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2 things Cleveland must do to return to the NFL playoffs

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The Cleveland Browns have been no strangers to sports media over this last calendar yr. From events surrounding the now free agent Odell Beckham Jr to handling former no.1 overall pick Baker Mayfield, it seems Cleveland has a knack for never allowing a dull moment.

Through all these distractions, the team did well in staying competitive last season, posting a 7-6 record 14-weeks through the season. Unfortunately, in the course of the final stretch of the yr, Cleveland fell flat, ending 1-3 in the ultimate 4 contests.

Ultimately, this set the Browns up with a record of 8-9, ending just out of postseason contention.

Cleveland had a notable offseason, bringing in highly controversial quarterback Deshaun Watson. For Watson, the Browns shelled out a first-round pick in ’22, ’23 and ’24 to Houston. Cleveland also sent a ’22 second-round, ’23 third-round and ’24 fourth-round pick to Houston, with the Texans giving a 2024 sixth-rounder back to Cleveland.

As a final a part of the Watson deal, Cleveland and the star quarterback agreed to terms on a 5-year, $230M deal. This deal is fully guaranteed.

With Watson, the Browns are confident in a return to the postseason once their quarterback steps onto the sphere. The issue? Watson may not see the sphere this upcoming yr, and if he does, his season will likely be sliced in half.

So, how does Cleveland find their way back to the playoffs in 2022?

2 things Cleveland must do to make the 2022 postseason

2. Maintain their scary defense

With all of the names on the Browns’ offense last season, including Odell Beckham Jr, Jarvis Landry and Nick Chubb, it’s easy to assume the offense was the scary side of the ball in Cleveland. Surprisingly, it was the defense.

Per Pro Football Focus, the Cleveland Browns ended the 2021 season with the 4th-best secondary leaguewide. Opposing quarterbacks logged the bottom net passer rating when throwing against the Browns’ outside cornerbacks, averaging a rating of 71.8. Altogether, Cleveland’s cornerback room recorded a top-three coverage grade.

In predicting for the 2022 season, PFF placed the Browns’ secondary at no.3; One spot higher than their fourth placement in 2021.

In relation to the front-seven, Myles Garrett continues to be a standout, and PFF continues to take note. Garrett received a 92.0 grade for his ’21 campaign, and is the second-highest ranked edge rusher per the outlet, behind Pittsburgh’s T.J. Watt.

Garrett recorded 16 sacks last season, marking his second of back-to-back first-team All-Pro honors.

The Browns were smart to retain defensive end Jadeveon Clowney on the opposite side of the road, helping the defensive front remain big and bad. Clowney signed a one-year deal price upwards of $10M to proceed playing ball in Cleveland.

Together, the pair of Clowney and Garrett were liable for 25 sacks in 2021. The duo also combined for 28 tackles behind the road of scrimmage.

If the Browns wish to contend next season, specifically in the upcoming wake of Deshaun Watson, all of it starts with maintaining the defense that gave so many opposing offenses headaches last yr.

1. Ensure Jacoby Brissett is able to go

Perhaps Cleveland will need Brissett’s services and possibly they won’t, but either way, the team must be certain Brissett is able to dive in because the week-one starter.

There must be a smooth transition here to forestall any possible hiccups, and that each one starts by ensuring their QB2 is comfortable with the offense. To Cleveland’s credit, they’ve done an awesome job at reloading with weapons after losing each Beckham Jr and Jarvis Landry, bringing in Amari Cooper and drafting David Bell.

Since being drafted back in 2015, Cooper has totaled 4 Pro Bowl appearances, on his approach to 7,076 receiving yards and 46 touchdowns. Cooper joins Peoples-Jones as a starting wideout for the Browns, immediately giving Cleveland back a star wideout after Beckham Jr’s departure.

Amari Cooper’s final touchdown in a Cowboys uniform. #CowboysNation pic.twitter.com/LT0glCRZQO

— Selby Lopez (@LopezSelby31) March 12, 2022

The Browns sent a fifth-round pick within the 2022 NFL Draft to Dallas for Cooper, along with a ’22 sixth-round pick swap. Cooper was awarded a 72.9 grade by PFF for his efforts in 2021.

Cleveland also signed Jakeem Grant this offseason, although he’ll primarily be a returner. Grant posted 132 receiving yards with 2 touchdowns last yr.

One other big development in Cleveland was the re-signing of tight end David Njoku, who agreed to terms on a four-year, $54.75M deal. Altogether, these weapons give Brissett quite a bit to get comfortable with early on.

While Jacoby Brissett won’t be the long run answer in Cleveland by any means, there’s still quite a bit to look ahead to with the veteran quarterback. Through his profession, the journeyman QB has tossed 36 touchdowns with 17 interceptions, totaling 7,742 yards through the air. On the bottom, Brissett has tacked on one other 653 yards and 13 scores.

If Cleveland wants to begin out hot in 2022, all of it starts with the immediate transition to Jacoby Brissett.

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