The Cleveland Browns came out flat in the wind and whatever you want to call it falling from the sky. The offense could not catch the ball, and the defense could not stop running backs. That combo led to a 16-6 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders. We are now 5-3 at the halfway point of the season.
Instead of just giving the good, the bad, and the ugly from the game, we will start with the good(and okay) from the first eight games of the year. Over the next two articles, we will break down the bad and the ugly during this bye week. So on to the good from the first eight games.
The first person on this list has to be the new head coach. Kevin Stefanski has stepped in and taken ownership and control of his team. All of the crazy from a season ago has been non-existent. As one of my favorite sportswriters, Joe Posnanski, loves to say he is boring. It is a good and needed boring.
Stefanski has brought an identity to the team but is willing to adjust the offense as needed. He has had some really well-called games in Dallas and against the Bengals, and he has had some clunkers.
Overall the coach has the Browns playing best in the areas that count. This group can run the ball as well as anyone. They create turnovers. They are disciplined within the system and rarely hurt themselves with penalties.
Stefanski still has more work to do on both sides of the ball, especially the defensive, but has drastically improved the product on the field in 2020. Now let’s see if he can handle the pressure of a playoff run.
Garrett is easily the Browns’ first-half MVP. Arguably, no one in the NFL has affected games the way he has through the first eight games. So far this season, Garrett has nine sacks, four forced fumbles, and two fumble recoveries.
His 21 pressures have caused havoc to opposing quarterbacks, helping the Browns tie for the lead in takeaways by adding seven interceptions to their seven forced fumbles(Second in the NFL). Garrett has been a one-man wrecking crew on the defensive side of the ball.
Kareem Hunt/Nick Chubb
Hunt has kept the running game going against some of the toughest defenses in the NFL and is currently sixth in the NFL rushing yards. He also has 18 catches for 113 yards while totaling seven touchdowns on the year.
During the first four games of the year, Chubb showed his typical mix of speed and power. At the time of the injury, he was in the top five rushing with 335 yards, averaging an eye-popping 5.9 yards per carry. He had also punched in four touchdowns, which had him pacing at a career-high.
The offensive line has been a huge part of Cleveland’s early success. Currently, the line has helped the Browns to the fifth-best rushing attack in the NFL at 150.0 yards per game. The line has also only given up 11 sacks on the year, placing them in the top ten of the NFL.
While there has been some dropoff over the last few games, they have been without their best performer in Wyatt Teller, who dominated the competition in nearly every game he has played this season. The hope is he will be back in the lineup after the bye and down the stretch. This group staying healthy is crucial to making a run at the playoffs.
Denzel Ward has been good this season, but not great. He has certainly been the best player in the Browns secondary, but that is not a big accomplishment.
While Ward is one of the leaders in passes defended with 11, he has still given up a completion rate of 60.8 and four touchdowns on the year. Quarterbacks currently have a 98.2 rating against him, also. Those numbers should come more in line with his career number as the season progresses.
Ward has made big plays to help save games, and key tackles and pass breakups stopping drives. Like Myles Garrett, you have to wonder where this defense would be without him.
Ronnie Harrison has been one of Andrew Berry’s best moves this season. After Grant Delpit went down with an ACL injury, Berry headed to the Jacksonville Jaguars fire sale. He was able to grab the 23-year-old former third-round pick for a 2021 fifth-round pick.
Harrison, in only 194 snaps, has made an impact every time he is on the field. He has returned an interception for a touchdown and has five passes defended on the year. He has been targeted 14 times and has allowed eight completions and one touchdown for a quarterback rating of 71.7 against him. As the best safety on the roster, Harrison should see starter snaps the rest of the way.
The Okay, but we need more
Baker Mayfield has been torn apart or praised all year depending on which section of Browns fanbase you check in with after eight games. The truth falls somewhere in between. Mayfield has been okay. He has been great, the first half of the Colts game and against the Bengals. He has been awful; see the Ravens and Steelers games. He has just been okay.
This season, he is completing 61.4 percent of his passes through eight games with 15 touchdowns (tenth in the NFL) and seven interceptions. He has a quarterback rating of 90.9 and an adjusted quarterback rating of 73.2 per ESPN, a career-high ranking 12th in the NFL. All of this looks great and clearly shows improvement. But some of the advanced stats show there is still work to be done.
Currently, Mayfield has the highest bad throw percentage of his career at 20.8 percent. This has increased each season started at 17.2 percent in his rookie season. Mayfield also has the lowest Pro Football Focus rating of his career at 67.5, placing him 27th out of the 36 qualifying quarterbacks. He has also been one of the worst quarterbacks under pressure in the NFL.
While I don’t this it is time to panic, Mayfield needs to show more over the second half of the year if he is the future.
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