2018 Season Recap: Cleveland Browns
First I want to apologize for this being so late. I don't have a good excuse, I just completely did not give myself enough time to learn reddit formatting, and did not want to send out tables that weren't formatted in this write up. Better late than never, I guess. Enough people have expressed their anger through PMs, but I want to make sure it's known that the tardiness is my fault, not any of the people who helped out with this post. They did a fantastic job and deserve a ton of recognition for that. Anyway, here goes.
Division: AFC North
Record (7-8-1) (3-2-1 within the division) (3rd in AFC North)
|Category||2018 Stat||2018 Average||2018 League Rank||2017 Stat||2017 Average||2017 League Rank|
2019 Draft Picks
In this section I am going to discuss the notable players who are scheduled to hit free agency. This will include starters and any backups who made significant contributions.
Tyrod was a one year rental from the Bills that many say underperformed for what we gave up. He played about two and a half games until he got injured, and in that time he posted a 49% completion percentage, 3 total TDs, 2 INTs, and 473 yards. It is unlikely that he comes back to Cleveland next year, but will be a quality backup on whatever team he signs with.
Earl was our backup OL player who the organization trusted to come in to replace anyone on the line had they gotten injured. However, Last years second round pick Austin Corbet is likely to take over that role assuming he is progressing the way we expect.
Perriman was a mid season signing that wasn’t really supposed to make the impact that he did. He finished the season with 16 catches, 340 yards, and two scores. He made a great case to revitalize his career and would be warmly welcomed back by Cleveland fans.
Rashard Higgins has been progressing for the past few years after he was a day 3 draft pick in 2016. He has never really had the chance to actually be on the field much, but Gordon being traded did open a spot for the young guy to come in. As it turns out, he has great chemistry with Baker, as he finished the season with 39 catches, 572 yards, and four TDs as a WR3. Just like Perriman, most people would be happy to see Higgins come back to play for the Browns in 2019.
Briean Boddy Calhoun was an undrafted rookie cut by the Jaguars that we picked up back in 2016. He has never really had one defined position among the defensive backs, but has seen a lot of action as a slot corner or safety. He hasn’t been great, but having him back at the right price could keep a valuable depth player on our defense.
Some other semi-notable free agents include CBs EJ Gaines and Philip Gaines, TE Orson Charles, DT Carl Davis, and DB Jermaine Whitehead, but I would be surprised if any of these guys came back or have a big impact in 2019 if they do come back to the team.
Start of the Year
- HC: Hue Jackson
- OC: Todd Haley
- QB: Ken Zampese
- RB: Ryan Lindley
- WR: Adam Henry
- TE: Greg Season
- OL: Bob Wylie
- Asst. OL: Mark Huston
- Sr. Asst.: Al Saunders
- Offensive QC: Bob Saunders
- DC: Gregg Williams
- LB: Blake Williams
- DL: Clyde Simmons
- Asst. DL: Ken Delgado
- DB: Dewayne Walker
- Asst. DB: Jerod Kruse
- Defensive QC: Eric Sanders
- ST: Amos Jones
- Asst. ST: Sam Shade
End of the Year
- Int. HC: Gregg Williams
- Int. OC: Freddie Kitchens
- Int. DC: Blake Williams
- HC: Freddie Kitchens
- HC Asst.: Jody Wright
- OC: Todd Monken
- QBs: Ryan Lindley
- RBs/Run Game: Stump Mitchell
- WRs: Adam Henry
- OL/Associate HC: James Campen
- Asst. OL: Jeff Blasko
- TEs: John Lilly
- Offensive QC: Jim Dray/Tyler Tettleton
- DC: Steve Wilks
- Def. Asst.: Chris Jones
- LBs/Run Game: Al Holcomb
- DBs/Pass Game: Joe White
- DBs: Dewayne Walker
- DL: Tosh Lupoi
- Asst. DL: John Parella
- ST: Mike Preifer
Being a coach for the Cleveland browns just hasn't had the prestige that it used to have. Fans and pundits alike saw 2018 as the make-or-break year for Hue Jackson who was seen as a top coaching candidate 3 years ago.
