2020 Team Preview The Cleveland Browns front office came into the 2018 season as the defending Super Bowl Champions, after winning their first Super Bowl Championship in the 2017 simmed season, and felt like they put together an even better team for 2018. Unfortunately for the Browns, an up and down season saw them finish 8-8 and miss the playoffs in the follow up to their championship season. Never afraid to take a chance with personnel, the Browns would make a flurry of moves that would include seeing them add a new franchise quarterback and ship out a perennial defensive player of the year candidate. The moves would pay off in a big way, as the Browns would go 14-2 in the sim season and capture their second Super Bowl Championship, in a great game against the Cardinals that was played following the sim. The Browns didn't have their usual volume of moves, leading up to the 2020 season, but the front office feels like the moves they did make give give them their most talented team yet, since this ownership group took over. The hope and expectation is that this team can avoid the post Super Bowl slump that doomed the team in 2018, and this team can pick off right where they left off from the sim season. OFFENSE QB: When the Browns traded former 1st round pick Johnny Manziel, only a week into the 2018 season, the fan base was ready to burn down the team headquarters. Robert Griffin III, who was acquired in the trade that sent JFF out of town, performed admirably enough, but was considered a 1 year stop gap from the start. Following the 2018 season; the Browns shipped a seemingly rejuvenated RGIII to the Miami Dolphins, in a trade that would net them the #4 pick in the 2019 rookie draft. The Browns front office then burned up the phone lines, trying to make a deal to acquire a true franchise QB, but were rebuffed at every attempt. The Browns ultimately used that #4 pick on a hot shot kid out of Wisconsin, All-American quarterback Dave Mack. Despite being the 3rd QB off the board, Mack was the Browns top target in the draft. Mack was named the starter early on in training camp and went on to win the AFC OROY award, after throwing for over 4,000 yards and just shy of 40 touchdowns. He capped off his phenomenal rookie season with a Super Bowl win, in which he was nearly perfect, throwing for nearly 300 yards and 4 touchdowns. In just his 2nd season, Mack is already in discussions about the league's best passers, and it's exciting to think about just how good this kid can become. HB: When the Browns used the 6th pick in the 2017 draft on halfback Marcell Stewart out of UCLA, despite the presence of emerging young superstar JaMichael Elmore on the roster, it was easy to question the decision. After the Browns franchise tagged Elmore and shipped him off to the Carolina Panthers, prior to the 2019 season, Stewart was finally given his chance to shine, and shine he did. Stewart put together a Pro Bowl season in his first year as a starter, and even finished high in the running for league MVP. After rushing for nearly 1,400 yards and 10 touchdowns in the Browns Championship run, Stewart returns as the feature back for the defending champs. In search of a change of pace back behind Stewart, the browns turned their focus to their own receiving group. They think they have found their answer in 5'9" Jaquese Baily, who may be small in stature, but is big in running ability. Primarily a field stretcher and kick returner in his previous 3 seasons, he should see many more opportunities to touch the ball and make plays in his new position. WR: Young. Talented. Potential. That should be the first 3 words that come to mind, when discussing the Browns current receiving corps. Boasting 3 Pro Bowlers a season ago (Holland & Irvin at WR, Pope at KR), there is no shortage of weapons for the browns young QB. Jerald Holland has been highly touted since his college days, but had never had the chance in his first 4 seasons to be the main guy for his offense. Coming from tiny Lambuth University, there always seemed to be a higher pedigreed pass catcher sitting ahead of him. After coming over from Washington in the Manziel trade, Holland played second fiddle to former 1st round pick Russ Justice. After the Browns shipped Justice to the rival Steelers, Holland knew he finally had his chance to show he was a true #1 in this league. Holland took the opportunity and ran with it, catching 106 passes for over 1,200 yards and 15 touchdowns, and showed up huge on the biggest stage of them all, catching 6 passes for 100 yards and 2 scores in the Super Bowl. At just 25 years old, Holland is still perfecting his craft, and he and Mack should find plenty more success together. After the 2018 season, many teams came calling about the young speedster Dee Irvin who was clearly outplaying his position on the depth chart, behind Holland and, former Brown, Justice. The Browns knew they had a star in the making and declined all offers. Irvin stepped into the #2 role opposite Holland and looked