58 Seasons of Existence,17 Playoff Appearances, 1 Super Bowl Victory.
Can you guess the team to watch in the 2021 NFL Season based on that heading? That’s right, the 2021 team to watch is the Cleveland Browns. Yes, the Browns were the laughing stock of football for many years, and their lone championship came back in 1964.
This is a Browns team that is hungry for more after making an appearance in the playoffs last season. Led by Head Coach Kevin Stefanski, the team has high expectations for the 2021 campaign.
A Look at the Roster
The Browns’ defense was average at best last season. However, this year they made a number of additions. Cleveland brought in rookie cornerback Greg Newsome, Safety John Johnson, and defensive ends Jadeveon Clowney and Takkarist McKinley to help strengthen the core. This defensive unit, which already includes Myles Garret, projects as a top 10 overall defense this year.
On offense, the Browns are all about the run game. With superstar Nick Chubb and reliable veteran Kareem Hunt in the backfield, expect the team to rely on their tailbacks this season. With that being said, quarterback Baker Mayfield showed signs of improvement in 2020 and hopes to be even better in 2021.
The issue for Mayfield is volume.
Stefanski’s offensive game plan relies on the run attack, which means Mayfield is often limited in how many passes he throws. It is possible that Stefanski allows Mayfield to throw more if he shows confidence in the pocket, especially since opposing teams will be preparing for the run in matchups against Cleveland. Allowing Mayfield to pass the ball more could drive defensive coordinators crazy.
Speaking of the pass offense, Led by veteran wideout Odell Beckham Jr, the Browns also have a solid crop of receivers, including Jarvis Landy and Donovan Peoples-Jones. Tight end Austin Hooper is another steady veteran who can catch some passes and adds value to the blocking game as well.
Outlook for 2021
In the end, this is still the Cleveland Browns we are talking about. There are going to be plenty of critics and naysayers doubting the team. But if the Browns can show up in Week 1 and take down the Kansas City Chiefs, that would be a huge boost of momentum for this team.
Even if they aren’t able to leave Kansas City with a win, as long as the Browns play competitive football and make the Chiefs work hard for a victory, that would help silence the doubters.
According to Cleveland.com beat writer Terry Pluto, the Cleveland Browns 2021 theme is “keep the blinders on.” They are going to tune out what people say and focus on the task at hand.
With a new and improved defense, a quarterback developing into a consistent force under center, and one of the best running back duos in the league, the Browns are the team to keep your eye on in 2021.
Is this team the Super Bowl favorite? Not exactly. But could they have another quality regular season and surprise people with a deep playoff run? Absolutely.
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