Poaching a stylish offensive coordinator from a division rival, an 8-8 head coaching record with the freaking Oakland raiders, what could go wrong?
Turns out, a lot.
Start of 2018
After disastrous 1 - 15 and 0 - 16 campaigns in back-to-back years this was the year that Hue Jackson ran out of excuses. No number of baptisms in lake Erie could change that.
To help bolster the offense, Cleveland brought in another division coordinator in Todd Haley. The engineer of fantastic Pittsburgh offenses featuring stars like Antonio Brown, Le'Veon Bell, and JuJu Smith-Schuster set up in Cleveland Ohio to take pressure off of head coach Hue Jackson. His position coaches included Iong time Cincinnati QB coach and offensive coordinator Ken Zampese, former NFL QB Ryan Lindley, college and NFL wide receivers coach Adam Henry, and journeyman OL coach of Hard Knocks fame, Bob Wylie. Father and son duo Al and Bob Saunders handled offensive quality control.
On defense former Bountygate culprit Gregg Williams was looking to lead a 21st ranked defense into a second-year's step forward. His son, Blake, managed linebackers, Clyde Simmons and Ken Delgado teamed up for DL, and Dewayne Walker and Jerod Kruse were DB coaches. Eric Sanders was the defensive quality control coordinator.
The Special Teams Coordinator was former Arizona Cardinals ST Coordinator Amos Jones, who came with a harsh rebuke from Cardinals fans. His assistant, Sam Shade.
Eight games into the season, with a 2-5-1 record, General Manager John Dorsey had seen enough. Jackson was finally out as the Browns head coach. This lead Jackson to go on a sports media tantrum tour, explaining his 3 - 36 - 1 record and all the things he could have done better after the fact.
Dorsey also fired OC Todd Haley, due to an alleged sabotage of the browns offense, in hopes that Jackson would be fired and Haley would get the head coaching position.
Gregg Williams was elevated to the interim head coach position. Run game coordinator Freddie kitchens became the new OC, and Blake Williams donned DC duties.
These changes spurred the Browns to one of the most efficient offenses in the NFL. Baker Mayfield and Nick Chubb blossomed, WRs Breshad Perriman and Rashad Higgins stepped up, and the Browns finished 5-3 under Williams and company. This success put Browns fans into a frenzy and the 2019 off-season became incredibly hyped due to the desire to build off recent success.
There was fierce debate over whether to keep Gregg Williams as head coach or keep continuity on offense and promote Freddie Kitchens. After what seemed like an eternity white smoke came from Berea, and the Browns named Freddie Kitchens the 17th head coach of the Cleveland Browns. Cleveland was seen as a desirable coaching spot for the first time in the 21st century, and the new hires give faith to Browns fans.
The new offensive coordinator is Todd Monken from Tampa Bay. In two years as Offensive Coordinator for the Bucs, Monken has led a top 10 unit in terms of yards gained both years leading the league in passing yards in 2018. The new run game is beard affficionado Stump Mitchell. He coached David Johnson through his breakout campaign and led the Jets running backs last year. The browns retained Adam Henry as WR coach, but added James Campen as OL coach from Green Bay.
Former Cardinals head coach Steve Wilks came to Cleveland in hopes of reliving his famed Panthers defense which led them to the Super Bowl. The hope here is that solely focusing on the defensive side of the ball will lead to a better result on the field. Al Holcomb, Wilks' DC in Arizona, joins the team as Linebackers coach and run game coordinator. Joe White joins another holdover in Dewayne Walker to coach DBs and coordinate the pass game. The young, talented D-Line will have long time Alabama assistant Tosh Lupoi alongside college D-Line coach John Parella.
Special Teams yielded the most controversial hire in Minnesota ST coordinator Mike Preifer. Sound bites excluded, most Browns fans would agree that Preifer is a welcome upgrade over Amos Jones' tenure, marked by missed kicks and penalties.
2018 Draft Class
What can I say about Baker that hasn’t already been said? It seems the Browns finally have their QB, I mean his highlight video from this year is 15 minutes long. Baker is everything this team needed both with his play and attitude. Yes he can rub some people the wrong way but he is exactly what this team needed. I mean he said it himself, “I think if anybody’s gonna turn that franchise around, it’d be me. I’d be able to put it in the right direction.” So far it looks like he was totally right.
