The Browns expect to contend for the AFC North title as well as the Super Bowl and t there are three main storylines heading into training camp. The defense, health of Odell Beckham Jr., and the impending contract situation of Baker Mayfield are all going to play into the success of this team in 2021. None of them are certain, but we could get answers moving forward in training camp.
What does this Browns defense look like?
The Browns Achilles' heel in 2020 was their defense. Defensive coordinator Joe Woods was handcuffed to a base defense due to lackluster personnel. Opponents could consistently put together time-consuming drives that would keep the offense off the field.
General manager Andrew Berry and company set out to fix that issue this past offseason. The team added multiple impact players to their defensive front that could change the outlook of this defense.
- John Johnson III, S
- Jadeveon Clowney, EDGE
- Troy Hill, CB
- Greg Newsome II, CB
- Anthony Walker, ILB
- Jeremiah Owusu-Koromoah, ROVER
These acquisitions share a common thread: these are versatile players with a wealth of experience at either the college or pro level. Woods will now be able to use more of the base looks that he used in Denver.
He has indicated that he would like to run a scheme with six defensive backs on the field. Last season the Browns had to play a 4-3 because of the inexperience in the back end, and now they can run six at a time in the secondary.
The team also returns a few core pieces from the 2020 defense, including edge rusher Myles Garrett, corner Denzel Ward, and safety Ronnie Harrison Sr. On paper, this defense is one of the most talented groups in the AFC, but they have their work cut out for them over the next few weeks.
Woods will be installing new packages during training camp, meaning all players have to adjust to a relatively new system. This group will have to learn how to play together, and they have just under two months before they travel to Arrowhead Stadium to take on what may be the NFL's best offense in the Kansas City Chiefs.
Is Odell Beckham Jr. fully recovered?
Beckham suffered a torn ACL in a week seven contest against the Cincinnati Bengals. Many have speculated that this puts a handicap on what he can do moving forward, seeing as he will turn 29 soon and may never reach his athletic peak again.
Reports have indicated that he has made a full recovery and has been cleared to participate without issue in training camp. Videos have surfaced of him making cuts at full speed, and it appears that he should be ready for the regular season.
Clips on social media are one thing, but if Beckham truly is healthy, he changes what this offense can be. Last season, the Browns didn't have a player who could take the top off a defense, limiting what they could accomplish.
Beckham is one of the most athletic players in the NFL, and if he is back to his regular self, then this could finally be the breakout season we have been hoping for. Quarterback Baker Mayfield appears to have found his stride and cemented himself as a franchise quarterback, meaning Beckham will have the ability to be a part of a dynamic offense.
It will become apparent early on in camp if he is back to full health. His cuts, routes, and individual work are all elite when healthy, so we will get an inclination early on in the process about what he looks like.
What is the status of Mayfield's extension?
Mayfield has been eligible for a contract extension for several months now, and if the Browns are planning to give him an extension, it seems like training camp would be the time to do it.
Baker's camp has indicated that the two sides have entered talks, but nothing substantial has come off it. It appears that the 2018 quarterback class is playing cat and mouse, as neither Josh Allen nor Lamar Jackson has signed extensions to this point.
The Browns are sold on Mayfield's abilities, so this is not a question of if; it is a question of when. Earlier in the week, NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported that the Browns could extend running back Nick Chubb or Ward before Baker to figure out their cap situation.
There is a possibility that the Browns could wait until the 2022 offseason to negotiate an extension with Mayfield. Right now, nothing is clear on the matter, and anything could happen.
Once one quarterback signs an extension from the 2018 group, the other two are likely to follow. This story could be over in a matter of days, or we could be talking about it for the next calendar year.