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Browns 2022 NFL preview, schedule: amid Deshaun Watson controversy, few can predict how season will go

The Cleveland Browns will be without their new quarterback for at least 35% of the regular season, so QB2 Jacoby Brissett will have to step up in his absence.

Ariel Velázquez
The Cleveland Browns will be without their new quarterback for at least 35% of the regular season, so QB2 Jacoby Brissett will have to step up in his absence.
Nick CammettAFP

On 1 August, the Cleveland Browns received the news they had been waiting for all offseason when it was revealed that Deshaun Watson, their recently signed quarterback, would be suspended for the first six games of next season for violating personal conduct policies.

Watson to miss a third of the NFL regular season

Although Watson’s ban is equivalent to 35% of the regular season schedule - unless it is increased - the 2021 records of the Browns’ opponents during that stretch indicate they’re manageable rivals. Only the New England Patriots (Week 6), finished last year with double digits in the wins column.

Head coach Kevin Stefanski needs backup quarterback Jacoby Brissett to step up and keep the team afloat until the return of Watson, who hasn’t thrown a pass in an official game since the end of the 2020 campaign.

WR Cooper added to Browns’ offensive options

The $230 million contract the Browns gave Watson without knowing at the time how many games he would miss was not the only move the organization made in the offseason.

Cleveland pulled the trigger and endowed its offence with the talent of wide receiver Amari Cooper.

Stefanski will run one of the most balanced and efficient offences with Watson, running backs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, and Cooper in one of the corners completing the most explosive plays. But the high-profile names are not the only weapons the Browns will have when in possession of the ball. Cleveland have built one of the best offensive lines with guards Joel Bitonio and Wyatt Teller.

It’s no coincidence that Chunn and Hunt have been one of the best running-back pairings in the NFL over the past two seasons.

It’s clear that Cleveland is working hard to have an ample arsenal of offensive options. The organisation was not fazed by the multiple allegations of sexual misconduct against Watson, and there is uncertainty about how he will perform and the impact of the media attention that the accusations will generate on and off the field. But the Browns knew exactly what they were getting themselves into.

Cleveland blessed with quality in defence

For many years, the Cleveland defence had a seal of quality and for this campaign everything indicates that it will be no different. Myles Garrett set a franchise record for sacks in 2021. Cornerback Greg Newsome II and linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koromoah established themselves as immediate impact players after being selected in the Draft a year ago.

The Browns rewarded Denzel Ward for his performances by handing him a contract that makes him the highest-paid cornerback in the NFL.

Before Watson’s punishment was announced, the bookmakers remained undecided over the Browns’ chances this season. Cleveland was in a kind of limbo. Although it is now known that the QB will be out for six games, nothing has changed. Few dare to predict success in Cleveland this year.

Cleveland Browns: brief fact file

Record in 2021: 8-9

Stadium: First Energy Stadium

Super Bowl titles: 0

Coach: Kevin Stefanski

Defensive coordinator: Joe Woods

Offensive coordinator: Alex Van Pelt

Cleveland Browns’ 2022 NFL schedule

Week 1Week 2Week 3Week 4Week 5
at Panthersvs Jetsvs Steelersat Falconsvs Chargers
Week 6Week 7Week 8Week 9Week 10
vs Patriotsat Ravensvs BengalsBYEat Dolphins
Week 11Week 12Week 13Week 14Week 15
at Billsvs Buccaneersat Texansat Bengalsvs Ravens
Week 16Week 17Week 18
vs Saintsat Commandersat Steelers