Ward had a blistering start to the year and looks like a shutdown CB. Being given tough assignments and handling them reasonably well especially for a rookie, he was able to turn that into a pro bowl appearance this year. The only issue is as Greg Williams said his stupid tackling. I love a CB that likes to tackle but Ward sometimes thinks he is much bigger then he is. He need to get better at just cutting guys and not trying to take on TE’s and big WRs, which lead to his two concussions and other injuries this year.
The jury is still out on Corbett as a pick. He was bounced around in training camp between tackle and guard. He wasn’t able to beat out Bitonio for the open LT spot and seems to be much better suited to play on the inside and was moved to LG. Then Bitonio was moved back inside and UDFA rookie Desmond Harrison took the LT spot, religating Corbett to the bench. All 3 interior linemen Bitonio, Tretter, and Zeitler are among the best players on the team and Corbett wasn’t going to take a spot away from any one of them. Without any hole opening through injury Corbett sat on the bench most of the season, before suffering a foot injury. For now he is the back up at all 3 interior position and has potential to step up in the future.
A lot of r/Browns was a bit concerned when Hyde was traded midseason and there were questions how Chubb would handle a full workload week in and out. Well Chubb certainly shut us all up finishing with 996 yard and 8 tds along with 5.2 yards a carry and no fumbles. It feels safe to say Chubb looked back to the player he was before the injury at Georgia and is our leading back going forward even with some other moves that have been made.
If I had to pick out the worst pick in this draft class for the Browns it would be Thomas. I’m not sure what Dorsey saw to select him in the 3rd round but Thomas struggled heavily to do much of anything. He did pretty much nothing in the preseason and only made the team because he was a rookie because both Nassib and Orchard showed significantly better than him. The coaching staff tried to move him inside and turn him into a pass rushing DT but that failed as well. At the end of the season he was the 9th D-lineman on the roster and barley saw snaps. Unless he majorly improved he should not make the 53 this season.
I’m going to put to the side the well documented off the field concerns that Callaway has for this. Callaway was able to do some nice things this year, with 43 catches for 586 and 5 TD’s he had a reasonable productive year. However he had major issues with drops that followed him all year, after the off the field stuff his biggest knock coming out was him being a body catcher. All and all he was able to show some of the deep threat/playmaking ability that got him drafted and if he can cut at least some of the drops out of his game he could be a nice piece for the offense going forward.
Avery was a bit of a surprise that came on strong as a late round pick. The belief was that he was drafted to transition to LB and while he did play some snaps there due to injury he seems at home as a rotational pass rusher, chalking up 4.5 sacks this season. Ideally if the team can find another depth LB Avery could focus on being a rusher and can make an impact in the pass rush going forward.
Ratley played in 13 games and had 13 catches for 144 yards, wasn’t terrible wasn’t great. He did do a respectable job stepping up against the Chargers when we were really thin at WR due to injury. He could continue to develop into a depth piece/special teamer or he might not make the team depending on any moves to improve the WR group this offseason.
Didn’t make the team out of camp, I don’t think he did anything particularly memorable in the preseason, and is now on the Seahawks practice squad.
Harrison was able to win the staring LT job out of training camp but that was probably the highlight of his season. Harrison has all the tools to play LT in the NFL but currently lacks some technique and really lacks the strength. Once opposing DEs learned they could bull him over he struggled mightily. In week 9 he lost his starting job to Greg Robinson. It’s possible that after a full year in an NFL strength program some of his strength issues could be improved and he could still develop into a solid NFL tackle.
2018 Free agent signings
Ok technically this was a trade but since he signed the large extension right after I’m going to add it to this section instead. Jarvis was brought in to fill the void at the top of the WR room. Whether he did that or not is up for debate, once Kitchens took over he stopped being forced as many targets and his production fell off. Jarvis is still a good player and is a nice piece to have on the offense but I think calling this an overpay is fair. He does seem to be part of the culture change in the locker room that was needed and that has its own value but not enough to bridge all of the gap imo.
