There are plenty of questions surrounding the 2018 Cleveland Browns. Those questions and problems have been discussed throughout the first eight weeks of the season. One of the most glaring problems: The Browns offense’s inability to take advantage of their defense forcing turnovers. All season long, the defense has done a tremendous job at getting the ball back, with a number of times being in the opponent’s territory, but somehow, that hasn’t seemed to help the offense.
Through eight games this season, the Browns have forced 22 turnovers (12 interceptions and 10 fumble recoveries, both of which lead the league), by far the best in the NFL. The Bears have the second most with 17. That’s a huge disparity between Cleveland and the rest of the league. Their plus-11 turnover margin is also atop the NFL, with the Seahawks (plus-10) in a close second. Cleveland’s defense has done an exceptional job at giving the offense as many opportunities as possible.
Following those 22 takeaways, the Browns offense has scored just 34 points. That’s just 1.55 points per turnover, for those that don’t want to do the math themselves. That’s…not good, folks. Cleveland has a tough enough time trying to be successful, doing so little following a takeaway makes trying to be a successful football team so much tougher. It’s almost as though the Browns are just shooting themselves in the foot rather than taking advantage of the opportunities that are given to them. Every time the defense puts one step forward with a takeaway, the offense seemingly takes two steps backward by not converting on said turnovers.
Here they are, leading the league in takeaways and turnover differential, yet have just a 2-5-1 record to show for it. That’s mindboggling and almost unheard of.
Let’s take a look at teams around the NFL with the best turnover margins:
- Browns (plus-11): 2-5-1
- Seahawks (plus-10): 4-3
- Bears (plus-7): 4-3
- Rams (plus-7): 8-0
- Redskins (plus-7): 5-2
- Panthers (plus-6): 5-2
- Chiefs (plus-5): 7-1
- Chargers (plus-5): 5-2
- Bengals (plus-4): 5-3
The Browns have the sixth-worst record in the league. The rest of the teams on that list have a combined record of 43-16. Cleveland is in a league of their own when it comes to takeaways and not being able to win, a league that they don’t want to be in.
SharpFootball’s Warren Sharp makes it look even worse. The turnover margin is outstanding, the record on the other hand is almost unheard of.
Browns are +11 in turnover margin with a 2-5-1 record thru 8 weeks.
Since 2006: 38 teams w +8 turnover margin or better thru 8 wks, none had a losing record…
Since 1975: 71 teams w +11 turnover margin or better thru 8 wks, none had a losing record…
except the 2018 Browns.
— Warren Sharp (@SharpFootball) October 29, 2018
In their two losses against the Steelers this year, that number is even worse. Pittsburgh’s offense somewhat struggled against the Browns this season. They scored 54 points, but their eight turnovers loomed large, especially in the season opener. Yet, the Browns offense generated just three (3!) points. Beating the Steelers have been hard enough for the Browns since they returned in 1999. Not being able to score following a takeaway makes it that much more difficult.
Only In Cleveland is a statement used quite often, especially during Sundays in the fall. This seems like another notch on the OIC belt.
You can look at this one of two ways:
- You have a positive outlook and believe that eventually, the Browns offense will take advantage of the takeaways and put more points on the scoreboard.
- You have a negative mindset and believe that eventually, the Browns defense won’t be able to keep this up and the offense will struggle even more because they are given fewer opportunities, both with the ball and in terms of getting the ball inside the opponent’s territory already.
Both outlooks are fair, but it’s still incredible to see how bad the Browns have been for much of the season even though their defense currently leads the NFL with a plus-11 turnover margin. Whether it’s rookie cornerback Denzel Ward (three interceptions this season) or second-year defensive end Myles Garrett (three fumble recoveries), among others, the defense is doing their job, it’s just time for the offense to step up and take advantage of it.
The defense has had their fair share of problems, but the way they have been able to force turnovers, giving the Browns offense better (and more) opportunities to score hasn’t gone unnoticed. It’s just that Cleveland hasn’t been able to take advantage of it. Their 21.1 points per game are currently the 24th-most in the NFL. Scoring off turnovers can dramatically change that.
With a new head coach and offensive coordinator, all of this might change. If (and hopefully when) the offense is able to take advantage of their defense forcing turnovers, it will take them to the next level. Whether they score following a takeaway or not, there are still plenty of questions surrounding the Browns. But in doing so, it will help them win more often, something that they haven’t been able to do in quite some time. Baker Mayfield’s development and health is the most critical part of the 2018 season, taking advantage of his defense forcing turnovers will be a step in the right direction for Cleveland. While it’s not all on his shoulders, he’s one of the players that can help turn things around, sooner rather than later. Until the Browns take advantage of good opportunities, they will still be a bad team or at least mediocre at best.
Their first opportunity to do so is Sunday afternoon against a loaded Chiefs squad. If the Browns want to pull off the upset, they not only have to force turnovers against Kansas City but score following the takeaways as well. Maybe, just maybe, they’ll start to do so now that their coaching staff looks different, especially offensively. At least that’s what the Dawg Pound hopes.