming that Stafford is still healthy enough to play by this point in the season is a real stretch. Instead, it might be a better bet to assume Stetson Bennett is taking snaps as a rookie after leading the Georgia Bulldogs the last couple of seasons.
- Week 14 - Trevor Lawrence - Lawrence is the reason that his team is no longer seen as a “scheduled win.” The young quarterback took a huge step with Doug Pederson after the mismanagement of Urban Meyer as a rookie.
- Week 15 - Justin Fields - While it might be strange to call this a revenge game, Cleveland sacked Fields nine times in their matchup his rookie season. The Ohio State Buckeyes signal caller made big strides last year and the addition of DJ Moore and Chase Claypool should help his continued development.
- Week 16 - CJ Stroud - Three of the top four drafted rookies could see snaps against Schwartz’s defense. Stroud has some learning to do after Ryan Day’s offense had all plays called from the sideline. He also has a weak set of weapons around him as a rookie which will make his life, perhaps, more difficult than the other top-drafted QBs.
- Week 17 - Aaron Rodgers - Expected to be one of the top teams in the NFL, it will be interesting to see how Rodgers is holding up under the pressure of the New York media and the less-than-top-shelf offensive line protecting him. Rodgers struggled last year but has his old OC back and a few top-end weapons to work with.
Between Burrow and Burrow, the Browns defense has an interesting group of quarterbacks to face. Rodgers, Stafford and Wilson are older veterans coming off down years but with a long history of success. Jackson is a force unto himself with a new scheme and talent around him while Lawrence and Fields are expected to be the next great young guys. A few rookies, second-year QBs and retreads litter the rest of the schedule.
What sticks out to you between matchups with Burrow?