The former number 2 overall pick was brought in on the cheap and when he took over the LT spot was able to play at a decent level. He did enough to earn himself another one year contract for the coming season. He had some issues and I don’t see him as the long term solution at the position but even decent OT play is hard to find.
Ouch, this was a big miss for Dorsey. Hubbard was awful until Kitchens took over the play calling, and even after that he was decent at best. If the Browns can find another OT either in the draft or if Harrison steps up I would expect them to cut their losses and move on from Hubbard.
Smith only had 1 sack this year and was used an a rotational DE. He played in all 16 games and was serviceable, that's about all I got.
Mitchell had a really good year opposite of Ward, if he didn’t break his arm and miss 8 games I would put him as one of the best additions made this offseason.
Fells was brought in to add a vet to the TE room as well as to have a more defined blocker at the position. He was able to fill that roll well.
Yeah this one is pretty bad, Carrie looks like a potential cut this year and I doubt many fans will be sad to see him go. He had a couple really good games but was largely he wasn’t very good and the team will be looking to move on from his contract.
Pretty much brought in as a warm body in the CB room, and he did that.
Hyde is a serviceable NFL running back and when he was signed was one of two backs on the roster. I don’t normally agree with paying average NFL RB’s but it made sense to be in position to not need to add a RB in the draft. Hyde wasn’t bad but getting a pick for him and Chubb getting his carries was a huge improvement for the offense.
Stanton was brought in to help work with whatever rookie QB was drafted and be an option to play if the rookie wasn’t ready to play. Thankfully he wasn’t needed but I would guess he has a future in coaching either with Kitchen’s staff or another when he hangs it up.
Tyrod is a pros pro to use a masily overused saying. His actual play was disappointing and I know I have apologized to Bills fans numerous times for doubting their assessment of him. But this trade still made sense, it may have taken longer than it should have but Tyrod was there to hold the starting spot down until Baker was ready. To many young QBs have been throw into the fire before they were ready by this team that having an option to start was a nice change of pace. Once he lost his job to Baker all the reports were positive on how he was working to help Baker prepare and I think all Browns fans have a positive view of him even if his play was lackluster.
Yeah I would say this worked out. The Browns were able to fill the FS spot they have struggled with for the past few seasons, also allowing Pepper to move back closer to the line in his prefered position. Randall was moved back to his natural position and thrived. I mean he had my personal highlight of the season running out of bounds on an int to give the ball to Hue.
Weekly Game Recaps
They say the one good thing about hitting rock bottom is that you have nowhere to go but up. That is how a lot of Cleveland fans wanted to feel after the 0-16 campaign. But how do you sell that, either to others or to yourself, when the man responsible for the 0-16 season still had his job. Hue Jackson was staying in Cleveland while Lebron was leaving. Add on top of that we practically had a civil war over whether or not we should throw a parade for the 0-16 season. All these things brought a lot of tension to Cleveland sports fandom. We were losing our city’s idol, we were keeping the coach who held the team down for two years already, and we had to get this whole flaming dumpster put on National TV in the form of Hard Knocks. People started to rally around the originally controversial draft picks that Dorsey made. Watching Baker in the preseason, listening to Jarvis Landry pump up his teammates, and a lot of beer had Cleveland fans fired up about the upcoming season. If there is one city that is passionate and blindly optimistic enough to rally behind an 0-16 team as hard as they ever have, that city is Cleveland.
2018 Week 1 | Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns
The weather forecast for Week 1 was heavy rain and high winds with 0% chance of LeVeon Bell. Tyrod was the starter, and managed to play okay given the weather. Everyone knows how this game went, the Browns came back from a 14 point deficit in the 4th quarter to go into OT, where kicking failed both teams. But for the first time in over a year, the Browns didn’t lose. We didn’t win, but tying up the Steelers at home felt good. Denzel Ward looked legit, Myles was as good as ever, and our new shiny offense looked functional under Todd Haley. There was plenty to celebrate.
