For a team missing their starting QB for the first 11 games of the season, missing the playoffs shouldn’t be the biggest surprise in the world.
What is surprising, however, is how bad the Cleveland Browns have been, despite having a backup QB who may be having his best season yet.
Kevin Stefanski’s offense, w/ Jacoby Brissett is averaging the 5th most yards per game (375.9) and the 10th most points per game (24.1)
Meanwhile Joe Woods’ defense is giving up the 16th most yards per game (349.1) and giving up the 2nd…yes SECOND, most points per game (26.4)
— Brandon Wolf (@BrandonWolfCLE) November 14, 2022
The defense has terribly regressed.
Its play-calling has been questionable at best.
And there are players on the defense that just don’t seem to fit the bill.
While tides might turn for the better when Deshaun Watson returns in week 12, this season might already be a wash.
It might be time to consider how this team can improve next year.
And what players need to go before this team can improve at all?
1. S John Johnson III
When the Browns signed John Johnson from the Rams two years ago, there was a lot of buzz surrounding his skill, leadership and how he was going to elevate the defense.
Johnson has made a few big plays on the field.
But for the most part, he’s been underwhelming.
He’s allowed too many big catches downfield.
He misreads and misses tackles when defending against the run game.
Here's Miami's 2 rushing TDs today. This effort by John Johnson III (again) is simply unacceptable.
TD #1 he *literally* hops out of the way to avoid contact w/ the RB.
TD #2 he seriously looks like he's trying to not catch the RB.
— Roberto Shenanigans (@Rob_Shenanigans) November 14, 2022
And he stirs up drama online from time to time.
#Browns coach Kevin Stefanski says he'll keep internal any conversations with John Johnson III about his "RUN THE DAMN BALL" tweet. Calls vast majority of social media background noise.
— Scott Petrak ct (@ScottPetrak) December 30, 2021
There is a lot that needs to be adjusted on defense and it should start at the top.
Browns would be wise to move off Johnson before 2023.
2. DT Jordan Eliott
Another player failing to live up to their potential is Jordan Elliott.
The Browns drafted Elliott three years ago.
They’ve been patient, haven’t forced him into tough situations too quickly and have given him opportunities to prove himself.
So far, he’s made little use of his opportunities,
This season is his first season starting in the NFL and he currently ranks amongst the worst DTs in the NFL, according to PFF.
There are 122 graded defensive tackles in the NFL from @PFF. Jordan Elliott is ranked 121/122 and Tommy Togai is ranked 122/122. Please do not let me hear anyone say another word about Myles Garrett. @Gbush91 @Jeff_LJ_Lloyd @lockedonbrowns
— DisturbedMarine (@DisturbedMarine) October 10, 2022
General Manager Andrew is always patient with his draftees and does his best to retain them– so far only cutting a few guys he’s drafted in the three years he’s worked for the Browns.
But for Elliott, it’s time to sink for float.
And so far he’s been sinking.
Berry will likely try to reload the defensive line before 2023 and Elliott should be one of the first players to go.
3. RB Kareem Hunt
Kareem Hunt may be the only guy on the list who is underperforming at their position.
Every Browns fan knows the value of Hunt and what he can bring to the team, especially when he is given the opportunity.
The problem is that he is not given a lot of opportunities.
I haven’t saw Kareem hunt catch a backfield pass in months, and that’s what he does best. But you know, Stefanski.
— 2 games til Watson, 3-6 (@JoeyBloww) November 13, 2022
He may be a starting caliber RB, but he is second on the team to Nick Chubb who may be the best RB “in the world.”
With his contract ending this year and the team clearly having a stronger option at his position, the team won’t have much incentive to re-sign him.
Especially considering the Browns drafted RB Jerome Ford, who possesses a similar skillset to Hunt.
As much Hunt has done for the Browns, and as much as he’s become a fan favorite, the team would be smart to move, free up some cap and try to sign some better players on defense.