Ever since the Cleveland Browns made their triumphant comeback to Cleveland in 1999, the city has been hungry and waiting. Football has long been a focal point of northeastern Ohio, and the Cleveland Browns lie at the center of it.
In 2020, the Browns made their first playoff appearance since a first-round exit in 2003. After a first-round win over division rival Pittsburgh Steelers, the Browns gave themselves a chance against then Super Bowl champs Kansas City Chiefs. No one really expected them to even make it a challenge, but the Browns did all they could in a heartbreaking 22-17 loss.
One year later, Browns fans are even more optimistic about their Super Bowl chances. With nearly everyone returning on the offensive side of the ball and a few key additions on the defensive side, this could be the year that the Browns put their Super Bowl drought to bed.
Baker is Back With OBJ
Although the Baker Mayfield/OBJ connection has left much to be desired so far, there is reason to be hopeful that things will change this year. Odell Beckham Jr. is coming off a season-ending injury that cut his playoff hopes short. He is hungry for more than just a reputation as a flashy receiver who makes highlight-reel catches. Odell is ready to take the next step in his development as a team player who does what he needs to do to help the team win.
The first two years of Baker’s career have been up and down, to say the least. He went from Cleveland’s saving grace to a first-round flop and back up to greatness in the span of two years. He finished last year on a high note, however, without the benefit of having one of the most talented receivers in football.
One of the Deepest Offenses in Football
It’s no secret that the Browns have two great receivers in OBJ and Jarvis Landry. It’s also no secret that Kareem Hunt and Nick Chubb are a running force to be reckoned with. But the offensive threats don’t stop there. Wide receivers Donovan Peoples’ Jones and Rashad Higgins are two of their best-kept secret weapons. And let’s not forget about former Atlanta Falcons pro bowl tight end Austin Hooper.
Expect a bigger role and more production from Hooper this year. Oh ya, and they have the best O-line in football. That’s kind of a big deal, too.
A Revamped Defense With More Depth
Anyone who watched more than a minute of Browns football last year knows that their defense, namely the secondary was a dumpster fire. With key pieces missing to injury and the backups of backups trying to fill the holes, the Browns were prone to big-play disaster. With the return of pro-bowler Denzel Ward and key pieces like Grant Delpit and Greedy Williams, and draft picks John Johnson III and Troy Hill, look for the Browns secondary to be much stronger.
Perhaps the biggest move the Browns made on the defensive side this off-season was adding Jadaveon Clowney. With massive talent and big-play potential, Clowney joins one of the best defensive ends in football, Myles Garrett. With superstars coming off of both sides of the defensive line, expect lots of sacks and hurries against opposing quarterbacks.
On paper, the Browns have everything they need to win a Super Bowl. A young, stud quarterback, two pro bowl running backs, a deep receiving corps, the best O-line in football, a young and revamped defense, and a returning Coach of the Year in Kevin Stefanski. The only thing holding back the Browns is the Browns. They are a relatively young team without a lot of playoff experience.
Last year’s second-round run definitely helped, but it also showed their weaknesses. If they can play to their full potential in 2021, there is no doubt in my mind that Super Bowl LVI is the Clevelands’ to lose.