2018 Week 2 | Cleveland Browns at New Orleans Saints
New Orleans Saints
This game hurt to watch. The kicker who got blocked to seal the tie in the week before missed two field goals and two extra points in a domed stadium, and most of that came in the late 4th quarter. We were holding down a great offense led by Drew Brees, but our own offense and special teams couldn’t put up points to pull away. In the end, that costed us. Tyrod played decently enough where people weren’t calling for his head, but in hindsight, its hard not to think about whether or not Baker could have won this game or the previous one.
2018 Week 3 | New York Jets at Cleveland Browns
New York Jets
Cleveland was finally on Thursday Night Football, and a lot of people felt this was a game we could win. It was 0-0 going into the second quarter, but then Isaiah Crowell scored two touchdowns to give the Jets a comfortable lead. He played himself though, because the Browns are undefeated in games where Crowell gets 2 TDs. But of course at the time, it was not inspiring that we were down two scores with halftime approaching. On 3rd and 12, with three minutes left, Tyrod Taylor suffered a concussion and was pulled from the game. The City of Cleveland changed forever after this moment. People cheered for Baker louder than you could imagine, and he rallied the team to the first win in what felt like forever.
2018 Week 4 | Cleveland Browns at Oakland Raiders
Just like Week 2, this one hurt to watch. And if we won, I’m sure it would have hurt just as much for the Raiders fans. The officiating in this game was terrible for both sides, and really left a sour taste in everyone’s mouth. This photo is not great, but it’s a view of what was finally overturned. Without sounding too biased, I will say this. I understand saying that the ball did not cross the line. What I disagree with is that it originally called a 1st down, and this view (along with a few others) were considered enough indisputable evidence to overturn it. Regardless, we turned the ball over too much to blame the whole game on one bad call.
2018 Week 5 | Baltimore Ravens at Cleveland Browns
People were mad after Week 4, and one thing that would make us feel better is a win over a divisional rival. Baltimore had a defense that is known for eating rookie QBs alive, but Baker didn’t play too bad considering the circumstances. 342 yards, a TD and an INT was enough to put us over the Ravens, but our defense really stepped up in this game after the shootout in Oakland. For those that don’t know, a Cleveland win over Baltimore is very rare, and we obviously enjoy them a lot when they happen.
2018 Week 6 | Los Angeles Chargers at Cleveland Browns
Los Angeles Chargers
As much as I hate to say it, this was a classic Browns game. One where you stop paying too much attention by the end of the third quarter because the game is out of reach, you still have the game on in the background, but you still end up crying yourself to sleep with your jersey still on. The Chargers were hot, and Philip Rivers was not slowing down for us. A ref got fired for missing an obvious false start, but that would not have changed the outcome of a loss this big. This was the part of the season where people realized that Hue Jackson was still our coach, and that we were never really going to go anywhere with him leading us.
2018 Week 7 | Cleveland Browns at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Another close OT loss started to become the theme of this season. A lot of our own mistakes kept us from winning this. We had two failed 4th down conversions and a fumble on a punt return that really felt like we were shooting ourselves in the foot. Hue Jackson’s seat was getting very warm with two consecutive losses. This was also right after Carlos Hyde was traded to Jacksonville, leaving Chubb as the main ball carrier.
2018 Week 8 | Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers
This game was ugly. But it was the last straw that caused Hue to get fired. His luck had ran out, and his long overdue firing finally came. The game itself was a showcase of Pittsburgh’s star players on offense playing like star players, while our offense struggled and struggled. Along with Hue Jackson packing his bags came Todd Haley. Gregg Williams would take over as HC with Freddie Kitchens taking over OC duties.
2018 Week 9 | Kansas City Chiefs at Cleveland Browns
Kansas City Chiefs
Brand new coaches with only a week to prepare for one of the top teams in the league? What could go wrong? Honestly this game wasn’t that bad for what it was, it left some excitement for the new coaching staff even if it didn’t go the way we wanted. Baker threw for 297 yards, 2 TDs, and 1 INT when all was said and done.
2018 Week 10 | Atlanta Falcons at Cleveland Browns
This was the first real game of the new Browns. The coaches had a full week in charge, the players liked the new system, and Baker woke up feeling dangerous to earn his best passer rating of the year at 151. We went into half leading 14-10 and just did not look back. The offense was moving fluidly in the I formation, and Chubb had the Browns longest play of the season with a 94 yard TD. I was coincidentally in Atlanta during this game even though the game was in Cleveland, but getting to watch a Browns game on TV from another city was nice.
