The Rams first primetime game of the season comes in Week 3 at the Cleveland Browns. After a slow start to last season, the Browns fired Hue Jackson who had a 3-36-1 record with the franchise. Former Rams DC Gregg Williams took over as interim HC and they finished the year 5-3. First overall pick Baker Mayfield was an integral part of the Browns resurgence, so much so that he now holds the record for the most passing touchdowns by a rookie with 27, beating out Peyton Manning and Russell Wilson, despite only playing in 14 games.
The Browns and GM John Dorsey have made a few changes to the coaching staff. Freddie Kitchens was promoted to head coach. It seems a little early for Kitchens to get the top job after only half a season as offensive coordinator, but the Browns didn’t want to risk losing him to another franchise. Former Arizona Cardinals head coach Steve Wilks takes over as defensive coordinator and Todd Monken takes over as offensive coordinator.
What a wild offseason the Browns have had. It all started back in February just a week after Super Bowl 53. They kicked things off with the controversial signing of Kareem Hunt, who was cut late last season by the Chiefs after a video of a violent incident involving him was released. Next up was Jamie Collins, he was cut by the franchise and has since re-signed for the New England Patriots. Just before free agency opened John Dorsey produced the trades of the year. In two deals with the New York Giants, the Browns received Odell Beckham Jr and Olivier Vernon in exchange for Kevin Zeitler, Jabrill Peppers and the Browns 2019 first and third round draft picks. In terms of free agents, the Browns only major signing was defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, who signed a 3-year $37 million deal. The Browns weren’t done there, they traded Emmanuel Ogbah in exchange for Kansas City Chiefs safety Eric Murray.
For the first time since 2008, the Browns were without a first round pick in the draft. A lot of negative comments have been made about the Browns not taking a chance on Carson Wentz and Deshaun Watson in the last couple of years. They did finally pull the trigger on getting their franchise quarter back last year in Baker Mayfield. To this year’s draft, the run on corners didn’t really materialise in the first round, meaning most of the top corner back prospects fell into the second round. The Browns jumped up 3 spaces to take LSU corner Greedy Williams, pairing him with last years’ first round selection, Denzel Ward. Williams is a long rangy corner with elite level speed, his fall in the draft is in part down to his tackling.
This offense has the chance to be a top 5 unit in the league next season. Any team that can acquire the best receiver in football is going to take a considerable jump in the right direction. Added to that they have a three-headed monster at running back with Chubb, Johnson and Hunt, albeit we won’t see Hunt until the second half of the season due to a suspension. Alongside Odell Beckham Jr there’s his longtime best friend Jarvis Landry, Antonio Callaway and at tight end David Njoku. Mayfield already looks every bit of an NFL Quarterback and he has options all over the field in these four, not forgetting Duke Johnson’s pass-catching ability out the backfield. The offensive line lost a key starter in Zeitler, but they obviously feel good about last year’s second-round pick Austin Corbett. A familiar face, Greg Robinson has found a new home in Cleveland and will hope to progress this season. This is a young offense but all that really means is they have many years ahead of them. Midway through the season, we’ll be talking about this offense in the same breath as ourselves, the Saints, the Chiefs and the Chargers.
As a team the Browns are not too dissimilar to ourselves. They are strong up front and defensively they’re not the greatest, but they have a couple of studs. They boast two former first round picks on the defensive line, first overall pick Myles Garrett and Sheldon Richardson. With Garrett and Vernon on the edge and Richardson and Ogunjobi in the middle, you have one of the better pass rushing units in the league. Wilks will be hoping last year’s fourth overall pick, Denzel Ward will have another Pro Bowl type season, and that Greedy Williams can lock down the opposite side. The Brown’s secondary has an abundance of speed but are lacking physically, this shouldn’t be a cause for concern against the Rams.
The Rams second trip out of LA is to a city they once called home and it’s going to be a tough encounter. This has ‘shoot out’ written all over it and the result could go a long way towards both team’s playoff aspirations. The Browns have not been to the playoffs since 2002, this is the longest drought in football. However, next season is the best chance the Browns have ever had of taking the AFC North crown. It finally feels like the Browns have turned the corner.