The first week of the season is always the start of a number of new journeys. It’s a new beginning, a fresh start, and every other cliché you can recite from the book. And so it is once again for the Cleveland Browns, who are hoping this offseason to have finally struck gold not fit for a fool.
Their 2019 season begins by hosting the Tennessee Titans in the afternoon. It will be essentially the first time this offense has played together meaningfully, even in the preseason. Baker Mayfield didn’t play much, and even when he did, he actually struggled for the most part. Odell Beckham Jr., their big acquisition, didn’t play at all.
While they all brushed off any concern about getting off to a slow start because of the lack of on-field familiarity with one another, it’s also true that Beckham is continuing to nurse a hip injury that he said has had him reluctant to really open up his hips in weeks. He plans to do that for the first time since injuring himself during practice a month ago during today’s game.
That’s just one of many changes that have come to Cleveland this year. No group has been remade more than the defensive line, with the acquisitions of Pro Bowlers Olivier Vernon and Sheldon Richardson. The former was acquired via trade while the latter was signed as a free agent. They also made a concerted effort to sign Gerald McCoy but failed to ink him.
Even with a ride receiver room consisting of Beckham and Jarvis Landry at the top of the depth chart, head coach Freddie Kitchens has consistently maintained that the defensive line room is the most talented on the roster. On paper, it’s a hard point to argue against, throwing in Myles Garrett on top for good measure.
The truth is that whatever happens in the opening game, however, is not going to tell the story of how the season will unfold. The beginning of the year is pretty notorious—and increasingly so in recent years—for offering outliers and exceptions to the rule. So whatever the Browns look like today, we should be hesitant to read too much into it, either positively or negatively.
After finishing the 2018 season on a 5-2 run, Cleveland managed to post their best record since 2007, going 7-8-1, only falling to the Baltimore Ravens late in the finale to allow a winning season out of their grasp.
Can they carry that momentum into 2019? That depends upon how they fare against winning teams. They didn’t beat any winning teams, while they were winning teams, last season. Their victory over the Baltimore Ravens occurred with Joe Flacco still at quarterback, even if, admittedly, they did have a winning record at the time. they were 4-5 by the time Lamar Jackson was starting.