You don’t have to look very hard to see that the Browns’ offense likely has one of the best groupings of skill position players in the AFC.
They’ve got Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt at running back in what is likely the best running back duo in the league. Their top two wideouts, Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry, have eight Pro Bowl appearances combined since 2014. Their newest tight end, Austin Hooper, is coming off a 75-catch, 787-yard season in Atlanta.
Of course, the biggest unknown on the Browns’ offense is quarterback Baker Mayfield. But even if he’s simply serviceable, the Browns have enough firepower to make life difficult for every team in the AFC North, and the Ravens, this season.
In a year of unknowns, much of Cleveland’s offense won’t be seen until it hits the field Sunday in Baltimore. But there aren't any secrets about what makes them so talented.
“With this set of circumstances being a new coaching staff and things like that, I really think that in studying what they’ve done at Minnesota and different places, because there’s a combo platter of all the different places every coach on that staff (has) been at,” defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale said Thursday. “I think it’s a really good marriage between head coach, player-caller and Baker Mayfield, because I think he definitely plays to Baker’s strengths.”
The Browns added tackle Jack Conklin in free agency and followed up by drafting tackle Jedrick Wills in the first round of the draft in April. They did that with the goal of helping protect Mayfield, who after a standout 2018 rookie season, struggled in his second year.
Now in his third season, under his third coach, Mayfield could be in a make-or-break season. Last year, he completed 59.4 percent of his passes and threw for 3,827 yards with 22 touchdowns, but threw 21 interceptions.
If the Browns are able to get Mayfield going, he’ll certainly test the loaded Ravens’ secondary of Marlon Humphrey, Marcus Peters, Tavon Young and Chuck Clark for not just the season opener, but for years to come too.
With such talented skill players, running lanes typically open well for Chubb and Hunt. A year ago, Chubb rushed for 1,494 yards and Hunt caught 37 passes for 285 yards in just eight games.
“But I do think that this is a game where you have to stop the run,” Calais Campbell said. “It’s a division game. If I’m a coach, I’m going to see how the guys’ tackling is going to be, so I’m going to run the ball at them downhill and see where guys’ tackling is. So, we expect to see a lot of runs. They’re a great running team. They’re a great team — very talented team. So, we have our hands full, but I think we’re ready for the challenge.”
The Browns’ offensive line obviously hasn’t played a real game in the 2020 season, and they’ll be rewarded with facing a totally revamped Ravens front with Campbell, Derek Wolfe, Brandon Williams and Matthew Judon.
And if the offensive line is able to give Mayfield time, he’ll be able to find some of the best skill players the AFC North has to offer.
“I think when we took Jedrick, we were excited about a lot of things: His physicality, his make-up, his athleticism,” Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said of the team’s first-round pick.. “And then as the offseason became what it was, we just had to be smart about how we went about installing our system to him, teaching him different techniques...There are no easy games. There’s no easy matchup in the NFL. And certainly, week one with the players that the Ravens have, it’s going to be a challenge.”