It’s been a tremendously enjoyable offseason for Cleveland Browns fans. They’ve seen a team that already showed the promise of a turnaround season in 2018 add talented players and gifted coaches. It’s been a bit of a dream-like scenario for a fanbase that more than paid its dues in recent years. Now it seems like everyone is picking the Browns to make a run at the playoffs this season. While this roster points in that direction, there are some obstacles this team must navigate in order to reach the promised land.
The Contract Status of Damarious Randall
You’re right. This isn’t a moment. The contract status of Damarious Randall and how it’s handled will demonstrate how this team will face distractions throughout the season. We would all love to see Randall extended, but the Browns have to be cautious with their money. Greg Robinson, J.C. Tretter, Joe Schobert, and Rashard Higgins are all unrestricted free agents after 2019, while Kareem Hunt will be an RFA. You probably can’t keep everyone.
As this team shifts from loveable loser to contender, things will change. Roster spots will be much more competitive. Cuts may be made in order to keep core players intact. Most of all, players who aren’t on board with the team philosophy won’t be around long.
Week One Browns Host Titans
Week one isn’t so much about the opponent. It’s about the head coaching debut of Freddie Kitchens and the first game in a Browns uniform for Odell Beckham Jr., Sheldon Richardson, Olivier Vernon, Greedy Williams, and others. The season certainly doesn’t depend upon getting a win in week one, but this team needs to show the world that it means business. The coaching staff has to appear to be well-prepared and in control. The players need to know the play book and show the hustle that’s been preached throughout camps.
Week Three Browns Host Rams Sunday Night
Everyone seems to have this game circled on their calendar and with good reason. The Los Angeles Rams are coming off a Super Bowl appearance and should provide a measuring stick for the Browns’ true place in the NFL hierarchy. While the Browns do have the advantage of being the home team in this one, they will have a short week after playing the Jets on Monday night in Week Two. Meanwhile, the Rams will have a full week of rest after the New Orleans Saints head to Los Angeles in Week Two.
Back-to-back prime time games are uncharted territory for the Browns and their fans. How the team copes in the national spotlight is as important as how they play against a great team like the Rams.
Week Seven Browns at Pats
If you have to have a game against the New England Patriots in Foxboro on your schedule, you couldn’t ask for better circumstances. The Pats will be coming off a Week Six Monday night game against the New York Jets and the Browns will have two weeks to prepare due to their Week Six bye.
Of course, this doesn’t mean the Browns will have an easy time of it. With this being a late October game, snow should not be a factor. The Browns will obviously look to make a statement in this one, yet the Pats are not a team that will passively pass the torch. A solid Browns win in Foxboro could lead to a big run in the latter part of the schedule, while a loss could keep them scratching for position in the division.
The Week 10 Debut of Kareem Hunt
Kareem Hunt is currently set to make his Browns debut in Week 10 against the Buffalo Bills. The way the running back room is handled both before and after this game will be extremely important to the success of the Browns in 2019. The reactions and the willingness of the backs to help the team will dictate how dependent the Browns can be on their star backs.
Duke Johnson Jr. has already been a disruption with his demands of a trade. Let’s hope Nick Chubb and Hunt can coexist for the benefit of the team.
The Steelers in Weeks 11 and 13
To be the king of the hill, you need to defeat the king of the hill. The Pittsburgh Steelers have ruled the AFC North for years and have shown a relentless ability to rebound after a down season. The Browns play Pittsburgh twice in three weeks. How they perform against them will say a lot about the future of the AFC North.