The Cleveland Browns roster speculation, for now anyway, is over. The Browns have announced their “initial” 53-man roster for the upcoming 2021 season. The keyword here is “initial” because the roster could change within the next couple of days due to injuries and practice squad moves. All in all, this has to be one of the most versatile Browns teams since 1999. The offense essentially brings back everyone with a couple of additions from the offseason and draft. The defense got overhauled by the front office lead by the general manager, Andrew Berry. From a first glance, this is the most staked Cleveland Browns team since the Bernie Kosar era. Let’s dive into the three initial takeaways from the announced 53-man roster:
1. The Defense is Versatile
At first glance, the Browns have made it clear that the defense has guys that they could play at multiple positions in Joe Woods’ defensive scheme. While Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah is listed as a linebacker, there have been clear indications that he can play safety or an edge as well. “JOK” to Browns fans know that this dude is a ball hawk. No matter where the play is, he is right there to make a play. Expect a massively impactful year from the team’s 2021 second-round pick. Also, M.J. Stewart Jr. played some safety last year so it seems that the Browns are bringing in essentially 5 1/2 cornerbacks and 4 1/2 safties. That will be essential for when guys need some rest on defense. In that case, the team could throw Stewart into multiple defensive packages.
Furthermore, there could a case to be made that Tony Fields II could be considered an edge/linebacker because of the role he played while at the University of Arizona and West Virginia University. He managed to compile over 300 tackles in his college career for his sideline to sideline movement to get to the ball. He is another player to keep an eye on for a defense that has added a plethora of speed and versatility.
2. The Entire Browns 2021 Draft Class Makes Squad
It doesn’t happen very much around the NFL, but the Cleveland Browns have added their entire 2021 draft class to their 53-man roster. Usually, teams could maybe have 80% of the draft class make it. Although, in this case, the Browns have gone all-in on their draftees.
On the defensive side, Richard LeCounte III, Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, and Greg Newsome II made their presences felt this preseason and training camp. The three preseason games gave the team, and Browns fans, excited to see how good these rookies are. JOK seemed to be everywhere on the field no matter where the ball was. His stat lines after every game seemed like fans were playing Madden 22. Also, the way Newsome II just seemed to get better and better as each week passed. In the latest “Building the Browns”, Newsome II talked about how he loves to be coached. He wants to try to soak in as much as he can. His relationship with Youngstown, Ohio native Troy Hill was on full display for how they interact talking about how to play defense.
It wouldn’t be right to not mention how Richard LeCounte III just absolutely balled out for the Browns in the preseason. The University of Georgia product reminded everyone why he was an All-SEC player back in college. Right away there was a clear indication that his football IQ is off the charts. The way he can read plays and make instant reactions is what made Andrew Berry picked him in the fifth round.
Offensively, what else is there to say about Demetric Felton and Anthony Schwartz? While Schwartz only played in one preseason game due to injuries, he showed why his speed made him a third-round pick. Schwartz managed to draw an early pass interference penalty to help the Browns move down the field. That along with his speed on jet sweeps will make him dangerous to defenses’ honest this season.
Demetric Felton on the other hand, all preseason there was a clear indication that the Browns needed to keep him. His versatility as a running back/wide receiver will make him very dangerous this season. It seemed like every week he just kept making big play after big play. He can catch out of the backfield with some silky smooth hands while using his speed to get more yards. Furthermore, he made a very good case to be the Browns returner. In the Falcons game, he busted off some huge runs back on kick and punt returns. The UCLA product made Andrew Berry look like a genius for stealing him in the sixth round in the draft. Where have Browns fans seen this movie before with sixth-round steals?
3. The Offense Running It Back
For the first time in a long while, there wasn’t a massive turnover on the offense. Andrew Berry last year made it a priority to fix the offense, which he obviously did. In doing that, it gave him a chance to focus mainly on the defense this year instead of doing it all at once. In hindsight, that is the right way to rebuilding a team by doing it in layers. Although Berry did add some players on the offense, it is essentially the same offensive core from last season.
Baker Mayfield will run the same offensive scheme for the first time in his career, thank goodness. Also, having a healthy Odell Beckham Jr will be a boost for the offense especially the wide receiver room. While have OBJ is huge, just to have Jarvis Landry, Rashard Higgins, Donovan Peoples-Jones and Anthony Schwartz will give the room speed and skill.
Let’s not forget the two-headed monster that is Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt in the backfield. The Browns being able to rely on the best running back duo in the league will give the offense a multi-dimensional feel to it. Furthermore, having D’Ernest Johnson having a huge preseason this year gives the team more options out of the backfield. Plus, they could use Johnson as a wideout as well possibly along with rookie running back Demetric Felton. Those four in the running back room will make defenses’ have to worry who the Browns will throw out there. All four bring different facets to the game, but all could be a problem for the league in their own way.
Final Thoughts on Browns Roster
Overall, this 2021 Cleveland Browns team, on paper, has the capabilities to be a dangerous team this upcoming season. Although, that being said the team needs to show on the field that they can show out every week. The defense does have a plethora of new faces as starters and it will need to take time to mesh. Either way, once the defense starts to click along with how the offense played the second half of the season, this team will be a force. It will just come down to playing the Cleveland Browns way that second-year head coach Kevin Stefanski has instilled since day one.
If they can manage that second-half dominance last season, there is a good case the Cleveland Browns will be a favorite to win the Super Bowl this upcoming season. Only time will tell, but the ride there will surely be a fun one for Browns fans. September 12th cannot come soon enough for the Orange and Brown.
My name is Zach Martin, the Chicago Blackhawks beat writer for Belly Up Sports and Belly Up Hockey. Also, a writer for the Cleveland Browns. Follow me on Twitter for the most up-to-date Blackhawks, and Browns content and news. I’m a co-host on a hockey podcast, Cannons & Tomahawks, that talks about all things NHL.