We're wrapping up the month of May with a four-question Friday to carry you through the long, Memorial Day Weekend.
The Browns have talent on the offensive side, which is untapped in comparison to week 1 opponent Kansas City. Kansas City stumbled due to injuries at offensive tackle late in the year. Statistically, how do the two offenses compare? — Rob M., Charleston, West Virginia
Let's take a quick look back at last year before diving into why this Chiefs offense is VERY different compared to the one Cleveland saw last season.
The Chiefs led the NFL in 2020 with an average of 415 yards per game. That's 19 better than the next-best team and 46 better than the Browns, who finished 16th in the league with an average of 369.6 yards per game. Granted, the Browns offense that showed up in Kansas City for the AFC Divisional Round was much better than those numbers indicate. The Chiefs ranked sixth in the league in points per game compared to the Browns' ranking of 14th. Cleveland ran the ball much better than Kansas City (3rd to 16th) but the Chiefs were the NFL's best through the air.
Now — and we've talked about it throughout most of the offseason — the Browns bring back just about everyone to their offense for 2021. That should be a significant boost for a group that didn't really hit its stride until the second half of the 2020 season. And, if everyone can stay healthy throughout training camp, they'll line up a deeper, fresher offense than the one that faced the Chiefs in last year's playoffs. The Chiefs, meanwhile, were hampered by injuries on their offensive line in that matchup and will now dress an entirely new group for the 2021 season opener. They've got a new left tackle (Orlando Brown), a rookie at center (Creed Humphrey) and two new guards (Joe Thuney and Laurent Duvernay-Tardiff, who opted out last season). Most of the usual suspects remain at the playmaker positions, but the Chiefs offense — much like the Browns defense — will have to get on the same page in a hurry at training camp before hitting the field for their first bright-lights debut.
Can you tell me what the contract situations are with our offensive line? I would think re-signing Teller would be of significant importance. Also, Bitonio and Tretter are no spring chickens, but certainly have some gas in the tank. I'm hoping we can keep this starting five intact for three-four more years and dominate the line of scrimmage and dominate the league! Let's go Brownies, Superbowl Champions!!! — Joe B., Las Vegas
You're not alone with your feelings about the Browns' offensive line. The group simply got better and better throughout the season and maintained a top level of performance even in the face of some significant injuries along the way. Here's to the group being able to stay on the field together from start to finish in 2021.
As for the contracts…
LT Jedrick Wills Jr. is in the second year of his four-year rookie contract. The Browns have the ability to pick up the fifth year following his third season.
LG Joel Bitonio, C JC Tretter and RT Jack Conklin are all under contract through the 2022 season. Wyatt Teller, meanwhile, could become an unrestricted free agent after the season.
"It is so promising because we do have guys another year and we have the success we made in this year where we were just learning the system, and we are going to have another year," Teller said in January. "Any offensive lineman would say it takes years to gain continuity with the player next to you. To see Jack and I playing at a high level Week 1 was a testament to how many reps we took, how hard we worked during camp and to what kind of coach Callahan is. That is positive, and we have great backups and great guys who start. It is a promising offensive line and a great room to be a part of."
How many safeties does it seem the Browns will carry? And who do you think has the best chances of sticking around as the backups? I'm a big fan of Sheldrick Redwine and believe he is a valuable asset as a backup. I love our safeties with Grant Delpit coming back from injury to join the addition of John Johnson lll ... I think we are set with them and Ronnie Harrison. — Kasey D., Rome
If we're going with the average number kept in each of the past two seasons, we're left with … 4.5. That's obviously not a possibility, but the safe bet, historically, is somewhere around four or five. The competition for those final couple of spots should be one of the more interesting storylines to follow at training camp, and they're particularly important because of how much defensive coordinator Joe Woods has indicated he'd like to use far more defensive backs than he was able to use last year, when injuries severely limited the Browns' depth in the defensive backfield.
"You can see the impact that we could have," Woods said in an April interview. "It's really about putting more speed on the field and creating matchups where you feel like you have an advantage."
Johnson, Delpit and Harrison appear to be in a good spot to give Woods a number of options in the back end of the defense. Redwine has stepped up on a number of occasions during his first two NFL seasons, most notably when he intercepted a pass Week 5 against the Colts and again in Cleveland's playoff romp at Pittsburgh. Fifth-round pick Richard LeCounte III comes to Cleveland with big-game experience and plenty of production on his resume after a decorated career at Georgia. And Elijah Benton and Jovante Moffatt both have a full year in the Browns program after spending all of last season in some capacity with the Browns. Of those four, Redwine has by far the most NFL experience, but the competition will be wide open at training camp.
What are the chances of Malik McDowell making the roster? There's been very little mentioned about him since he signed with the Browns. Additionally, has he been signed to compete for a DE or DT position? — James G., Cape Town, South Africa
McDowell, a former second-round pick out of Michigan State, is among the eight players Cleveland has lined up at defensive tackle heading into training camp. At 6-foot-6 and 295 pounds, McDowell certainly strikes an imposing figure on the field, as he displayed earlier this month as a participant in the Browns rookie minicamp. He's yet to see the field in an NFL game, though, and he'll be competing with a number of experienced players in a competition for four or five spots in the middle of Cleveland's defensive line. Working alongside rookies Tommy Togiai and Marvin Wilson, though, was a step in the right direction for a player who hasn't played in an organized football game since 2016.
"All three of those guys are different types of players, different body types," Browns defensive line coach Chris Kiffin said during a Wednesday interview on Cleveland Browns Daily, "but all of them have the traits that we look for in the D-line.
"At the end of the day, it doesn't matter if you were drafted, it doesn't matter if you're an eight-year guy and it doesn't matter if you're a rookie. You have to earn your spot. That's what this league is about."