Coming into the 2019 season, the Cleveland Browns had plenty of hype around the franchise that hadn’t been there in well over a decade, despite those calling to temper expectations. The Browns have stumbled out of the gate, dropping two out of their first three games that have created some sense apprehension towards optimism for the rest of the year. So this begs the question: Should there be concern about what lies ahead in Cleveland?
Buying into the Browns’ hype
Cleveland headed into this past offseason with much to be encouraged by after just missing out on reaching the playoffs. The arrival of quarterback Baker Mayfield, leading the offense to much success in 2018 paved the way for the organization and its fan base to be excited about what was to come with Mayfield under center with possible 2019 MVP hype.
Things were ramped up to the next level in March after the team acquired All-Pro wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. from the New York Giants. The addition of Beckham Jr. added one of the league’s top pass catchers to the mix, giving Mayfield another proven option alongside wideouts Jarvis Landry and DeAndre Higgins and tight end David Njoku.
The Browns also landed former Pro Bowl defensive end Olivier Vernon as part of that same trade that sent safety Jabrill Peppers and offensive lineman Kevin Zeitler along with the team’s 2019 first and third-round selections. Cleveland also added former Pro Bowl running back Kareem Hunt despite him facing an eight-game suspension.
All of this only further added to the building optimism around the team with hopes of finally snapping their 17-year absence from the playoffs.
Browns’ subpar start to the 2019 season
Cleveland entered their season opener with oozing excitement, but all of that quickly dissipated after a lackluster showing against the Tennessee Titans in a blowout 43-13 loss at home marking their 15th straight loss in Week 1 action.
The Browns rebounded last Monday with a 23-3 win over the New York Jets led by Beckham Jr.’s standout performance, recording had six catches for 161 receiving yards and a touchdown. However, the emotional high from that game was leveled by a disappointing 20-13 loss against the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday night.
Cleveland was without several key players such as Njoku along with defensive backs Denzel Ward, Greedy Wiliams and Damarius Randall, among others. However, the bulk of their struggles came on the offensive side of the ball, with Los Angeles’ defense dictating the flow of the game.
The Browns struggled to find any rhythm, converting 6-of-16 third downs while going 1-of-4 red-zone trips and averaged just 4.3 yards per play. More than anything else, it speaks to potentially bigger problems down the line.
The Browns’ opportunity to answer wake-up call
The Browns had the difficult task of going up against the defending NFC champions, but Sunday’s loss was another eye-opener to the team’s glaring issues.
Cleveland has had major problems with the offensive line that has completely impacted their game plan and playcalling. The lackluster protection upfront has made it quite difficult for them to find consistent success despite having bonafide offensive weapons such as Beckham Jr., Landry and running back Nick Chubb.
It’s far too early to abandon ship on the Browns this season, but the problems along the offensive line combined with the playcalling should draw plenty of concern. At the same time, this may be an opportunity for Mayfield to step up as a leader as he did after Sunday’s loss to the Rams. (h/t Yahoo Sports)
“Don’t hit the panic button,” Mayfield told a news conference when asked how the Browns could correct their form. “I think we realise how close we are but that’s where the frustration comes in, we can’t keep making the same mistakes, we have to do our job and have to hit the reset button.”
This will have to start in Week 4 with a tough span of games ahead against the Baltimore Ravens, San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks, and New England Patriots. This stretch could determine how the rest of the 2019 season turns out.