The Cleveland Browns have a long, sordid history since 1999 of having some of their wildest games in Week 1. As you prepare for the 2018 rendition, the WFNY staff is here to prepare you to set expectations for the season on a whole.
Here we go.
Let’s not mess around, how many wins do you expect the Browns to obtain in 2018?
Craig: Six wins. I think this team has the talent to win 10, but it’s their first time playing together with Todd Haley as their offensive coordinator. I think the Browns narrowly get over the 5.5 win over/under that I saw at certain points as the line in Vegas.
Gilbert: Six wins. I think this team has the talent to go 8-8 or better. The presence of an actual productive veteran quarterback cannot be understated. The Browns have a quarterback, Tyrod Taylor, who can lead the offense rather than derail it. This causes the whole team to be better. The Browns have a competent offense with some real potential in terms of playmakers throughout the unit. On defense, the Browns should be one of the better units in the league. I think this team can do it. The talent is there to win eight games. So, why am I going with just six wins after saying this? Hue Jackson and the coaching is why.
Bode: Four wins must be achieved. The biggest obstacle is going to be winning games early in the season despite an overall tough schedule because the lack of depth might not allow many to happen late.
Scott: Three. Five will be attainable, but two games will ultimately be Browns’d.
Gerbs: Mark me down for six.
Dave: 12. Be ready.
Pat: Put me down for that eight-win bliss. We are going to be so excited about avoiding a losing season, it’s going to be magical.
Frank: It would be nine but Hue costs us two games. Seven.
Josh: Five. Let’s not fool ourselves. They may have plenty of talent, but the Browns are going to Browns at points throughout the season.
Do you expect the Browns offense or defense to be stronger and why?
Craig: It will be the defense because of Myles Garrett most of all. Denzel Ward will have an up and down season, but his highs will make us encouraged for the rest of his career. The lows will feel like merely learning experiences and not warning signs.
Gilbert: The Browns defense will be the stronger unit because it has the most talent. The Browns were already strong on run defense last season. This offseason, the team focused on fixing the pass defense. The team has some really exciting young pass rushers in Myles Garrett and Emmanuel Ogbah. Cleveland upgraded the secondary with an infusion of talent at both cornerback and safety. The pass defense should be much improved, making the defense a complete defense who can stop the run and pass game. I am excited about their prospects.
Bode: Despite the preseason fluff about the potential of the skill positions, the Browns have been built around their defense. The unit somehow finished No. 16 overall in DVOA (efficiency metrics) despite the 0-16 campaign. The secondary has been rebuilt, though there are questions about relying on Damarious Randall at free safety and rookie cornerback Denzel Ward to lead them. The interior defensive line and linebackers (in coverage) must also improve. Still, the defense is in a more advanced stage and should be how the Browns win games.
Scott: Their defense has the potential to be among the top third in the league. Myles Garrett should be one of the most feared edge rushers. The secondary should be drastically improved. The offense, however, was the biggest issue last season and for this reason will appear stronger. It will be interesting to see how it all falls into place, but it’s tough to not be excited about the possibilities.
Gerbs: The defense will carry the team to however many victories they are able to attain. The pass rush looks mean, with Garrett and Emmanuel Ogbah leading the way, along with a talented linebacking corps and a re-done defensive secondary. Those additions to the defensive backfield will help allow Garrett, Ogbah, and others such as Larry Ogunjobi and Genard Avery get after the QB.
Dave: 12. The defense will be the stronger unit, but I expect the offense to be so much more improved over last year. A real QB, with weapons. Once the line gels, we’ll put up points.
Pat: I expect it will be the Browns offense, although that might not show up in the points scored each week. With Todd Haley at the helm, I trust that unit to be much less dysfunctional than the Gregg Williams-led defense. In addition to the coaching, the offense also added veterans Tyrod Taylor, Jarvis Landry, Carlos Hyde, Darren Fells, and Chris Hubbard, who should all see significant playing time and are actual adults/professionals. Combine that with some potential young studs and I think the offense will look competent this year.
Frank: I’m with Pat. For me, it comes down to the coaching. There is enough talent for the offense to be a revelation and I am excited about seeing what Haley comes up with to take advantage of that. Gregg Williams on the other hand…
Josh: If Gregg Williams allows them to be, it should (and could) absolutely be the defense. I get that the offense has added plenty of weapons, but the handful of questions pertaining to the offensive line scares me. With Myles Garrett and company, the defense has a chance to be special if they can play up to their potential, assuming Williams puts his squad in the best position to do so.
Which rookies do you expect will be the biggest contributors in 2018?
Craig: Denzel Ward is going to be the most impactful rookie by a long shot. I expect contributions from Nick Chubb and Antonio Callaway. Hell, even Baker Mayfield at a few points along the way, but Denzel Ward will be the most impactful.
