The Cleveland Browns were the most hyped team in the 2019 season, believed by some experts to be a Super Bowl contender in the AFC. Those expectations fell flat on Cleveland’s face as the Browns finished 6-10 and never eclipsed the .500 mark at any point in the season. 

Baker Mayfield endured a sophomore slump, there was controversy involving Odell Beckham and first-year head coach Freddie Kitchens was fired. Cleveland is vowing to correct mistakes, starting with hiring Kevin Stefanski as head coach, solidifying the offensive line by signing Jack Conklin in free agency and drafting Jedrick Wills in the first round and signing Austin Hooper to the richest contract for a tight end in league history (at the time). 

The Browns didn’t double down on their offense, but decided to take steps in improving in 22nd-ranked unit in points and yards from a year ago. NFL Network’s Cynthia Frelund joined the “Pick Six Podcast” and explained why the NFL world should actually buy the hype this time around (listen to Frelund on Wednesday’s episode below and be sure to subscribe for daily NFL goodness). 

“My premise is that teams with more continuity, especially at key positions, they are going to be better off,” Frelund said. “Doesn’t matter. The thing about Baker Mayfield is if you go to see where he has had success, if he was kept clean he played significantly better than when he was under pressure. When they did a lot of calling the same play over-and-over again, and that strategy … it either works really well — see 49ers — or is works really bad — see Browns.”

The Browns have continuity working for them with Mayfield, running backs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt returning, and another year with Beckham and Jarvis Landry as the top wideouts. Of course, this starts with Mayfield — who threw 21 interceptions last year and struggled adjusting to what the defenses were giving him.

Based on Stefanski’s offense, Mayfield should have a bounce-back year because he will play to his quarterback’s strengths. 

“I’m more of a Baker Mayfield believer than most. I’m in,” Frelund said. “I’ve seem him do really great things. If you go back to what worked when Freddie Kitchens first took over and what worked when he was in college — he’s really good at play action. He’s got a great arm and the thing about their running backs is they’ll provide him with that look that keeps defenses honest. 

“They improved their O-line, really like how they improved their right tackle in Jack Conklin. I don’t think Baker Mayfield is going to be throwing for 300 yards a game and I don’t think he’s going to have to. The balance you’re going to see with a Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt — by the way no one is talking about him at all — they’re going to use him.

“What I think Kevin Stefanski was able to do –14 play action touchdown passes with Kirk Cousins was the most in the league last season — will help (Mayfield).”

Mayfield changed one element of his game in keeping his comments to himself this offseason. Controversy has always surrounded the Browns quarterback for his on-field actions, a part of his game he may need back in order to play at the level of a No. 1 overall pick. 

“I don’t mind the swagger. I don’t mind the ‘feeling dangerous.’ I don’t mind any of that,” Frelund said. “He has to get his mojo back a little bit. Once he gets that mojo, we could see that ‘on fire’ Baker easily.”

The Browns have been hyped before, but they have gone a bit under-the-radar this offseason. That may be enough for this team — especially the offense — to finally reach their full potential. 

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