As the second half of the Cleveland Browns 2020 NFL season begins this Sunday, thoughts regarding players and overall play from the team still remain the topic of conversation.
Can Baker Mayfield continue playing well?
Can the defense get it together?
All of which have been questioned throughout the season. Here are some things to look out for during the second half of the season.
The Return of Nick Chubb
As most Browns fans know, Nick Chubb is a major game-changer for this team. Opposing teams respect his game; some of which fear playing against him. But when news broke that Nick Chubb would be out for some time, it changed a little bit of the game plan against the Browns.
With Kareem Hunt being the lead back, Cleveland averaged just under four yards a carry, which is significantly lower than the five and a half yards a carry the team averaged with Nick Chubb leading the pack. With the return of Nick Chubb for this week and more, the Browns will look to continue what they started before his injury, which is running the ball and running it often.
Issues on Defense
The Browns defense has been arguably their weakest link so far this season. Although the defense is home to one of the NFL’s leading pass rushers in Myles Garrett, the team hasn’t had much to be proud of. The team has created turnovers early on in the year. However, they haven’t come against good teams, such as the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens.
More-so recently, the Oakland Raiders, who came into their game against the Browns struggling to run the ball. That was until Josh Jacobs ran for over 100 yards on the Browns defense, which kept Mayfield and company from even seeing the field. That’s because the defense gave up three separate drives of 15 plays or more, including the go-ahead touchdown to seal the game away from the Browns.
If this Browns team wants any more success in the second half of the season, they have got to make a greater impact on the field and prove they can hang with the rest of the league. This young defense was going to be challenged from start to finish. Now, it’s time they bite back.
Current State of the WR Room
One big question that continues to circle around this team is how the WR room will look after Odell Beckham Jr.’s injury. The loss of such a high-impact player was felt not only by his great friend and teammate Jarvis Landry but to the rest of the team.
Losing someone that gave the team a legit deep threat will be missed greatly, especially considering the Browns have not been a team that will beat you over the top often. Missing someone like Beckham makes the defense’s game plan against the Browns a little easier to maintain. That means other players have got to step up. Look for guys like Rashard Higgins and Donavan Peoples-Jones to try and fill the void, along with the always consistent Jarvis Landry, who will now be in that WR1 role once again.
How Will Fan Favorites Fair?
Before the season began, many Browns fans gravitated towards guys like Mack Wilson, who always showed a positive and hungry attitude that was always missing from this team in the past. It was refreshing to finally see players hungry and eager to play at a high level for a team that hasn’t seen much of that since its return in ’99.
However, the first half of the season has been a rough one for the second-year man out of Alabama. Wilson missed the first chunk of the season while battling an injury he suffered during camp this offseason. Since his return, he has not seen the field much. But when he has been on the field, it’s been somewhat disappointing.
Part of that disappointing play may be related to his injury. But one thing is for certain, he has not ascended in his second year like a lot of fans thought he would. Reports say he is out of a brace, which will hopefully mean more mobility for him while on the field. But more importantly, some more confidence for the young man, which the defense could certainly use at this time.
Baker Mayfield: Can He Ascend?
Out of all the topics covered here today, the biggest and most popular one of them is and always has been regarding Baker Mayfield.
When the team took him in the 2018 NFL Draft, they had hoped to finally find their long-awaited franchise QB for the foreseeable future. However, so far, that question remains up in the air. His play so far this season has been somewhat lack-luster feeling. He’s had many “safe” games, where the team simply dominated the ground attack, which freed up a few nice plays for Mayfield.
But then you have the losses against the Ravens and Steelers that just make you sort of cringe as a fan of this team. You see the same old mistakes he was making during last year’s fiasco and just think “here we go again, another QB down the drain.” Missing simple reads and forcing throws into triple coverage is not something you want to see out of a franchise quarterback. However, his last few games have been promising.
After starting off the game 0-5 with one interception against the Cincinnati Bengals, Baker Mayfield had himself a career-high and career-changing game. He went on to complete 21 passes in a row and threw for five touchdowns, which included the game-winning touchdown to Peoples-Jones and a defining moment in Mayfield’s early NFL career. He went on to have another solid performance against the Oakland Raiders, which was ruined by the Browns’ terrible defensive performance and many dropped passes on offense.
Now, with the Browns entering one of the NFL’s easiest remaining schedules, the opportunities will continue to come for this team. Baker Mayfield has to continue ascending into the quarterback every Browns fan hoped he’d be, and other players have got to step up on both sides of the ball.
There is a real chance this team can finally reach the playoffs for the first time since 2003. Reaching that feat alone, despite all the injuries, rookie head coach and GM, new offensive and defensive system with young players, as well as the complications COVID-19 has had on the season so far. Achieving a playoff run would be absolutely big for this team and the city of Cleveland as a whole. Let’s see how it plays out for the Browns.