Photo by: Dave Spano
Now, as the Browns prepare for a home game Thursday against the Denver Broncos, a season of promise has given way to what could be another season of disappointment. For a myriad of reasons, all the good that appeared to transpire during the offseason has turned into a bad dream that doesn’t seem to want to end.
Injuries are at the top of the list. The Browns went into last Sunday’s game against the Arizona Cardionals without starting offensive tackles Jedrick Wills Jr. and Jack Conklin, along with running back Nick Chubb and receiver Jarvis Landry. Added to that list in the loss to the Cardinals was running back Kareem Hunt and linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah.
The aforementioned injuries don’t include those on an injury report that reads like a casualty list from a Civil War battle. The Browns will be without Hunt and Chubb against the Broncos, which is the loss of arguably the best running duo in the NFL. Wills and Conklin could also be on the bench to heal leg injuries another week.
Whether it’s because of the tackle situation or just sound logic, the decision was made to bench quarterback Baker Mayfield, who re-injured his separated left shoulder against the Cardinals. Case Keenum will get his first start since signing with the Browns prior to the 2020 season.
The Cardinals defensive front took advantage of the absences of Wills and Conklin. The Broncos obviously watched the film and will surely attack Keenum without concern about coverage down the field. If concern about the offense isn’t bad enough, a concern of equal importance is the defense. Injuries have had an impact on the unit, but the larger worry is the fact that, injuries aside, it isn’t performing anywhere close to what was expected when general manager Andrew Berry made considerable additions in the offseason.
There was a total lack of cohesion in recent losses to the Los Angeles Chargers and the Cardinals. What stood out was the inability of the safeties to be on the same page in coverage, allowing one big third-down conversion after another. There were times when receivers were wide open as a safety made a misread.
The thought was that adding John Johnson and the return of 2020 draft pick Grant Delpit to the safety corps would make it a standout part of the team, but the opposite has played out. The defense needs to be better against the Broncos. The offense needs to be better against the Broncos. The coaching (kick a field goal, for crying out loud) needs to be better against the Broncos. If there isn’t improvement real soon, there’s a chance that the 2021 season will slip into oblivion.