The Cleveland Browns will have a substantially different look when the squad takes the field for the 2023 season opener against the Cincinnati Bengals.
After a busy offseason of work by general manager Andrew Berry, the Browns will feature:
- A rebuilt wide receiver room with the additions of Elijah Moore, Cedric Tillman and Marquise Goodwin.
- An overhauled defensive line with new faces in Ogbo Okoronkwo, Za’Darius Smith, Isaiah McGuire, Siaki Ika and Dalvin Tomlinson.
- A new look in the secondary with safeties Juan Thornhill and Rodney McLeod
- An upgraded coaching staff featuring defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz and special teams coordinator Bubba Ventrone.
The new guys will, at least in theory, mesh with a foundation that features defensive end Myles Garrett, running back Nick Chubb, wide receiver Amari Cooper, one of the league’s best offensive lines and a full season of quarterback Deshaun Watson to bring the Browns back into the playoff hunt after two disappointing seasons.
But which addition is the one that will make the most difference?
According to Mike Sando at The Athletic (paywalled), the choice is clear:
The Jim Schwartz acquisition stands out. It’s easy to fire a coordinator when one side of the ball falls short of expectations. It’s harder to find top-tier replacements. Cleveland found one in Schwartz, whose track record should command respect right away.
Schwartz is a clear upgrade over former defensive coordinator Joe Woods, who often could not figure out how to put the defense in a position to be successful, which led to predictable outcomes in breakdowns at all levels of the defense.
Last year, when the Browns defense played zone they ranked 24th in EPA/play—in man coverage, they ranked 2nd and allowed the lowest QBR in football.— Mina Kimes (@minakimes) May 15, 2023
Expect new DC Jim Schwartz to call a more aggressive defense. pic.twitter.com/PcssAVOIVO
Not only does Schwartz bring experience (14 years as a defensive coordinator and five as a head coach) and a résumé that features a Super Bowl win with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2017, but also an understanding of the need to build trust with the players to achieve team success, as he explained in his introductory news conference (quote via a team-provided transcript):
“I think that all starts with trust. I have said this over the years, players really don’t care whether you are young or old, black or white, loud or quiet. If you can help them, they will listen. If they know you are coming from an honest spot and you are telling them the truth, they might not like what you say, but they will take it because they know it is coming from a performance base and it is coming from the truth.
“At this point in my career, I have probably spent more time doing that than actually doing schemes. Scheme wise, there is probably not a whole lot we will do here that a high school coach probably could not draw up just as good. That is not the secret sauce. The secret sauce is getting guys playing together and that accountability that goes into it.”
The Browns will head into the 2023 season with an expectation that they can compete for a playoff spot thanks in part to the changes they made during the offseason.
And if that comes true, then it may turn out that the biggest addition was not on the field but on the sidelines with the addition of Schwartz to run the defense.
Have your say - what was the best offseason move by the Browns?