In a division that has sent a representative to the conference championship 6 of the last 9 years (producing 3 Super Bowl champions), getting to the top of the division isn’t a cake walk. Chances are unless you were born before 1983 you don’t remember watching a really good Browns team. Trust me they were good!!
Today hope exists they can be competitive and break the hearts of Cleveland fans with The Drive, The Fumble or Red Right 88. The results of 1964 are far off so progress is the answer. What’s in store for the 2013 Browns? Let’s take a look and see how they look as they get revved up for a fall on the shores of Lake Erie.
Brandon Weeden (cue old joke) boasts a big arm and your Brett Favre “gunslinger” style of play but that won’t be enough to take the Browns to the next level. Weeden needs to minimize turnovers (14 TD, 17 INT last year) and connect with his receivers a bit more than 57.4% of the time. Some more playmaking would help too, but that can be addressed later.
Of course we’d rather have Brady, Brees or Manning but there are only a few of those guys in the league. I applaud the move of bringing Norv Turner in as a coordinator. If Chud and Norv could pick the type of quarterback they would want he would have a big arm and be able to take a lick after delivering a pass. They have their mold, this will be the year Weeden solidifies himself as an NFL quarterback or a 6’4” clipboard holder.
This one is simple; if Trent can stay healthy he gives the Browns their biggest offensive threat. He brings speed and strength to the running game but this position lacks any depth to speak of. Trent also presents a major threat out of the backfield as a receiver. He was second most targeted among running backs last year (66), trailing only Ray Rice. Look for the Browns to depend on Trent for 350+ touches (300 rush, 50-60 receiving) this year. His success could help loosen up the passing game.
Josh Gordon is suspended for the first two games which doesn’t help a group that is already missing that #1 type of receiver. Greg Little has shown preseason signs of limiting the “dropsies” that he has been prone to. Jordan Cameron has caught some preseason attention as a potential emerging receiver from the TE position. That being said there are a lot of “ifs” with this group. Someone will need to step up and lead the receivers by adding that big play ability and catching 10+ TD’s ( Josh Gordon 5 TD last year)
The O-Line may be under a new regime but this is the key to getting Trent on the loose. A line made up of starters all drafted by the Browns and led by Pro Bowl Left Tackle Joe Thomas. The Browns will start the year without RG Shawn Lauvao due to surgery but expect him back around week 3. Lauvao had not missed a game the last two years. This group could bring a sense of stability to a team growing around it.
This group spent a lot of time on the field last year and is looking to change that. Browns owner Jimmy Haslam was a minority owner for the Steelers so the hope is he brings some of that influence to Lake Erie with him. Big Phil Taylor looks to anchor the interior in his third year out of Baylor. Paul Kruger will bring championship experience to a line backing core that ranked 19th against the run last year.
The secondary which only had their leader Joe Haden for 11 of 16 games will improve on their 25th ranking against the pass. Haden should stay healthy which leaves the corner position opposite him as a glaring hole. Leon McFadden expected to step into this position has been slowed by a groin injury. This has opened the door to give **sigh** Buster Skrine another shot.
Phil Dawson and Joshua Cribbs are gone. Phil as the kicker was the most dependable piece of the Browns offense for years, as embarrassing as that is. Cribbs provided the big play return excitement for awhile in Cleveland but since has been cut and looks to be done in the league. Billy Cundiff has been signed at kicker after the Browns waived Shayne Graham a few days ago.
The Browns have made some moves that can help them improve. I like Chud at the helm and Norv as a coordinator. They are slowly adding pieces but they play in one of the toughest divisions in football. On top of that away games at Minnesota, Green Bay and New England loom. Kansas City away is not as tough but ask NFL players what playing in Arrowhead is like. The Browns improve but still need a few more pieces to make the leap out of the AFC North cellar.
Optimistic Browns Fan 9-7 third in AFC North
Optimistic me 8-8 third in AFC North
Reality 6-10 last in AFC North
Hey, there is always next year, right Cubs fans?