Each offseason, every NFL team focuses on at least one area in need of an upgrade. So what aspect of the Cleveland Browns is looking better these days?
Training camp begins later this month for all 32 NFL teams. So that means another preview series from End Zone Score. Dating back to early March, we have taken time to look at each club’s best offseason addition. We even dabbled into some pertinent and historical numbers and previewed an up-and-coming player for each franchise.
Contrary to popular opinions, no team in the league is perfect. That’s why there’s a constant search for talent when it comes to this game. Each club has done its best to bolster its roster. So in this instance, we are going to take a glance at each franchise and pinpoint the department in which it made the most strides this offseason. We have already looked at the AFC East and the NFC East. We are in the midst of previewing the AFC North and have already previewed the Pittsburgh Steelers, Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals. Now we wrap things up in this division with the Cleveland Browns.
We shall get the bad news out of the way first. And there was plenty of it on the defensive side of the football in 2016.
Only the San Francisco 49ers allowed more total yards and rushing yards than the Cleveland Browns this past season. Hue Jackson’s club allowed an NFL-high 36 touchdown passes and a total of 54 offensive visits to the end zone by the opposition. The Browns surrendered the third-most points in the league (452) behind the Niners (480) and New Orleans Saints (454) and gave up 100-plus points in each quarter this past year.
So it made sense when the team hired coordinator Gregg Williams. Cleveland also used what proved to be two of its three first-round picks in April on defensive end Myles Garrett and safety Jabrill Peppers. The 2017 first overall selection figures to help a pass rush that produced only 26 sacks in ’16. The former University of Michigan star is a Jabrill-of-all-trades and should help a secondary that added veteran cornerback Jason McCourty (Tennessee Titans) this offseason.
As for other members of the front seven, 2016 second-round defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah led the club with 5.5 sacks, while midseason addition Jamie Collins made his presence felt from his outside linebacking position. Three-year pro Christian Kirksey led the Browns with 143 tackles.
Along with McCourty and Peppers, the secondary features two-time Pro Bowler Joe Haden at one corner and improving Jamar Taylor on the other side. The team also added former New York Jets safety Calvin Pryor via trade. All told, if the Cleveland Browns pass rush improves a bit, this defensive backfield should be much-improved. And perhaps so will the fortunes of a team that hasn’t posted a winning season since 2007.