The 2019 NFL season was supposed to the Cleveland Browns’ best since their return in 1999.
Instead, it finished as perhaps the most disappointing.
The season that began with Super Bowl aspirations (as misguided as they may have been at the time) ended with an effortless loss to the worst team in the NFL.
Explosive offense not nearly enough
Cleveland’s offense had some good moments against the Cincinnati Bengals. Baker Mayfield hit Jarvis Landry and Damion Ratley for two deep touchdowns, and Odell Beckham Jr. made an acrobatic grab in the back of the end zone for his fourth TD of the year. But aside from that, Mayfield completed nine other passes to end up 12/27 for 279 yards, three scores, and three interceptions. To say Mayfield’s sophomore season was a disappointment is a massive understatement.
Nick Chubb ended the game with 13 carries for 41 yards, and was the NFL’s rushing leader. At least until Derrick Henry of the Tennessee Titans passed him up a few hours later. The Browns were fortunate enough to play the league’s worst rushing defense twice this season, and Chubb carried the ball a total of 28 times in those two games. Simply unacceptable.
The offensive line had a very forgettable outing, No starter run blocked well and the Mayfield was sacked five times, hit twice, and hurried 16 times. At a minimum, the two tackles will be replaced this offseason, and a new right guard could also be coming.
Decimated defense struggles again
It’s hard to blame the Cleveland defense too much, as so many backups and free agents are getting significant playing time. But it’s still disappointing to give up 33 points to such a bad team. Safety Justin Burris finished with a great 89.9 overall grade per Pro Football Focus, but played only 23 snaps. Denzel Ward and Damarious Randall were both solid in coverage, in what was likely Randall’s final game with the Browns.
Against one of, if not the worst OL in the league, Cleveland managed two sacks and four hurries on Andy Dalton. Olivier Vernon returned from injury and looked extremely rusty. Given his pricey contract, his future with the team is also in doubt.
There isn’t really much more to say about Cleveland’s final game of 2019. It was embarrassing, yes. But it also was in the best interest of the team. It led to the firings of head coach Freddie Kitchens and general manager John Dorsey, and also secured the Browns the 10th overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. Cleveland will be going through yet another coaching staff and front office shakeup, but this time, the roster won’t be rebuilt. The Browns have the talent to win now, and that will be the goal next season, under new leadership.
Browns Plainly thanks Sam Penix — sportswriter since 2016 and Browns fan for life — for his solid, wrap-up tackling of a rough, tough season. Look forward to reading much more from this emerging analyst.
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