Gilbert: Denzel Ward, Genard Avery, and Antonio Callaway are the rookies I am looking at to make the biggest impact this season. Ward is the starting corner for the defense and should be instrumental in improving the pass coverage on the defense. Avery will be utilized as a pass rushing specialist and this ability should allow him to a big player on the Browns defense. Callaway is the starting wide receiver for the Browns, alongside Jarvis Landry. Callaway should see a lot of action, giving him a lot of opportunities to make plays.
Bode: Antonio Callaway is technically starting Week 1 along with Denzel Ward. Either Austin Corbett or Desmond Harrison will also be starting on the offensive line– once Hue Jackson decides what he wants to do. Despite all of them playing early, Nick Chubb could wind up being the biggest contributor; he just needs a Carlos Hyde injury to get the opportunity.
Scott: It looks like Antonio Callaway will have all the chances in the world to make an impact, but I’m going with Denzel Ward. I’m a believer.
Gerbs: Earlier this week I had Callaway as my Offensive Rookie of the Year on the Browns, and I could see a timeline where he gets a push to win the award nationally. His ceiling was best WR in a deep class this season and a feel-good story of him keeping his nose out of trouble could endear him to a lot of fans.
Dave: Now that Brogan Roback is gone, I’ll have to say Antonio Callaway. He’ll get plenty of targets with Josh Gordon and Jarvis Landry getting enhanced attention.
Pat: Is Denzel Ward too simple of an answer? He’s going to be relied on to produce in a critical role for the defense and will be expected to put on his man pants every week. I’m happy about all of the buzz around Desmond Harrison, but I think it’s going to be Austin Corbett who suits up for the starting unit every week and will need to hold his own against Cam Heyward, Gino Atkins, Brandon Williams, and some of the other beastly defensive tackles in the league.
Frank: One of the skill guys is the easy way to go but I will say Desmond Harrison. Filling the shoes of a recently retired HOFer will be a big task for a UDFA but it will it make his contributions that much more noticeable. This is partly belief and partly prayer.
Josh: My man Denzel Ward. The Browns finally drafted an Ohio State Buckeye! But seriously, he can be a shutdown corner and if he can do so, he opens up so many more opportunities for the defense and will help give the defensive front some more time to get in the opponent’s backfield.
Who is your non-rookie breakout player for 2018?
Craig: Easily Myles Garrett. It won’t be shocking because he was the first overall pick but he needs a mulligan because of the high ankle sprain that hampered him for much of his rookie season.
Gilbert: Myles Garrett will be the breakout player of 2018. He will catapult to being a top-five rusher in the entire league. He is that good. He will easily get double-digit sacks this season.
Bode: I want it to be David Njoku because his breakout would give the Browns a legitimate red zone weapon. I do have my doubts about him being a consistent player throughout the season, but his athleticism and Tyrod Taylor’s penchant to rely on tight ends should give him opportunities to showcase his ability.
Scott: Jabrill Peppers. Playing closer to the line (where he should have played all last season) will provide fans with a look at the player they thought they were getting a season ago.
Gerbs: A year of full health will help make Emmanuel Ogbah a (somewhat) household name. Playing across from Garrett will give him plenty of one-on-ones.
Dave: 12. Josh Gordon. He’s back, he’s focused, he’s broke.
Pat: I think it’s going to be Briean Boddy-Calhoun as the nickel back. BBC always seems to be around the ball, and I think this will be the year that other teams in the league, as well as media personalities, finally take notice of his skills.
Frank: DAVID. NJOKU. His jersey will be flying off the shelves a month into the season.
Josh: Given the Browns’ struggles last season, there are so many players to choose from. I expect Myles Garrett, Jabrill Peppers (if he’s allowed to line up within 15-20 yards of the line of scrimmage), David Njoku, and Duke Johnson to all play much better this season. Oh, and if he can stay on the field, Josh Gordon is an obvious choice here.
Who is your defensive player of the year?
Craig: Myles Garrett again. Superstar status will be achieved this year.
Gilbert: Myles Garrett will be the defensive player of the year. He is the most talented player on the entire roster. I have been raving about his talent level ever since he came out of Texas A&M. With a year under the belt and his health being good, he should have a big year, notching double-digit sacks and leading a young talented defense.
Bode: The easiest answer for anyone paying attention. Myles Garrett might have an opportunity to be the defensive player of the year for the NFL if the Browns do manage to win more than expected, and he stays healthy.
Scott: Is Myles Garrett too much of a given? For the sake of wanting to mix it up a bit, I’m going to go with Ward. The future is bright.
Gerbs: Myles Garrett will have at least 15 sacks this year. Has to be him.
Dave: Myles Garrett is a star. He’s the only answer on what will be an excellent defense.
Pat: I think the obvious answer is Jamie Collins. Just kidding, I can’t say that with a straight face. It’s going to be Myles Garrett because he’s huge, fast, skilled, and smart as a whip.
Frank: No surprise here. Garrett will take his place as a top 5 defensive player in the NFL.
