Some in sports believe the Browns can be a top-five defense but those expectations are huge.
To say the Browns could be a top-five defense in the NFL isn’t outrageous but it isn’t exactly the most logical point either. The Browns were 16th in total yards allowed in 2020, 11th in passing yards allowed, and 24th in rushing. The clear issue was the passing game as they were 8th in the league in passing touchdowns allowed, while only 17th in rushing touchdowns given up. All in all, the Browns were 12th overall in total points against.
They were also super disciplined, ranking 26th in most penalties generated by a team. Maybe a sign that the coaching was better than given credit for.
That said, Jared Dubin of CBS Sports really does believe the Browns will be a top-three defense in the NFL this year, which isn’t a stretch to believe is possible right now.
"3. Cleveland BrownsAs high a hopes as I have for the Ravens, they are even higher for the Browns. They should be the most improved defense in the league. John Johnson III might have been the best free-agent signing of the offseason, a perfect match of skill set and team need. He’ll diversify the team’s coverages with his ability to play center field and rotate into two-high looks, and to make plays on the ball. Cleveland also added both Troy Hill (in free agency) and Greg Newsome II (in the draft) to Denzel Ward and Greedy Williams at corner, plus they have Grant Delpit coming back from injury and Ronnie Harrison for a full season. They signed Jadeveon Clowney and Takkarist McKinley to supplement Myles Garrett on the edge, and brought in Malik Jackson and Tommy Togiai to work with Jordan Elliott and Andrew Billings up the middle. Throw in linebacker Anthony Walker and jack-of-all-trades Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, and this might be the most versatile group in the NFL."
The Browns have to prove it.
It’s easy to say the Browns will be one of the three top defenses in the NFL but such things are impossible to believe. To expect the Browns to be a great defense just because of the off-field acquisitions is the ultimate fool’s gold philosophy. The acquisitions don’t improve the defense by just being in Cleveland, they actually have to produce.
There’s no reason to suspect they can’t or won’t but there are free agents and draft picks that bust out all the time. For every Ndamukong Suh, there’s an Albert Haynesworth. For every Calvin Johnson, there’s a Charles Rogers.
It’s all well and good to say the Browns can be a top-three defense in 2021, it’s another thing to expect it. The Browns need Greedy Williams and Grant Delpit to not just be healthy but productive. They need any number of rookies, second and third-year players to exceed their draft stock and turn into something productive. They need Jadeveon Clowney to finally live up to his hype and they need to hope the linebackers are what they need to be to succeed.
That’s just a bulk of things the team needs to go right. Not even all of them. So it’s a bit early to proclaim the Browns a top-three defense.
For what it’s worth, CBS Sports also thinks the Browns can be a top-seven offense which is more realistic but that again has its own slew of potential issues to worry about. The only way to know what the offense or defense looks like is to get into Week 1 and find out.