By Sebastian Vallejo. Follow your project on @HolyRollerNFL
To call the Browns only “disappointing” by missing the playoffs again is an understatement for what was a poor season. With deep postseason aspirations, Cleveland, which finished 7-9, looked like a real contender through the first 30 minutes of the season. From there, they proceeded to largely fight until surrendering at the end of the year. They hardly resembled the team that led the Kansas City Chiefs 22-10 at halftime in Week 1.
One of the biggest questions entering the season was how the offense would operate with the reinstatement of WR Odell Beckham Jr. The former All-Pro was released before Week 9 after the team failed to find a suitor before the season. change deadline. With most of its roster still under contract, including QB Baker Mayfield under his fifth-year option, Cleveland is ready to race back into an offseason of uncertainty.
Still, several key players like Jadeveon Clowney are poised to enter free agency, while others may not make the talent cut after a year off in 2021.
The best of his 2021 season
For the past five years, one area the Browns have excelled in is the Draft. This season was no different. First-round pick Greg Newsome II held his position against Denzel Ward in secondary defense as the starter. General Manager Andrew Berry selecting Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah could be the absolute steal of the second-round draft for years to come. The noob multitool elite era, earned a spot on the Pro-Football-Focus All-Rookie Team, and he’d be in the conversation for Defensive Rookie of the Year if it weren’t for Micah Parsons.
This season also saw safety Grant Delpit make his debut after missing all of last season. Another value pick in the second round, who started the last six games, finishing in place of the injured Ronnie Harrison. Not surprisingly, most of the bright spots were on defense. The team focused most of its energy on that side of the ball both in the Draft and in free agency.
The worst of his 2021 season
Last season’s playoff run felt like a nightmare for Browns fans. With Mayfield’s injury in Week 2, things fell apart over the next month. However, the reality of the nightmare season was finally revealed.
Despite this, they barely missed a shot at winning the division in Week 16. Still, Cleveland ended the regular season looking as dysfunctional as ever. Concerns about the head coach and quarterback arose when last season’s heroes became this year’s villains.
Even reliable players like Nick Chubb and Jarvis Landry on offense made critical mistakes in two of the Browns’ biggest games of the season. That side of the ball in general took a giant step back.
Beyond the inconsistency on offense and defense in 2021, the Browns’ season was largely lost on special teams. Both the 2020 starting punter and kicker didn’t finish the season with the team, and Cody Parkey didn’t even make it past camp.
Cleveland’s margin of error to win was already extremely low this year. Failed execution on special teams when the offense was struggling spelled the team’s undoing. Needing wins in the last month, two of the Browns’ last three losses can be attributed to their lack of a dependable kicker. A win against the Green Bay Packers or Las Vegas Raiders could have put Cleveland back on the playoff trajectory.
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The Browns’ 2021 season MVP
DE Myles Garrett
Great players make those around them better. This season, Garrett did just that, not just for defense but for the entire team. The defensive additions surrounded the Defensive Player of the Year candidate with the best supporting cast of his career and he didn’t waste it. Garrett’s touchdown on a Week 14 sack against the Baltimore Ravens was the first touchdown in his five years in the NFL.
That play earned him the franchise single-season record for sacks with 15 takedowns. Plus, the second-quarter touchdown was exactly what the Browns needed, giving them just enough to survive Baltimore’s second-half surge. It was no surprise that Garrett earned the third Pro Bowl nomination of his career, the second in consecutive seasons. He finished with 16 sacks and 33 quarterback hits.
What is expected of the Browns in the 2022 season?
There isn’t a hotter question right now: Is Mayfield the one to be a franchise quarterback? The Browns burned 29 starting quarterbacks in 19 seasons before Mayfield made his first start. Key pieces of Cleveland’s roster are still under contract for the next two seasons. That means the title window is still wide open for the Browns.
While the wide receiver’s depth after getting rid of OBJ will likely be addressed in the draft or free agency, the quarterback position is the key to reaching the team’s potential ceiling. Mayfield had a strong first and third seasons, which might suggest he’s ready to bounce back.
The Browns accepted his fifth-year option last offseason, so he’s locked in for 2022. Still, Mayfield had surgery on torn tissue in his left shoulder, and the offense could still make better use of its strengths. So we have to hope that this team can be more balanced on both sides of the ball.
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Cleveland Browns 2021 NFL Season Analysis