The Cleveland Browns had one heck of an offseason, adding to what was already a very promising young core. They have been the talk of the NFL for months, and for good reason.
The Browns hype train rolls into Raymond James Stadium Friday night to take on the Buccaneers in week three of the preseason. Naturally, Tampa Bay head coach Bruce Arians was asked about all of the hype surrounding Cleveland heading into the 2019 season and whether or not it’s warranted.
“I think [it’s] totally justified, yeah, [because of] what they did in the offseason. They’ve got a great young quarterback. I think he’s one of the best young guys to come in the league in a while. He brings a lot of confidence [and] a lot of energy to that team. You can just see them – I [broadcasted] them in the first game, then I did them later in the season – it was a totally different ball club, and it fed off to their defense. They’ve got some really good young players on defense, too. That’s a heck of a group of guys – you add the guys they added in the offseason and yeah, I think they’re a contender right off the bat.”
Once upon a time (less than a year ago), it seemed like Arians could come out of retirement to coach the Browns. He was rumored to have interest in returning to Cleveland, where he previously served as the offensive coordinator from 2001 until 2003.
Instead, Arians came to Tampa Bay in January. The Browns ultimately promoted offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens to head coach.
Whether or not Arians’ interest in coaching the Browns was ever legitimate or close to happening, he made it clear this week that he believes they can be very good.
It’s obvious that Arians likes Baker Mayfield, who is entering his second season as Cleveland’s quarterback. After the 2018 No. 1 overall pick put together a great rookie season, he comes into 2019 with even more weapons than before. He took advantage of having Jarvis Landry, David Njoku and Nick Chubb last year. Now, he gets another top target in Odell Beckham Jr. Plus, former Kansas City standout Kareem Hunt will be a part of the Cleveland backfield once his suspension is over. That is A LOT of talent for one offense.
But as Arians mentions, there’s a lot of young talent on the defense as well. Myles Garrett, Christian Kirksey and Denzel Ward are three young leaders of that group, which could grow into one of the league’s best. Under former Cardinals head coach Steve Wilks, the unit will be very aggressive, like the Bucs will be under new defensive coordinator Todd Bowles.
There’s definitely enough on both sides of the ball for Cleveland to compete for its first playoff berth since 2002 and perhaps its first-ever AFC North title. On paper, the Browns are a Super Bowl contender. But whether or not they can put it all together on the field remains to be seen.
It’s week three of the preseason, which typically means a lot of playing time for starting groups. However, the Bucs might not keep their first team in there for very long on Friday night. Kitchens said he doesn’t know how long his starters will play, but they will play. So, we will at least see some of what the hype is about. We just won’t get a full-on view of what a game between the two would look like unless they match up in Super Bowl LIV next February.
Bucs fans, do you agree with Bruce Arians? Is the hype surrounding Cleveland warranted?
Be sure to follow along with Bucs Nation Friday night and throughout the weekend for coverage of the Bucs’ preseason matchup with the Browns. The game kicks off at 7:30 p.m. at Raymond James Stadium.