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Cleveland Browns: Depth chart, schedule, 2021 preview and predictions

The Cleveland Browns open their 2021 season on Sunday with a highly anticipated matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs.

CLEVELAND — Editor's note: the video in the player above is from a previous story.

Entering the 2021 NFL season, the Cleveland Browns find themselves in an unfamiliar position. After amassing an 11-5 regular-season record and earning their first playoff victory since the 1994 season in 2020, the Browns are not just facing lofty expectations -- those expectations are justified.

RELATED: More Cleveland Browns coverage from WKYC

Gone are the days of already looking ahead to the draft, replaced with the reality that Cleveland isn't just an AFC North contender, but also a trendy Super Bowl pick. Between their coaching staff and roster, the Browns have established continuity and bolstered a shaky defense with key free-agent acquisitions and draft picks.

Looking to build on last season's success, Cleveland won't have to wait long to see where it stacks up in the AFC with a highly anticipated matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs waiting in Week 1. What follows is everything you need to know about the Browns' upcoming 2021 season, including the team's depth chart, schedule and predictions for the year.

2021 Cleveland Browns' Coaching Staff

  • Head coach: Kevin Stefanski
  • Offensive coordinator: Alex Van Pelt
  • Defensive coordinator: Joe Woods
  • Offensive line coach: Bill Callahan
  • Run game coordinator/running backs coach: Stump Mitchell
  • Pass game coordinator/wide receivers coach: Chad O'Shea
  • Tight ends coach: Drew Petzing
  • Defensive pass game coordinator/defensive backs coach: Jeff Howard
  • Defensive line coach: Chris Kiffin
  • Linebackers coach: Jason Tarver
  • Special teams coordinator: Mike Priefer

Cleveland Browns' 2021 Coaching Staff Analysis:

For the first time since 2018, Cleveland enters a season with the same head coach as the year before with the return of 2020 NFL Coach of the Year Kevin Stefanski. Not only that, but the Browns return their entire coaching staff from last season, a rarity in the modern NFL.

It's tough to view the continuity on Cleveland's coaching staff as anything but a positive, especially when it comes to the progression of the team's offense. On the other side of the ball, some have raised concerns about defensive coordinator Joe Woods' performance in 2020, although it's worth noting that the Browns spent the offseason upgrading all three levels of the unit in the draft and free agency.

Whereas coaching was previously an annual question mark for Cleveland, the Browns enter 2021 with as much confidence as they've ever had in a staff. Another year of success would undoubtedly lead to some level of turnover -- a problem that Cleveland would gladly confront should it get there.

Cleveland Browns' 2021 Offensive Depth Chart

Quarterback

  1. Baker Mayfield
  2. Case Keenum

Running back

  1. Nick Chubb
  2. Kareem Hunt
  3. D'Ernest Johnson
  4. Demetric Felton

Fullback

  1. Andy Janovich

Wide receiver

  1. Jarvis Landry
  2. Rashard Higgins

Wide receiver

  1. Odell Beckham Jr.
  2. Donovan Peoples-Jones
  3. Anthony Schwartz

Tight end

  1. Austin Hooper
  2. David Njoku
  3. Harrison Bryant

Left tackle

  1. Jedrick Wills Jr.
  2. James Hudson III

Left guard

  1. Joel Bitonio
  2. Michael Dunn

Center

  1. JC Tretter
  2. Nick Harris

Right guard

  1. Wyatt Teller
  2. Blake Hance

Right tackle

  1. Jack Conklin
  2. Chris Hubbard

Cleveland Browns' 2021 Offense Analysis:

Much like its coaching staff, the Browns' offense will rely on continuity in 2021 as it returns all 11 starters -- and several other key contributors -- from last year's team. Between Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt, Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry, Austin Hooper and David Njoku and one of the league's top offensive lines, Cleveland has given quarterback Baker Mayfield plenty to work with entering his fourth season under center for the Browns.

As for how Cleveland's offense can progress, look for Mayfield to try to find the deep threat that the Browns consistently lacked throughout last season. Between Beckham, Donovan Peoples-Jones and Anthony Schwartz, Cleveland should have plenty of options to help stretch the field and keep opposing defenses honest against the run.

Cleveland Browns' 2021 Defensive Depth Chart

Defensive end

  1. Myles Garrett
  2. Joe Jackson

Defensive end

  1. Jadeveon Clowney
  2. Takkarist McKinley

Defensive tackle

  1. Andrew Billings
  2. Jordan Elliott
  3. Tommy Togiai

Defensive tackle

  1. Malik Jackson
  2. Malik McDowell

Will linebacker

  1. Mack Wilson
  2. Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah
  3. [Jacob Phillips]

Mike linebacker

  1. Anthony Walker Jr.
  2. Tony Fields II

Sam linebacker

  1. Sione Takitaki
  2. Malcolm Smith

Cornerback

  1. Denzel Ward
  2. Troy Hill
  3. A.J. Green

Cornerback

  1. Greg Newsome II
  2. Greedy Williams
  3. M.J. Stewart Jr.

Strong safety

  1. Ronnie Harrison Jr.
  2. Grant Delpit

Free safety

  1. John Johnson III
  2. Richard LeCounte III

Cleveland Browns' 2021 Defense Analysis:

Unlike their offensive counterpart, the Browns' defense enters the 2021 season with several notable additions, including arguably the top free agent safety signing in former Los Angeles Rams standout John Johnson III. In free agency, Cleveland also bolstered its pass rush (Jadeveon Clowney, Takkarist McKinley), defensive line (Malik Jackson) and middle linebacker position (Anthony Walker Jr.) while also using first and second round picks, respectively, on cornerback Greg Newsome II and linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah.

