As first posted on clesportstalk.com
We had such high hopes for the 2017 season. Well, it’s not like many fans expected a playoff run, but we really thought the team had the players and the coaches in place take a step forward. That’s what I thought. I figured four to six wins was a possibility. I was wrong. If you read my articles regularly, you know I’m almost always optimistic about this team. I have to say, it’s getting tougher and tougher to maintain that outlook, but let’s give it a shot by digging for a few positives.
In a season in which Browns receivers almost seem afraid to catch the ball, Duke Johnson has been the Browns most dependable and dynamic option in the passing game. Johnson has haled in 36 receptions on 48 targets this season. By way of comparison, wide receiver Ricardo Louis has 23 catches on 45 targets. Johnson has truly been the Browns only consistent offensive play-maker this season.
This may not seem like a positive right now, but we got to see Joe Thomas play at the top of his game for possibly the last time. Yes, the fact that he got hurt is downright awful, yet we have to celebrate the career of arguably the greatest left tackle to ever play the game. Who knows if he’ll be back? It’s been a pleasure watching Thomas play for all of these years and 10,363 is a number we’ll always remember.
We could go through a myriad of numbers and debate whether the Browns defense is really much better than it has been in the past. I don’t think that’s necessary. If you’ve suffered the past eighteen seasons with me, you know this defense is better than most that we’ve seen. The simple fact that this team can stop the run fairly consistently is huge. When is the last time this team had a defense that could slow down any team’s run? It feels like it’s been forever.
I can hear the moans already, but it’s been a relief having Jabrill Peppers in on kickoff and punt returns when he’s been healthy. He’s still learning the speed of the NFL game, so he should get better at judging when a fair catch is needed. In reality, whether he has huge returns or not, his ability to simply catch the ball is something that the Browns have struggled to find for years.
If you’re unconvinced and are still looking for a positive to this season, look at the upcoming postseason. We live it every year. The hope of a better football team is something that keeps most of us coming back. We’ll look forward to the Browns ruling the draft once again. We’ll wait and see how many free agents the Browns sign. The Browns project to an enormous amount of cap space, but this is only year two of the four year span in which teams must spend a percentage of their cap. All that means is that the Browns aren’t required to spend anything this off season. They do have to spend a lot by 2020 though.
It’s been a tough season on all of us. Keep your chin up Browns fans. There is always next season.