Cleveland Browns 2020 Season Recapby Mason Thompson January 18, 2021 0 comments
The Cleveland Browns have been the laughing stock of the league for almost two decades. Before the 2020 season, the Browns were one of the favorites to make the postseason with the expanded playoff field. With a new coaching staff and an emphasis on the offensive line, the Browns came out firing. They made the playoffs with an 11-5 record and pulled off an upset against the Steelers in the Wild Card round as the sixth-seed. Cleveland was just a few plays away from pulling off the upset of the year against the Kansas City Chiefs in the divisional round but fell just short.
What Went Right
Kevin Stefanski brought in a new style of offense that was based upon running multiple tight ends. The Browns added Austin Hooper in free agency and selected Harrison Bryant in the draft to go along with former first-round pick David Njoku. The new system brought the best out of Baker Mayfield, who had his best season as a pro. Mayfield completed over 62 percent of his passes for 3,563 yards and 26 touchdowns, compared to only eight interceptions.
Along with Stefanski bringing in an offense that featured multiple tight ends, his offense vastly helped the running game. Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt combined for almost 2,000 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns on the ground. Hunt also had over 300 receiving yards and five receiving touchdowns. The dynamic duo should be a staple of the offense for years to come.
When Odell Beckham went down with an injury midway through the season, many thought the Browns would be doomed. Fortunately, the emergence of Rashard Higgins helped mightily. Higgins was playing on a one-year prove-it deal for Cleveland this year, and well, he proved himself. “Hollywood” Higgins caught 37 passes for 599 yards and four touchdowns. He was a focal point in the passing attack in the playoff run as well.
Along with Higgins, Donovan Peoples-Jones showed flashes in his rookie season. The rookie had 14 catches for 304 yards and two touchdowns in the regular season. The rookie had a pivotal catch in the divisional round loss to Kansas City as well.
What Went Wrong
Injuries drastically impacted the season for the Browns. Before the season, their second-round pick, Grant Delpit, tore his ACL. Delpit would’ve likely started at safety for Cleveland, who then had to trade for Ronnie Harrison as a result. The team took a major hit with the Beckham injury, but the injury opened the door for both Higgins and Peoples-Jones.
The defense seemingly crumbled in the divisional round against the Chiefs. While the Browns have some rotational players at the second-level, they don’t have a true difference-maker at the linebacker spot, which may have cost them this week.
Team Award Winners
MVP – Myles Garrett
The 2017 number one pick put together another great season, even with contracting COVID. Garrett missed two games but still had 12 sacks on the season to go along with 15 tackles for loss. He seemed to have been a little more gassed towards the end of the year, seemingly due to the lasting effects of COVID. The Browns would be wise to find Garrett a partner opposite him, with Olivier Vernon not getting younger.
Offensive Rookie of the Year – Jedrick Wills
The Browns fixed their offensive line woes with just a few moves. Cleveland signed Jack Conklin in free agency to start at the right tackle spot and selected Wills in the first round of the 2020 draft. He was perhaps the second-best tackle in the class this year, behind Tristan Wirfs for the Buccaneers. Both Conklin and Wirfs will be the stalwarts at the tackle spots for the next few years.
Defensive Rookie of the Year – Jacob Phillips
Phillips was the second defensive selection the Browns had, behind Delpit. He played in a rotational role with the rest of the Cleveland stable of linebackers. He had 25 tackles, including one tackle for loss, and had a pass deflection.
Biggest Surprise – Wyatt Teller
Teller became a starter midway through the season in 2019 and hasn’t slowed down since. In December, Teller was ranked as the second-best player in all of the league by PFF. He has been one of the best stories in the league and has also shown that he should receive a new contract after the 2021 season.
Biggest Disappointment – Odell Beckham
The addition of Beckham before the 2019 season had Cleveland roaring with expectations. Since getting to Cleveland, Beckham has seemingly been a shell of his former self. In seven games this year, he only had 23 catches for 319 yards and three touchdowns. The offense seemed to be worse with Beckham in the game, which is awkward. Mayfield may have felt pressured into feeding him targets in the game instead of giving what the defense gave him.
One Burning Question
Can The Browns Fix Their Defense?
While the offense seems to be one of the best in the league while firing on all cylinders, the defense needs help. Don’t be surprised if the front office decides to use most, if not all, of the selections in April’s draft on the defensive side of the ball to try to patch some holes. If the Browns can get their defense fixed, they could be ready for a Super Bowl run in 2021.