3 Issues the Browns Must Address to Get to the Playoffs in Their First Year Under Kevin Stefanski in 2020

Baker Mayfield following a loss to the Baltimore Ravens.
Baker Mayfield following a loss to the Baltimore Ravens. / Kirk Irwin/Getty Images

The Cleveland Browns turned in a disappointing 2019 season. With the most talented roster the team had assembled in years, they looked poised to make a serious push to make the playoffs and even win the AFC North. They struggled to a 6-10 record, though, and head coach Freddie Kitchens was fired.

They need to turn things around in 2020, and tasked with that will be new head coach Kevin Stefanski, whose hiring was announced just one day after he and the Minnesota Vikings were eliminated from the playoffs in the Divisional Round.

Here are three issues the Browns must address if they want to make the postseason in Stefanski's first year.

1. Get Baker Mayfield Back on Track

Baker Mayfield rolls out of the pocket against the Bengals.
Baker Mayfield rolls out of the pocket against the Bengals. / Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The Browns' offense is loaded with weapons, including Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry and Nick Chubb. Baker Mayfield turned in a great rookie season in 2018, but the regression we saw in 2019 is the top culprit for Cleveland's struggles. Despite throwing to those weapons while being protected by a line that ranked sixth in ESPN's pass block win rate metric, Mayfield ranked 28th among 33 qualifying passers with an average of 6.2 adjusted yards per pass attempt (AY/A; which weigh TDs and INTs in addition to yards). Kirk Cousins just set a new personal best in AY/A in his first year with Stefanski as offensive coordinator, and Mayfield is going to need to make similar strides.

2. Bring in More Pass-Rushers

Myles Garrett celebrates a play against the Jets.
Myles Garrett celebrates a play against the Jets. / Al Pereira/Getty Images

Myles Garrett is one of the best pass rushers in the NFL, ranking fourth among edge rushers in pass rush win rate this season. As a team, though, the Browns checked in below average, at 18th. Garrett had 10 sacks in 10 games, but nobody else on the defense had more than 5.5 (Larry Ogunjobi), with just four total players on the defense recording more than even 3.0. Be it a high draft pick or a top free agent like Yannick Ngakoue, shoring up the pass rush should be a top priority.

3. Address the Secondary

Denzel Brown in coverage against the Bills.
Denzel Brown in coverage against the Bills. / Jason Miller/Getty Images

The Browns' secondary was highly susceptible to big plays this year. The 11.8 yards per completion allowed were the 10th-most in the NFL. Opponents were happy to exploit that weakness too, and the Browns faced the league's seventh-highest average depth of target. This works in tandem with improving the pass rush, as getting to the QB will mean less time to take deep shots, and playing better in coverage will force the QB to hold the ball more. Bringing in someone like Byron Jones, or another top free agent corner, could go a long way to giving the Browns' defense the kind of boost they need.

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Jason Schandl is not a FanDuel employee. In addition to providing DFS gameplay advice, Jason Schandl also participates in DFS contests on FanDuel using his personal account, username Jaymun. While the strategies and player selections recommended in his articles are his personal views, he may deploy different strategies and player selections when entering contests with his personal account. The views expressed in their articles are the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of FanDuel.