Browns could give Jaguars a tough time in 2023 season

Cleveland Browns Offseason Workout
Cleveland Browns Offseason Workout / Nick Cammett/GettyImages

The Cleveland Browns have won a combined 15 games over the last two seasons but there are several reasons to believe they could turn heads in 2023. This is bad news for the Jacksonville Jaguars, who are set to face them in Week 14.

Eric Edholm of NFL Media recently took a look at five offseason storylines across the league that are overblown and three that deserve more attention. While Edholm didn't include the Jags on his list, he believes Cleveland is flying under the radar but can become a legitimate contender if Deshaun Watson plays the way he did with the Houston Texans early in his career.

"If Watson can play anywhere close to the way he did during his Texans career, when he went to three straight Pro Bowls, the Browns will win. There's no need to make excuses for his 2022 play, but strictly from a football perspective, I expect a vastly improved performance. The roster is in good shape, with their offseason moves precisely geared at targeting weaker spots and avoiding short-term fixes. That's a sounder approach, and they still managed to do well in the draft despite lacking first- and second-round picks. "

The Browns traded for Watson last offseason but he sat out 11 games due to violations to the league's conduct policy. Once he joined the starting lineup, he went 3-3, completing 58.21 percent of his passes for 1,027 yards with seven touchdowns and five interceptions. It's fair to say that not being able to practice with his teammate, made it difficult for the former Clemson Tiger to get acclimated in his first season in Cleveland. Hence, the subpar production.

Without having to deal with any more setbacks and a solid wide receiver corps at his disposal, it's not hard to picture Watson playing at a high level. However, he's not the only Brown that could end up giving Jacksonville fits in the 2023 season. For one their defensive front should be much better. Besides signing defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson and Ogbo Okoronkwo, they traded for edge rusher Za'Darius Smith, who should form a formidable bookend pass rush duo alongside Myles Garrett.

The Jacksonville Jaguars can beat the Cleveland Browns but it won't be easy

The last time these two clubs faced off against each other was in the distant year of 2020. Baker Mayfield was still with the Browns while Mike Glennon was the starting quarterback for the Jaguars. Both teams have undergone several changes since then, so taking a look at that game might not be very helpful when analyzing their next encounter.

The Jaguars are certainly much better, with head coach Doug Pederson leading the way and Trevor Lawrence ready to join the upper echelon of NFL quarterbacks. If their offensive line can keep the Browns' pass rush in check, Jacksonville should have the edge. Conversely, if Myles Garrett can consistently generate pressure up front, Lawrence could be in for a long game.

Also, Watson will not hesitate to test the Jaguars' secondary. Even though they have a solid defensive backfield, they can't afford to take the former Clemson Tiger lightly. In fact, he's one of the toughest quarterbacks they're set to face next season.

In the end, there Jaguars' matchup against Cleveland is still several months away, so it's hard to tell how Watson will be playing by then. But if he's back at the top of his game, the Jaguars may then have a hard time coming out of FirstEnergy Stadium with a win.

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