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The Browns need to improve in these 3 areas if they're going to be a playoff team next season

Posted: 9:22 PM, Dec 01, 2019
Updated: 2019-12-01 21:22:40-05
Browns

CLEVELAND — It's no fun to say, but this Browns season is basically over. With a frustrating loss to the Steelers and a Ravens win against the 49ers on Sunday, the Browns have officially been eliminated from AFC North contention. The Bills have all but locked in the first Wild Card spot, and the Steelers kept hold of the second spot.

It would take a miracle, in addition to winning out, for the Browns to snag that second wild-card spot, so while we will all hope for said miracle, we also need to be realistic. It's time to think about next year. Here are three things the Browns need to improve if they want to deliver on this season's goal -- a spot in the playoffs.

1. Offensive line

Browns line
(Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

During Sunday’s game against the Steelers, Baker Mayfield was sacked five times. He’s been sacked 27 times this season. While it’s not the worst in the league, it definitely isn’t the best. Greg Robinson was ruled out of Sunday’s game with a concussion, and in his absence, the flaws of the o-line were very apparent. Justin McCray, in for Robinson, and Chris Hubbard struggled with their assignments.

Trading Kevin Zeitler in the spring was a major hit to the line. With JC Tretter and Joel Bitonio the only saving graces, the Browns would be wise to look for players to strengthen the position. It’s obvious the front office is aware of the issues, as they showed interest in trading for Trent Williams at the deadline, but the Redskins’ asking price was just too high. Next season, they should make it a top priority and sign some talent to protect Mayfield.

2. Depth on defense

Browns safeties
(Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

With Morgan Burnett on IR, Eric Murray still injured and Damarious Randall inactive due to a coach’s decision, the Browns were without a starting safety, relying on rookie Sheldrick Redwine and Juston Burris to fill the role. The Browns are also thin on the line after losing Garrett for the rest of the season and Olivier Vernon still slowed by his knee injury.

Losing starters and banking on the next man up can highlight needs, and the Browns have shown their need for more depth in the defense. Next season, the Browns should load a few more safeties onto the roster and hope the league reinstates Garrett before the season starts.

3. Coaching

Freddie Kitchens
PITTSBURGH, PA - DECEMBER 01: Head coach Freddie Kitchens of the Cleveland Browns walks off the field after losing to the Pittsburgh Steelers 20-13 on December 1, 2019 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

The defensive schemes drawn up by defensive coordinator Steve Wilks have been mind-boggling. There has been little to no pressure put on opposing quarterbacks, and Sunday was no different. While depleted, the Browns' defense got beat by a no-name rookie quarterback for the second time this season.

This season, cornerbacks don't seem to ever be in a position to make plays. On Sunday, the Browns’ defensive backs looked bad. Really bad. Greedy Williams and Denzel Ward failed to play the ball and turn their heads during their coverage, missing out on chances to pick the ball. That goes back to coaching.

For the first time in a long time, the Browns have a roster stacked with talent, but now they need someone to manage that talent. It’s easy to say “Fire Freddie,” but at this point, easy isn’t what the Browns need.

Head coach Freddie Kitchens still doesn’t seem keen on embracing the fact that the Browns’ identity is a running team, as he showed Sunday. In a one-score game, Kitchens only ran the ball a total of six times in the second half Sunday. It was a strange and costly decision.

No one wants Mayfield to have to deal with another coaching change and learn a third playbook, so firing Kitchens probably isn’t the best option. Although he’s been adamant about holding onto the reins, maybe it’s time for Kitchens to finally give up the play-calling and focus on mastering all three phases of the game.

It can work.

Camryn Justice is a digital content producer at News 5 Cleveland. Follow her on Twitter @camijustice.

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BROWNS SCHEDULE

Preseason

WEEK 1 · Thu 08/08 · Browns 30, Redskins 10 (1-0)

WEEK 2 · Sat 08/17 · Browns 21, Colts 18 (2-0)

WEEK 3 · Fri 08/23 · Buccaneers 13, Browns 12 (2-1)

WEEK 4 · Thu 08/29 · Browns 20, Lions 16 (3-1)

Regular Season

WEEK 1 · Sun 09/08 · Titans 43, Browns 13 (0-1)

WEEK 2 · Mon 09/16 · Browns 23, Jets 3 (1-1)

WEEK 3 · Sun 09/22 · Rams 20, Browns 13 (1-2)

WEEK 4 · Sun 09/29 · Browns 40, Ravens 25 (2-2)

WEEK 5 · Mon 10/07 · 49ers 31, Browns 3 (2-3)

WEEK 6 · Sun 10/13 · Seahawks 32, Browns 28 (2-4)

WEEK 7 Bye

WEEK 8 · Sun 10/27 · Patriots 27, Browns 13 (2-5)

WEEK 9 · Sun 11/03 · Broncos 24, Browns 19 (2-6)

WEEK 10 · Sun 11/10 · Browns 19, Bills 16 (3-6)

WEEK 11 · Thu 11/14 · Browns 21, Steelers 7 (4-6)

WEEK 12 · Sun 11/24 · Browns 41, Dolphins 24 (5-6)

WEEK 13 · Sun 12/01 · Steelers 20, Browns 13 (5-7)

WEEK 14 · Sun 12/08 · 1:00 PM EST Cincinnati Bengals (CBS)

WEEK 15 · Sun 12/15 · 4:05 PM EST at Arizona Cardinals (CBS)

WEEK 16 · Sun 12/22 · 1:00 PM EST Baltimore Ravens (CBS)

WEEK 17 · Sun 12/29 · 1:00 PM EST at Cincinnati Bengals (CBS)