An onlookers review of the AFC North – Strengths, Improvements to be made and thoughts going forward for each team.

 

  1. Cleveland Browns (9-3)

1. The Offensive line & QB performance – This tremendously talented OL led by LT Zietler has surrendered a mere 16 sacks through the first
12 games of the season at an average of only 1.3 per game – and not surprisingly this is the lowest amount of any team; not just in the
AFC North, but in the whole league. The offensive line has also helped contribute too and excel the career of the new signal caller in
Cleveland – Jimmy Garopollo – who is very much living upto the hype surrounding his very heavy (and warranted) price that New England put
on his head. This season, Jimmy has posted the 2nd highest QBR in the league at 122.9 (Min 100 Atts) and the 5th highest completion
percentage – showing poise, precision and accuracy in the pocket. However, is Jimmy G a ‘game manager’ or does he have the arm talent
to be a a franchise QB and ‘game winner’ in Cleveland? The jury is still out on that one and we should see an answer to that
question in the playoffs this year.
2. The running game and lack of turnovers – 8 turnovers all year on offence – that is an average of just 0.6 per game and not surprisingly it is
the joint least in the league. Great job. This has been achieved not only because of the great OL and productive QB play mentioned above,
but also through a thoroughly efficent run game. In most offences, you have one or the other – the passing game or the running game. Cleveland has both.
And it helps seperate them from the mediocre teams – they can lean on either in testing 3rd down situations. Isaah Crowell and Duke Johnson
have been as efficent as any HB tandem in the league this season and are averaging 100 net yards a game on the ground.  Crowell, has excelled
in the Red Zone and has 14 touchdowns to his name, second in the NFL only to Detroit’s Ameer Abdullah who is having a breakout season.

3. Defense (Front 7)- Lead by the number 1 pick of 2016 – Myles Garrett, this front 7 has excelled at stopping run, getting to the QB and creating
turnovers. J. Collins joined from New England, D. Davis and C. Kirksey left in the off-season, and the Browns traded for A. Smith from the
Raiders and suddenly, The Browns have become a top 5 defensive unit in the space of 1 season. Even with the
2 stars of this defensive unit going down injured (Garrett + Ogbah) the Browns they have surrendered only 78.8 rushing yards per game (5th in NFL)
and have 36 sacks through 12 weeks (T-7th in NFL). Outstanding. One surprise
contributor of this defense, and deserves a mention is the young rookie DE Caleb Brantley has took advantage of a lot of 1-on-1 situations and looks
the real deal – 9 sacks in 12 games. If this wasn’t good enough, this Browns unit is young (expect a PM from Andre) – all starters are 27 or younger,
this front 7¬†defense isn’t going anywhere anytime soon!

Top 3 (1 and a half for Browns) improvements – Every team can improve, and the Browns are no different..
1. WR core – They dont have a legit #1 WR despite an effective passing game. Corey coleman + Josh Gordon are suceeding in the system,
but neither have the ball hawking ability you see from other top recievers. The WR depth on the roster is non existant, and possibly the weakest part
of the roster. Personally, it would amaze me if Cleveland do not address this situation in the draft this year. Until then, expect a lot of dual
TE sets from Cleveland this season as they continue to utilize Jimmy Graham, D. Njoku and D. Pitta when healthy.
1.5 Secondary – We have already praised the most integral part this defense – the front 7, however, the main
pass defense of this unit stands out, not as bad, but merely as average in comparable with the rest of the team. Its actually
quite difficult to understand why this is the case as they have brought in big names such as Chris Harris jnr., Jimmy Smith and Sam Shields,
and have a rising star in CB Jamar Taylor. So I’m going to leave it there. I’m chalking down their pedestrian non-elite pass defense
(17th in the NFL, 192.4 yards per game) as the simple inevitability of opponents passing more as they chase the game. We have also seen this
unit come up with 23 INT which is NFL top 10… so yeah I’m really nit picking trying to find something here.
One thing though which is worth questioning is; how long this unit can stay + play together as Harris, Smith, McCourty and Shields are getting
on in years.

Final thought – One of the best teams on the game managed by one of the best madden players. Expect great things from SC and the Browns moving forward.
The team has a young core, which will improve as we go on. If the Browns invest their 38546832 draft picks they have in 2019 wisely and pluck the next
Jaren Scottt in the draft, it’s really tough to see how they could be stopped.

Analysis of Pittsburgh Steelers coming tomorrow..