Josh: The man who loves dinosaurs. Everyone else already answered why that will be the case.
Who is your offensive player of the year?
Craig: Jarvis Landry will be the offensive player of the year. He’ll contribute the most consistently and he’ll emerge as a tone-setter for the offense more than any other player if I had to guess.
Gilbert: Jarvis Landry will be the offensive player of the year. I think he will be the safety net for Taylor all season. His ability to be a reliable catcher of the football cannot be undersold. Taylor should use Landry all season because Taylor knows he can rely on the receiver. Landry will be given the chance to have the ball a lot and I think he will make a statement with those touches. I can’t wait to see how he performs when the games count.
Bode: Joel Bitonio will deserve it as I expect him to have to switch between left guard and tackle throughout the season, and he to do so more seamlessly than anyone has right to expect. However, one of the skill position players will garner more headlines.
Scott: Jarvis Landry. He may not find the end zone a ton of times this season, but the Browns will have more chances at putting a six on the scoreboard because of his presence. Honorable mention to Josh Gordon.
Gerbs: As I have argued, OPOY is different from MVP. Tyrod is my MVP pick but Landry is my OPOY pick for the team. I am expecting Landry hauls in 100 receptions, and when only once in the last five years someone has caught 80+,1 he can be my offensive player of the year.
Dave: Now that Devon Cajuste is gone, it has to be his replacement David Njoku. Tyrod loves tight ends, and Njoku has the skills to be very very powerful.
Pat: I feel like being different, so I’m going to say Carlos Hyde. He looked spectacular in the preseason and as long as the offensive line continues to open up holes for him, he’s going to put up some big numbers and finish off some actual wins for the Browns.
Frank: Josh Gordon. There is still not a bigger talent on this team. If he can stay on the field, and obviously that is huge if, there is no one that can match his production.
Josh: Jarvis Landry. With Tyrod Taylor being much more of a short-yardage guy, the new Browns wide receiver should flourish in this offense.
Will Baker Mayfield start a game in 2018? If so, what week do you think it’ll happen?
Craig: Before the pre-season, I would have stubbornly said no to this one. After seeing Baker Mayfield command the offense and throw the ball in the pre-season, ultimately earning him the backup job, I will say we will see him at some point. I was fully prepared to even see him inactive for many Sundays before training camp. He seems like he belongs, and it doesn’t seem like he was handed his backup job. He’s earned it. And we all know that Browns backups get at least one start per season.
Gilbert: Baker Mayfield will start a game in 2018. I think the young quarterback will make his regular season debut in Week 12. I think the Browns will make the move after the bye week to put Mayfield in as the new starting quarterback for Cleveland.
Bode: This is the Cleveland Browns, so yes. Really, most any Top 10 pick rookie quarterback sees at least a few starts during their initial campaign. The month of December was made for Mayfield and to keep an otherwise frustrated fanbase interested in the home squad.
Scott: It’s tough to go against history here. I desperately want to say no, but I’ll say yes. I’m going with Week 12 after the Browns’ bye and the playoff odds shrink to zero. Week 12 can be Baker’s … Dozen. [sees self out]
Gerbs: I want to live in a world where Baker sits for a season, so I’m going to say no. Even in an absolute, best-case, we-have-all-died-and-gone-to-Browns-Town-heaven scenario and Cleveland is looking at a bye or something, Tyrod will start all the games this year.
Dave: Statistically yes he will. QBs don’t often play all 16. But I’m hoping the season is going too well to mess with it.
Pat: Yes, but only because Tyrod will sit out with an injury at some point. This is the modern NFL and I’m resigned to the fact that almost every player on the team will miss some time due to injury. Huzzah! Let’s go with Week 13.
Frank: Yes. When the Browns have the division locked up in week 14 Baker will play out the remainder of the season. Hey, a man can dream!
Josh: Hopefully not, because if he does, that means either the Browns are struggling or Tyrod got hurt. But it’s the Browns. He’s going to start. Baker Mayfield, your Cleveland Browns starting quarterback in Week 14.
WFNY 2018 Cleveland Browns Preview Series
- 10 Expectations for 2018
- Ranking every position group
- Rookie Expectations
- End the Sashi Wars
- Team Award Predictions
- 53-man roster prediction
- Remaining Questions
- Do we have too much information?
- Browns fan in a strange land
- Hue’s destiny
- Myles Garrett breakout coming
- Giving up season tickets
- Start Baker Mayfield now
- Josh Gordon expectations
- Corey Coleman trade highlights another Browns draft failure
- Worried about the offensive line plans without Joe Thomas
- Uh, what is the plan here for the offensive line?
- Nick Chubb can be the next Jamal Lewis
- The Browns are kind of exciting?
- Hope in 2018 began at MetLife Stadium
- Josh Gordon had 87 and Jordan Cameron had 80 in 2013. [↩]