It was a disappointing 2021 season for the Cleveland Browns.
After winning a playoff game for the first time since 1994 in the season prior, the Browns came crashing down with an 8-9 record.
That’s their 13th losing season in 14 years, and they finished 11th in the American Football Conference.
However, this year’s record isn’t as bad as their previous slates, including the 0-16 mark in 2017.
Therefore, some adjustments can help them become playoff contenders again.
3. Improve The Tackle Position
The Browns already have a solid interior offensive line with Joel Bitonio, JC Tretter, and Wyatt Teller.
However, it’s at the edges that they’re having problems.
Jedrick Wills Jr. and Jack Conklin started at left tackle and right tackle to start the season.
Meanwhile, Chris Hubbard and Blake Hance are good backups, but they have limitations.
It's hard to find great OL today and the Browns have a full starting lineup of them:
LT Jedrick Wills: 2020 10th overall pick
LG Joel Bitonio: 3-year, $48M extension
C J.C. Tretter: 3-years, $32.5M
RG Wyatt Teller: 4-years, $56.8M
RT Jack Conklin: 3-years, $42M
— Field Yates (@FieldYates) November 10, 2021
Hubbard suffered a season-ending injury for the second time in as many seasons while Hance struggled to stop the pass rush because he’s not a natural tackle.
Even Wills’ performance at left tackle was a point of concern.
Rookie James Hudson proved that he still has much room for improvement when he took over at right tackle.
Cleveland must improve their depth at the position.
Wills and Conklin will still likely be their starters next season, but they need solid replacements if they get injured.
That said, the Browns can sign a mid-level free agent tackle or draft one in the third or fourth round.
If they’re going to build through the draft, this player will be more of a work in progress that ideally won’t see much action.
2. Distribute The Pass Rush
They already have two of the NFL’s top pass rushers in Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney.
But there’s a danger that Clowney might leave through free agency.
Whether he returns or not, the Browns have a great need of generating more pressure outside those two players.
Garrett and Clowney combined for 25 of the Browns’ 43 sacks in 2021.
Myles Garrett's 2021 career ranks:
Sacks: 16 (1st)
Tackles: 33 (2nd)
Tackles for loss: 17 (1st)
QB Hits: 33 (1st)
TDs: 1 (1st)
Drug tests: 378: (1st)
Worth. Every. Penny. pic.twitter.com/wGk6Q3Jcxt
— Nick Karns (@karnsies817) February 6, 2022
They will get their sacks at any given snap, but there’s also the possibility of being shut down by better offensive linemen.
When that happens, Cleveland’s pass rush doesn’t look good because third on their list is Malik McDowell with three sacks while Takkarist McKinley had 2.5.
McKinley’s torn Achilles might force him to miss the entire 2022 season.
If that possibility happens, the Browns have shallow depth on the defensive line.
Getting defensive linemen through the draft is their best option because Garrett and Clowney will be eating much of their cap space.
Besides, those players will have a masterclass from the game’s best.
1. Get A Wide Receiver
Odell Beckham Jr.’s departure makes this position their biggest concern, especially now that Jarvis Landry is the team’s primary receiver.
Landry doesn’t perform well against man coverage, while Rashard Higgins has been a disappointment.
Donovan Peoples-Jones did show some flashes of greatness, while Anthony Schwartz is barely a factor.
Shoutout to Jarvis Landry for embracing the city of Cleveland when he was traded to the Browns.
When Cleveland went 6-10?
Jarvis didn't quit.
When Freddie Kitchens was fired?
Zero Landry trade rumors.
When the Baker Mayfield struggled?
No videos knocking his QB.
— Nick Karns (@karnsies817) February 1, 2022
The Browns’ receiving corps needs a massive overhaul, and they should use their top overall selection in the 2022 draft for a top wideout.
Likewise, getting an underrated slot receiver through free agency will give the Browns a much-needed revamp at wide receiver.
Otherwise, they will struggle to keep up in the division with Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd, Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, Marquise Brown, and Rashod Bateman.