Five predictions for the upcoming Cleveland Browns season.
The tea leaves have spoken, and they’re telling me to do a predictions list. Well, this will go well. By no means are these guarantees to happen. Simply put, based on empirical data and common sense rationality, these are the five things that I believe will happen this year with the Cleveland Browns.
These aren’t all the possible predictions, nor are these things I necessarily want to happen, or not want to happen. These are just gut feelings I’m putting down for all to read. It’s entirely possible I whiff on all these. I’m willing to eat that crow, and it wouldn’t be the first time either.
There’s no telling what this year will look like, so let’s try to remember that this is mostly for fun, and to see how everything will look at the end of the season. Also, let’s see how this team looks against the Ravens before we go predicting wins.
These are five predictions for the 2020 season.
Odell Beckham won’t crack 1,000 yards
Odell Beckham may be back to his old form, he may not be. The reason why I think it’s unlikely for him to crack 1,000 yards this year actually has little to do with him or his play. It’s reasonable to believe that playing Kareem Hunt as often as they intend to, as well as finding catches for two tight ends (Austin Hooper and Harrison Bryant) will impact the number of touches Beckham gets. If Hunt had produced at the same rate over 16 games as he did eight last season, he would’ve had just shy of 1,000 total yards from scrimmage and 174 total touches/targets as well.
Those stats have to come from someone. Beckham barely cracked 1,000 yards last year and that was without a legitimate tight end for the entire year. Ricky Seals-Jones and Demetrius Harris combined for 49 targets all year. Hooper alone had 97 targets (nearly double) by himself last season, and that’s not counting what Bryant and possibly David Njoku will get as well. Beckham may play better, his production and efficiency may be higher, but his overall stats will take a hit.
Austin Hooper will make a third-straight Pro Bowl
It seems likely that a quarterback like Baker Mayfield, who everyone says needs the safety that a pass-catching tight end brings, would target Hooper a lot in 2020. If Mayfield is worth his salt, Hooper could easily match his 2019 production, if not exceed it. There’s a strong chance Hooper finishes with the second-most receiving yards on the team.
Baker Mayfield will improve
Despite what a lot of people say, Mayfield didn’t have that bad of a 2019. It was a wreck, don’t misunderstand that but he still had arguably the fourth-best season by a quarterback in Cleveland since 1999. Only his rookie year, Derek Anderson’s 2007 campaign, and Tim Couch circa 2002 really have any claim to being more impressive. Sure, a down year from where fans expected, but Mayfield should rebound in 2020. Hopefully.
Injuries will plague defensive backfield
This is a cheat because it’s already happening but it can get worse. Andrew Sendejo and Karl Joseph are your starting safeties, since 2015, one year before Joseph entered the NFL, neither man has played 16 games. There’s a real chance both men are held together by cellophane tape, bubble gum, and a rusty screw leftover from the Chris Palmer era.
The Defense will struggle.
The team spent money this year. Just not everywhere it needed to. The defense is….a patchwork. Every linebacker starting Week 1 against the Ravens was drafted to be backups. The defensive line that got shredded last year is back, intact, and ready to go. The defensive backs got some help, then that help tore his Achilles. On top of that, you have a $100 million man who contemplated retirement, your best linebacker is already hurt, and they’re still paying Sheldon Richardson millions of dollars to get pushed into linebackers.
The Browns theme song should be ARE YOU READY FOR A SHOOTOUT!? Because that seems to be how this team will need to win. Hopefully, I’m wrong.