If there's one legitimate concern about Cleveland's roster, it's the overall depth of the defense, which has already been tested with injuries to linebacker Jacob Phillips and safeties Ronnie Harrison and Grant Delpit. The Browns will also be counting on a bounce-back year from 2019 second-round pick Greedy Williams after the cornerback missed the entire 2020 campaign with a shoulder injury.

Cleveland Browns' 2021 Special Teams Depth Chart

Punter

  1. Jamie Gillan

Kicker

  1. Chase McLaughlin

Holder

  1. Jamie Gillan

Kick returner

  1. Demetric Felton
  2. D'Ernest Johnson
  3. Donovan Peoples-Jones

Punt returner

  1. Demetric Felton
  2. Donovan Peoples-Jones
  3. D'Ernest Johnson

Long snapper

  1. Charley Hughlett

Cleveland Browns' 2021 Special Teams Analysis:

The Browns will be breaking in a new kicker in 2021 after Cody Parkey suffered a season-ending injury in the preseason. Chase McLaughlin's roster spot, however, is hardly safe and Cleveland could consider alternatives at any point during the season.

Elsewhere, Jamie Gillan returns for his third season as the Browns' punter and will look to bounce back from a somewhat underwhelming 2020. Sixth-round pick Demetric Felton can play both running back and wide receiver, but his primary duties this season will likely be in the return game for Cleveland.

Cleveland Browns' 2021 Schedule

  • Sept. 12 at Kansas City Chiefs (4:25 p.m.) CBS
  • Sept. 19 vs. Houston Texans (1 p.m.) CBS
  • Sept. 26 vs. Chicago Bears (1 p.m.) FOX
  • Oct. 3 at Minnesota Vikings (1 p.m.) CBS
  • Oct. 10 at Los Angeles Chargers (4:05 p.m.) CBS
  • Oct. 17 vs. Arizona Cardinals (4:05 p.m.) FOX
  • Oct. 21 vs. Denver Broncos (8:20 p.m.) FOX, NFL Network, Amazon
  • Oct. 31 vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (1 p.m.) CBS
  • Nov. 7 at Cincinnati Bengals (1 p.m.) CBS
  • Nov. 14 at New England Patriots (1 p.m.) CBS
  • Nov. 21 vs. Detroit Lions (1 p.m.) FOX
  • Nov. 28 at Baltimore Ravens (8:20 p.m.) NBC
  • Dec. 14 vs. Baltimore Ravens (1 p.m.) CBS
  • TBD vs. Las Vegas Raiders (TBD) TBD
  • Dec. 25 at Green Bay Packers (4:30 p.m.) FOX, NFL Network, Amazon
  • Jan. 3 at Pittsburgh Steelers (8:15 p.m.) ESPN
  • Jan. 9 vs. Cincinnati Bengals (1 p.m.) CBS

Cleveland Browns' 2021 Schedule Analysis:

While the Browns open the season with arguably the toughest opponent on their schedule, they face just two total playoff teams from 2020 in the first seven weeks of their schedule. Also, despite Cleveland's success last season, the Browns' are only scheduled to be featured in three true primetime games including divisional road games against the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers in primetime.

Speaking of Baltimore, perhaps the most crucial stretch of Cleveland's schedule starts on Nov. 28 when the Browns will face the Ravens on Sunday Night Football before their bye week -- which they'll then return from to host the Ravens at FirstEnergy Stadium on Dec. 14. From there, Cleveland closes out the season against the Raiders, Packers, Steelers and Bengals -- a stretch that might not only determine whether or not the Browns will make the playoffs again, but what seed they will be if they do.

Cleveland Browns' 2021 Season Prediction:

Record: 13-4, AFC North champs

Season ends: Loss in AFC Championship Game

After breaking the NFL's longest active playoff drought, the Browns appear primed to take the next logical step in their development. Offensively, it's hard to imagine the season coming off the rails for Cleveland, barring an injury or major setback for Mayfield. Between running back, wide receiver, tight end and offensive line, the Browns possess enough depth to withstand the typical injuries that occur throughout the season.

Defensively, Cleveland is shakier but as he showed last season, Myles Garrett is capable of taking over for stretches at a time masking deficiencies elsewhere on the unit. Ultimately, the Browns should feel good about their starting lineup following an offseason's worth of upgrades, but the unit's depth remains a major concern.

As for Cleveland's schedule, even after a potential loss to the Chiefs in Week 1, the Browns' should be able to build a winning record against the likes of the Texans, Bears, Vikings, Chargers, Cardinals and Broncos. The AFC North remains tough, but even splitting season series' against Baltimore and Pittsburgh should be viewed as a success.

When it comes to the postseason, it should be AFC title game or bust for the Browns -- although it's unlikely Cleveland will enter the playoffs with the conference's top seed. Nevertheless, I see this season ending the same way last year's did, with a postseason loss to the Chiefs, albeit, one round later and a step closer to the Super Bowl.