2018 Week 12 | Cleveland Browns at Cincinnati Bengals
This game got off the rails quickly. We wanted a divisional win, and the players did too. We started off hot and cruised to a very powerful win. Demarious Randall caught a pick from Andy Dalton and delivered the ball to none other than Hue Jackson, a new assistant coach in Cincinnati. Dalton did get hurt, but the game was too far out of hand by that point. This game was a huge momentum swing for the Browns.
2018 Week 13 | Cleveland Browns at Houston Texans
Another tough loss to a strong team on a hot streak. We all realized that this team was not invincible, and would not always be able to play at the high level from before. Baker had a very rough first half, but bounced back very well in the second half. He did well getting rid of the ball quickly, and was not sacked once against the Houston pass rush. He also set a season high yardage mark at 397. I think the reason we were able to digest this loss so well is that we saw the worst of Baker Mayfield, and it was still better than the QB play we had seen in years past. His 75 passer rating was better than almost all of Kizers games, and he was still making some sharp throws. It showed us exactly what we have in store for the future.
2018 Week 14 | Carolina Panthers at Cleveland Browns
This game had a lot of highlights for the new Freddie Kitchens offense. Baker threw a bomb to Perriman to open the game, another one to Landry later for a TD, and there was also a handoff to Landry that gave us a score. Then that Landry handoff was recreated for big yards later. We were really starting to get into expecting wins from the Browns, but also expecting better play from the offense than what we were used to.
2018 Week 15 | Cleveland Browns at Denver Broncos
It doesn’t need to be stated that Denver is one of the toughest places to play in due to the thin air. This was apparent in some missed tackles on defense and some offensive struggles. One player who really showed up was Jabrill Peppers, who had a great pick and also the game ending sack on Case Keenum. Overall, the whole team could have played better but showed up when it mattered, and they got to come home with another win and keeping the playoff dream alive even if it was just a dream.
2018 Week 16 | Cincinnati Bengals at Cleveland Browns
This game was very similar to the last game against the Bengals, and was not as close as the score would make it seem. Dalton and Green were missing, this was a game that we basically checked off as a win before kickoff, which we usually never do. Those of us fortunate enough to make it to our fantasy football championships for this week started as many Browns players as possible, and boy did it pay off. Unfortunately a Ravens win over the Chargers killed the playoff dream for us, but the Browns had more than enough motivation to go into Baltimore to try to ruin their playoff hopes. Baker also stared down Hue after a big play and hung dong on the sideline, as you do when you have a great day.
2018 Week 17 | Cleveland Browns at Baltimore Ravens
This game had its ups and downs, it was very well fought, and the game thread could not have been more toxic. Two fanbases who hate each other fighting over which rookie QB was better, which team was getting hosed by the refs more, and which team would ultimately come out on top. Two very different offenses collided with two strong defenses, and when the smoke cleared, the Ravens got their playoff ticket. At the end of the night we did not mourn the game, but instead we celebrated the season we had. Not very many people seriously thought we would do as well as we did, including even the most optimistic fans.
So I guess its true that once you hit rock bottom, the only way to go is up. We might have lost 17 games in a row, and we might have lost our city’s idol, but Browns fans never lost hope. I think no matter how bad it gets here, you can always count on crazy, passionate fans wanting to get rowdy in freezing weather to watch a football game. And while he’s no Lebron James, I think this city found a new idol pretty quick. For once this fanbase is pumped up to make a real impact in the NFL, and as always, GO GPODAWUND!
I want to thank u/thehildabeast and u/SweetRas13 for the help they gave me on this. I really could not have done all this by myself, the amount of work they put in as well as creativity was awesome. Also to u/therealDoctorKay for running this whole series this year. I really hope you all enjoyed reading this, I definitely enjoyed writing this, but some of the nasty messages I've gotten in my inbox have convinced me not to write next year. However, I'm sure someone else can do a great job as well as having it out on time.