The Browns finished 1-15 last season and are in rebuilding mode. They have too many missing pieces in order to exceed the 4.5 win total set by oddsmakers.
Last season, just about everything went wrong in Cleveland. They lacked a reliable quarterback who could stay healthy behind the league's worst offensive line in terms of sacks allowed. However, they fell behind so quickly and games that they had to pass way more than they liked to, thus failing to utilize their talent in the backfield. The defense was second-worst in terms of yards allowed. They were worst at stopping the run. Let's have a look at why the betting odds may be off on the season wins for the Browns.
The Browns are always adding and getting rid of quarterbacks. Their inability to find a quarterback that they can commit to is possibly the biggest reason for their failures. This is a pass-first league but the Browns will have to be a run-first team. They did add Brock Osweiler, who regressed last season and was a bust for Houston's atrocious passing attack. They drafted DeShone Kizer, a versatile quarterback with a big arm and the ability to run. However, he tends to struggle under pressure and lack judgment. He will not be ready to start the season due to his absence of experience. They still have Cody Kessler, who struggled with injuries due to his lack of protection. But, despite his lack of arm strength, he was an efficient and reliable passer who definitely helped his team to remain competitive. If Osweiler can improve his throwing mechanics and return to his 2015 form when he was with Denver or if Kessler can stay healthy, the Browns will improve their passing attack.
Isaiah Crowell is a solid running back and he will show that if the Browns just get him the ball more often. He ran for a career high of 952 yards on a very low amount of carries. Both he and backup Duke Johnson are versatile in that they are dangerous while catching balls, as well. Johnson, in fact, has also been training with the wide receivers. When a team lacks playmakers, like the Browns do, then they need individual players with the versatility to do more. Johnson and Crowell are two guys that the Browns' offense will rely heavily on.
For a team lacking a dependable quarterback, it's worrisome that there are no proven receivers. The best that the Browns have is tight end David Njoku, who they traded up for in the first round. He is a monstrous athlete with speed and size that makes him a viable threat in the end zone. He'll have to make an immediate impact to help a possibly anemic passing game.
The Browns' biggest focus in the offseason has been the offensive line. Last season, they rotated between more centers than quarterbacks. The addition of JC Tretter will give them an above-average veteran presence--if he can finally remain healthy. Kevin Zeitler, though, is reliable health-wise. He signed the biggest contract ever for a guard because he is a top-ranked guard. The Browns' new additions will accompany ten-time Pro Bowler Joe Thomas. New offensive line players do need time to develop chemistry with each other. But on paper, this looks like a much improved offensive line.
The Browns drafted defensive end Myles Garrett with the first overall pick. Garrett is a raw super-talent that should develop into an elite player. His athleticism and explosion off the snap are amazing. He can power past the best offensive linemen with a burst of speed and strength and he should make an immediate impact on defense alongside with second-year talent Emmanuel Ogbah. The Browns have talent on the end position with Garrett and Ogbah, but lack proven players in the interior.
Last season's acquisition of Jamie Collins from New England was important not just because of his ability but also his football IQ, which will help him understand what newly hired defensive coordinator Gregg Williams wants from his defense. In the offseason, the Browns made Christian Kirksey one of the highest-paid linebackers because of his ability to be one of the league leader's in tackles and defensive stops.
Joe Haden is a proven veteran and there's no doubt that the atrociousness of the Browns' pass defense last season was in large part due to his injury problems. If he can remain healthy, he'll complement newcomer Jason McCourty, who is actually familiar with Williams from their time in Tennessee together, and second-year stud Jamar Taylor, who owes his generous contract extension last season to already being one the more highly-respected corners
The Browns have made positive additions into the offseason. They added an experienced and successful defensive coordinator. They rehabilitated their offensive line with capable veterans. They'll also look to keep developing their younger talents, remain healthier on both sides of the ball and focus on running the ball more often. Even though they are getting better on paper, however, they still lack playmakers. They have consistent successes in the backfield on offense and in Kirksey and Haden on defense, but nobody who can change the game. They especially lack a quarterback who can lead this team in a pass-first league and weapons for the quarterback to throw to. Before the defense understands Williams' system, before they discover a passing attack and before a lot of their raw talent develops, 5 wins is asking too much for this squad on our NFL Picks.Free NFL Pick: Browns 'Under' 4.5 WinsBest Line Offered: 5Dimes