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The Cleveland Browns have had issues throughout the start of the 2021 NFL season. Injuries, inconsistent play, penalties and questionable play-calling (mostly on the defensive side of the ball but not entirely) have slowed the team’s momentum. Coming off a successful 2020 season and an offseason that drew rave reviews, the Browns 4 – 3 record is slightly disappointing.
Thankfully, the AFC doesn’t have a team, or teams, running away with the lead. Cleveland only sits one game out from the top of their division and conference following Week 7.
One area that the Browns seemed to focus on this offseason also hasn’t shown up on the field as expected. The return of Odell Beckham Jr. and the drafting of Anthony Schwartz were expected to turn up the speed on offense while the defensive upgrades seemed to have speed in mind as well.
Instead, according to a new piece on ESPN (subscriber, $), Cleveland is second to last in overall team speed on the field so far this year:
31. Cleveland Browns
Overall average yards per second: 9.25
Offense rank: No. 27 (9.13)
Defense rank: No. 27 (9.36)
Fastest unit relative to NFL: RB (No. 8, 9.57)
Slowest unit relative to NFL: WR (No. 32, 9.34)
Team speedster: Nick Chubb, RB (9.99)
With Beckham missing some time with injury and Schwartz not getting a large number of snaps, the wide receivers being the slowest in the league isn’t too surprising. It also points to the type of routes run by the receivers, with fewer straight line and speed-oriented routes.
While the defense added a lot of players, injuries have kept many of them off the field at different times this year. The lack of speed could explain some of the struggles stopping big plays, along with miscommunication, and presents concerns for the rest of the season. As the new pieces feel more comfortable in the defense, perhaps they will be reacting faster and increase the overall speed.
Speed isn’t the most important trait in the NFL but it is near the top of the list. Cleveland’s lack of it has to be concerning unless they turn it around, somehow, the rest of the year.