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How does the Browns offense stack up in PFF’s rankings?

The offense proved early last season it could be a top unit. So how does this year’s squad look heading into the 2023 season?

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Cleveland Browns v Washington Commanders Photo by Todd Olszewski/Getty Images

The Cleveland Browns offense hit its apex on Halloween night of the 2022 season.

After a 32-13 beatdown of the Cincinnati Bengals, highlighted by quarterback Jacoby Brissett leading an offense that averaged 6.4 yards per play and rushed for 172 yards while beating the Bengals for the eighth time in nine games, the Browns boasted the fifth-best offensive DVOA in the NFL.

Things went downhill from there, this is still Cleveland after all, as the Browns struggled through the second half of the season to maintain any offensive continuity while incorporating quarterback Deshaun Watson back into the huddle after his 11-game suspension for violating the league’s Personal Conduct Policy.

Cleveland is running it back with the same core players on offense along with a few notable additions at wide receiver, plus Watson will be available from Week 1 and the hope is that his play will more resemble his seasons with the Houston Texans and less the quarterback working himself back up to game speed that was on display last season.

Head coach Kevin Stefanski and the rest of the offensive staff will get to work on that in earnest when training camp opens in late July, so in the meantime let’s take a look at how Pro Football Focus ranks Cleveland’s offensive talent heading into the 2023 season.

Quarterback Deshaun Watson (No. 13)

Maybe the hardest player to rank on the list, Watson has one of the widest ranges of outcomes in the NFL. He finished 2022 with just a 55.3 overall PFF grade after returning from suspension and didn’t noticeably improve as one does if they are just shaking off the rust. In his last full season with Houston (2020), he earned a 92.5 PFF grade and was one of the best quarterbacks in the game. I have no earthly idea how good Watson will be in 2023, and neither does anybody else.

Takeaway: Everything on the offense hinges on which version of Watson takes the field this fall. The Browns have enough talent on offense that they may not need Watson to replicate his 2020 season when he threw for 4,823 yards, 33 touchdowns and just seven interceptions (although it would be cool if he did), but they can’t survive a reprise of last season.

Baltimore Ravens v Cleveland Browns Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

Running back Nick Chubb (No. 1)

Chubb takes the top honor here for his consistency. He’s never posted a rushing grade below 80.0, and his most recent grade of 90.7 in 2022 was a career-high. Along with being one of the most physically gifted backs, he regularly forces missed tackles at one of the highest rates in the NFL and ranks near the top in yards-per-carry average.

Takeaway: The easiest pick without question in the entire rankings as Chubb is the best running back in the NFL and it is silly to try and argue otherwise.

Wide receiver Amari Cooper (No. 22)

Cooper makes every offense he steps into better. He has now demonstrated this knack for the Raiders, Cowboys and Browns in the NFL, yet the discussion about Cooper tends to center too often around his deficiencies. A receiver who is good at everything, Cooper is an excellent weapon whose only real issue is consistency.

Takeaway: Cooper was everything the Browns could have hoped for in his first season in town as he led the club in receptions (78), receiving yards (1,160) and touchdown receptions (nine). With reinforcements at wide receiver now on the roster, another big year should be in the cards for Cooper.

New Orleans Saints v Cleveland Browns Photo by Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

Tight end David Njoku (No. 10)

Njoku was given a hefty salary last offseason, and he rewarded the Browns with the best season of his career with a 78.7 receiving grade. His 1.55 yards per route run over the past two seasons is eighth-best at the position, and he has just one fumble over that time frame.

Takeaway: Njoku is somehow entering his seventh season with the Browns and continues to be a bit of an enigma. Athletic? Sure. Consistent? He’s gotten better in the past three seasons. A difference-maker at the position? Not so much compared to the game’s top tight ends. Njoku still can bring value to the offense, especially since he does not have to be the focus, and if he can give the Browns another season like he did in 2022 everyone will be happy.

Offensive guard Joel Bitonio (No. 3)

Bitonio has gotten better with age. His past three seasons earned the highest grades of his nine-year career, and he ranked inside the top five in PFF grade in each of those campaigns. He turns 32 in 2023, but with PFF pass-blocking grades of 80.0 or better in each of the past seven seasons, there should be no immediate worry about any significant drop-off.

Offensive guard Wyatt Teller (No. 10)

Teller came back down to earth a little in 2022 after two really strong seasons as a run blocker with the Browns in 2020 and 2021. Despite that, his 70.3 PFF grade in 2022 was still the 18th-best mark at the position. He ranked inside the top five in each of the previous two seasons.

Takeaway: Bitonio continues to be one of the league’s underrated players even though he is on a legitimate path to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Even in a down year, Teller was good enough to give the Browns the league’s best guard tandem as they are the only team to place both of their guards in the Top 10.

Center Ethan Pocic (No. 7)

Pocic was a Seattle Seahawks second-round pick back in 2017 but struggled as a guard in his first three seasons in the league. Since moving to center in 2020, his PFF grade has increased each season, including a career-high of 78.9 last season. Part of that improvement might have come from playing in the middle of two really good guards in Joel Bitonio and Wyatt Teller, but we did also see that improvement from 2020 to 2021 when he was still with Seattle.

Takeaway: If Cooper was the biggest steal by general manager Andrew Berry, signing Pocic in free agency may have been a very close second. Forced into the starting lineup when Nick Harris was lost for the season with a knee injury in training camp, Pocic quickly became an anchor in the center of the line and posted a run-blocking grade of 78.9, second only to Bitonio on the team.

NFL: Cleveland Browns-Training Camp Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Offensive tackles (none)

Takeaway: No love from PFF for left tackle Jedrick Wills Jr. (ranked No. 56) or right tackle Jack Conklin (No. 45) as neither made the list, which ran 32 players deep. It is interesting to note, however, that Cleveland’s offensive line is still ranked No. 2 in the league heading into this season given the strength of their interior with Bitonio, Teller and Pocic.

So if Wills and Conklin (who still posted a pass-blocking grade of 78.8, second only to Bitonio) can up their overall games just a little bit, the offensive line should continue to be a major issue for opposing defenses.

The Browns showed through the first half of the 2022 season that they have an offense designed to be among the league’s best. The key is to now show the ability to maintain that level of play throughout the entire course of a season, which if they can, will go a long way toward helping the club realize its playoff aspirations.