like he had been meant to be there all along. With 93 catches for 1,100 yards and 10 touchdowns, Irvin has proven he is more than just the deep threat has been perceived as, and is a complete receiver on all parts of the field. Behind Holland & Irvin, the Browns have plenty of size, speed, and catching ability. Pro Bowl kick returner Ephraim Pope is expected to step into the role of the primary slot receiver and he definitely has the tools to succeed. Youngsters Boenzi and Knox will certainly be chomping at the bit to get their opportunities to show what they can do as well. OFFENSIVE LINE: The Browns thought they were destined to lose franchise left tackle Archie Massey to free agency following the 2018 season, as they weren't in position to be able to pay the salary commanded by a premier left tackle. Massey surprised everyone when he agreed to a contract at the 11th hour, that was significantly less than he would have commanded on the open market. Massey went on record as saying he had no problem taking less, if it would help the team compete for a championship and he could continue to play with his brother, RT Kyler Massey, who were both drafted by the Browns in 2015. It was a huge gesture and statement by a player who may already be the best at his position, at just 25 years old. Prior to his younger brother inking a new deal, Kyler Massey had already committed long term to the Browns and after struggling at times with the transition from guard to tackle in his second season, he has developed into one of the better right tackles in the league. Veteran LG Joel Bitonio and 2nd year players RG Anthony Wood & C Lamanski Mack round out a very young and talented offensive line. DEFENSE DEFENSIVE LINE: By far the biggest move of the 2020 offseason for the Browns, was the trade that landed them the beast, Ndamukong Suh. The Browns acquired the future HoF defensive tackle from the Detroit Lions, to give them a presence like they have never had at the front of their defense. There aren't many difference makers like Suh in the trenches, and his addition really adds some scare factor to an already stout defense. With the Browns re-committing to the 3-4 defense, and the addition of the monster Suh in the middle, 5th year defensive tackle Broughan Porter has officially moved to the outside as a 3-4 defensive end. Big and strong, but also surprisingly fast for his size, Porter is expected to thrive playing alongside his new teammate. Going into the 2020 rookie draft, the Browns had one goal, find a running mate for Suh and Porter on the defensive line. They believe they found that man when, with the 16th pick in the 1st round, they drafted defensive end Javonte Ash out of Wisconsin. The common consensus is that Ash is a superstar in the making, who is a ferocious hitter and doesn't seem to be slowed down by the biggest of double teams. LINEBACKER: Who would have expected that the Browns could trade their best two linebackers from the 2018 season (Justin Houston to Carolina and Vontaze Burfict to Detroit) and actually return a linebacking corps that could be even better? Reigning DPOY Luke Kuechly, acquired in the Houston/Elmore trade with Carolina, and former Ohio State Buckeye Ryan Shazier, acquired in the Justice trade with Pittsburgh, give the Browns a pair of inside linebackers as good as any duo in the league. Combine them with speed rushers Bruce Irvin and Barkevious Mingo coming off the edges, and you could see the kind of blitz packages that keep offensive coordinators up at night. CORNERBACK: The Browns once again field one of the most talented secondaries in the league, but it's not without some controversy, as former All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman, still considered by most of being capable of being a top CB in the league, has been moved to safety this season. All-World CB Joe Haden is still one of the best in the business and is once again the unquestioned top corner and leader of this defense. Playing opposite Haden will be converted safety Sander Commings and talented 5th year pro Joetavius Mills. Both were significant contributors during the Browns championship season, and will likely continue to battle for that 2nd spot even after the start of the season. SAFETY: Newly minted free safety Richard Sherman has the potential to be a wrecking ball playing center field in this defense. Considering he still possesses elite coverages skills, along with improved tackling and block shedding skills, and to go along with hands better than a lot of receivers, Sherman is expected to thrive in his new position. Paired with Sherman is Pro Bowl strong safety Kenny Vaccaro, who is also an equally disruptive force in both the passing and running games. THE WRAP UP The 2020 Cleveland Browns have all of the tools to succeed and repeat as Super Bowl Champions. With arguably the most talented roster in the league from top to bottom, it will be up to the big dummy controlling the sticks to help this team live up to their potential.