The Cleveland Browns’ first eight games have been a rollercoaster ride, and it isn’t one that many people want to ride again. But, unfortunately, the season has not gone the way many Brown’s fans expected, from blowing a double-digit lead to the New York Jets in Week Two with under two minutes left to play or losing to quarterbacks like Marcus Mariota and Bailey Zappe.
The Cleveland Browns have nine games left when they return in Week Ten, and they will be getting their franchise quarterback Deshaun Watson back in Week 13. So the bye week is an excellent opportunity to look back and evaluate the different areas of the team.
The Cleveland Browns’ offense was a pleasant surprise during the first eight games. Backup quarterback Jacoby Brissett is leading the offense and has held down the position the best he can. But, of course, he is a backup quarterback for a reason, and it sometimes shows. Still, he has done an excellent job taking control of the offense and making big-time throws in wins against the Carolina Panthers, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Cincinnati Bengals.
The running game between Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt has been elite, which is the offense’s backbone. Chubb shows up to play week in and week out, and he shows why he is the best running back in the NFL every time he touches the football.
The receiving core was supposed to be the worst position group on the entire roster going into the season, but it has been a pleasant surprise. Amari Cooper has been all over the field and has 553 receiving yards and five touchdowns. He makes big-time receptions after big-time receptions and has been Brissett’s best friend on the field.
Donovan Peoples-Jones has been a solid number-two wide receiver. He made huge plays on critical downs in the Week One win vs. the Carolina Panthers, and he looks like he can explode when Deshaun Watson throws him the ball in Week 13 and for years to come.
The tight end David Njoku is having a career year, and he should be after being paid as one of the highest tight ends this offseason. Njoku has been boom or bust over his first five seasons, but in year six, he’s looking more of a boom player than a bust. He finally gets to be the number one tight end in the room after the team let go of Austin Hooper this offseason, and Njoku has taken advantage of it.
Njoku suffered a high ankle sprain in the loss to the Baltimore Ravens in Week Seven and missed the Week Eight win, but there is a good chance he will be able to return in Week Ten against the Miami Dolphins.
The offensive line has been dominant like they always are. Third-year starting left tackle Jedrick Wills Jr. has had his ups and downs, but he has been doing a solid job. He had had some crucial penalties, like in Week Seven when he got called for a false start in the red zone, and the Browns ended up having to kick a field goal. Also, in that game, he got called for a holding penalty on a huge play that sent the Browns back ten yards, and they ended up having to punt a few downs later.
Ethan Pocic has stepped into the starting center spot and has played outstanding. When Nick Harris went down on the second play of the first preseason game, many people wanted to know if Pocic could handle the job, and he held it well. He has been one of the best centers in the NFL this season, and hopefully, he will keep it up for the rest of the year.
The offense has been good enough this season, and they are doing this without their franchise quarterback. When Watson returns later in the season, the offense will probably need some time to figure things out, but when things are figured out, it should be one of the best offenses in the NFL for years to come.
The defense has been an absolute nightmare this season. It has been one of the worst, if not the worst, defenses in the NFL, from blowing coverages to getting run over by running backs.
Defensive coordinator Joe Woods has been hearing it from the fans, and many people want him to be looking for a new job. Woods has not been great this season, and his defensive backs not being able to figure out what coverage they are in and leaving guys wide open down the field in the first few weeks is on him.
The good news is that the defensive backs have figured out the miscommunication errors, and they seem to be getting back to playing at a high level as they did at the end of the 2021 season.
The bad news is teams are just starting to run the football all over the team, and there’s not much this defense can do. The defensive tackle room is young, small, and not very talented, and they get pushed back a handful of times in games. The linebacker’s room lost their leader Anthony Walker Jr. in Week Three, and the defense hasn’t been great since that moment.
The Cleveland Browns did end up trading for Atlanta Falcons linebacker Deion Jones after Week Five, and he is here to help fill the Walker role. But unfortunately, the team lost linebacker Jacob Phillips for the season, so that room is very thin.
Myles Garrett continues to be one of the best defense of players in the NFL, and he has been all over the field the last three weeks, recording four and a half sacks and being all over the Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow in their Week Eight win.
John Johnson and Grant Delpit have not been what the Browns have asked for from their safeties this season. They both have been the weak link in the defense, and there have been many times when they have been out of position and couldn’t make the play, and they have had some effort concerns.
The cornerback room has been solid after their first two-week disaster, but a concern now for the team is that star cornerback Denzel Ward has been out the last three weeks with a concussion, so that is worth watching throughout the season.
A pleasant surprise on the defense has been the cornerback and 2022 third-round pick from Mississippi State Martin Emerson Jr. Emerson had to step into playing many snaps when Greedy Williams went down and missed the start of the season. Emerson has held that job down, and he doesn’t look to be giving that job up anytime soon.
The defense finally showed up in Week Eight, and all pieces worked together. Hopefully, that is something that this team can build from when they return from the bye week.
Special Teams D-
The special teams have not been great, and the special team’s coordinator, Mike Priefer, is probably on the hot seat now. Priefer came over in 2019 with head coach Freddie Kitchens and was kept by now-head coach Kevin Stefanski due to working with each other in Minnesota.
The special teams had an unfortunate situation happen when their return specialist free agent signing, Jakeem Grant, went down with a torn Achilles in the middle of training camp. That hurt the special teams, and they still have not been able to do anything in the return game on punts or kicks.
The Cleveland Browns made a suspiring draft-day move when they took the kicker Cade York in the fourth round, and he came in and had an NFL debut. He hit the game-winning field goal from 58 yards to give the Cleveland Browns their first season-opening win since 2004.
The week after that, he ended up missing an extra point, and at the time. It didn’t seem like it was going to be an issue because the team was up two scores with under two minutes to play, but that missed extra point ended up hurting them because the Cleveland Browns gave up 14 unanswered points and lost to the New York Jets 31 to 30.
York also missed two field goals in the Week Five loss to the Los Angeles Chargers, and one was for the game-winner. He also got his game-tying field goal blocked in the Week Seven loss vs. the Baltimore Ravens. There was a conversational offside called on the Cleveland Browns field goal unit when it looked like nobody on the team jumped offsides but the Baltimore Ravens, and it sent the Browns five yards backward, and then they blocked the kick.
The Cleveland Browns also have had a hard time recovering the onside kick, and their failure to recover the onside kick in Week Two was a huge reason they could not win that football game.
The punter Corey Bojorquez has had a pretty good year so far, and he has been tremendous at times, pinning the opposing teams back in their territory.
The special teams need to turn it around in the second half of the season, or Priefer will be looking for another job this January.
The Cleveland Browns have nine more games left before their 2022 season ends. Things will look differently when Deshaun Watson returns from his suspension, and there is still hope that the team could find itself in the playoffs. Hopefully, the Cleveland Browns will carry their performance from Monday Night Football in Week Eight with them for the rest of the season, and there is playoff football to watch in Cleveland, Ohio, again.