The Cleveland Browns have become the stuff of men, myths and legends this NFL offseason. However, ahead of their pursuit of the playoffs in 2019, certain unmitigated myths about the team are creating Poseidon-like waves.
Cleveland has gone from “factory of sadness” to “factory of hot takes.” The Browns went from laughingstock to stockpiling weapons at a rate that would make nuclear proliferation enthusiasts blush.
National sports media personalities can’t stop scorching the airwaves with Cleveland chatter. The Internet and NFL Twitter are alight with Browns paraphernalia. TV talk shows reach impassioned climaxes whenever this former pro football afterthought takes its rightful place, center stage.
These subsequent sections cover the five most irresponsible myths being peddled by ill-informed pundits that the Browns will prove wrong en route to, at the very least, a playoff berth in 2019.
5. The offensive line is suspect
Which offensive line? The one that Nick Chubb started behind for 10 of 16 games and nearly broke 1,000 yards rushing with? The one behind which Mayfield, with Kitchens as interim offensive coordinator, was sacked only thrice in the final seven games of 2018?
Oh! Only four of the five starters from that same offensive line are returning this season. So suddenly, the unit merely average. Perhaps not even playoff-caliber. Because Kevin Zeitler is no longer the right guard. Makes perfect sense.
Now let’s be clear. Neither tackle is gone (Greg Robinson, Chris Hubbard). The left guard, Pro Bowler Joel Bitonio, is still intact. Center J.C. Tretter isn’t playing through a high ankle sprain anymore. But Zeitler’s replacement is so bad that he drops this whole line down to a mediocre outfit, or worse?
Sorry (not sorry) — this is simply wrong. Eric Kush is the man who’s all but won the competition at right guard for Cleveland after starting the first two preseason games.
Last season, according to Pro Football Focus, Kush surrendered the fewest percentage of pressures among NFL guards: 1.5 percent of his snaps. Second was Zeitler at 1.7 percent. Kush wasn’t a spot player either — he played 344 pass protection snaps and allowed zero sacks or quarterback hits, per PFF (h/t ChadP71 on Twitter).
Even if Kush were the worst run-blocking guard in football, which he isn’t, Chubb was among the most elusive backs in 2018, ranking second only to Saints superstar Alvin Kamara in PFF’s elusiveness rating and first in yards after contact per carry (4.42).
This offensive line isn’t suspect or even mediocre. It’s actually better than advertised. It’s also facing perhaps the best front four in the NFL between Myles Garrett, Larry Ogunjobi, Sheldon Richardson and Olivier Vernon in training camp and practices throughout the year. That’ll only make them better.