Continuing our series of way too early season previews, today we bring you the Cleveland Browns. Seemingly the bottom dwellers in the AFC North every season, this years team appears headed in that direction as well. However this team has talent, and if it wasn’t overshadowed by the Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, and Pittsburgh Steelers in the division, they might be a trendy pick to make a playoff run.
Someone goes from worst to first every year in the NFL, storming back from a poor season to win their division out of nowhere. Predicting which team will do this is anyone’s guess, but the Browns appear to have as good a shot as any of the other division losers at reclaiming their division.
A position by position preview of the Cleveland Browns is listed below, followed by a far too early prediction for how they’ll finish this season.
Brandon Weeden is entering his second year as an NFL quarterback despite closing in on 30 years old. Age and life experience should prevent Weeden from experiencing the typical sophomore slump experienced by many young passers in their second year in the league. Some fans have called for his head after struggling at times during last season, however no change appears to be in order, and Weeden will once again have full reigns of the offense.
Should the fans prove correct and Weeden struggles out of the gate, the idea of Jason Campbell coming in and starting a few games isn’t out of question. Campbell has started for the Washington Redskins and Oakland Raiders in his career, but doesn’t appear to be a long term solution for the Browns. Weeden is their man after passing on a quarterback in this year’s draft, he will have every opportunity to develop into the man Brown’s management thought he had the ability to be when they selected him in the first round last year.
Trent Richardson is one of the NFL’s most talented young running backs. He has the ability to carry this struggling offense on his back, and will them to score. The only knock on him is that he is somewhat injury prone. This is becoming a more prominent issue as he was shaken up a bit in today’s OTA practice. Richardson has stated that he doesn’t feel the injury is at all serious, and that he shouldn’t miss any playing time as a result.
If Richardson plays a full season, expect him to be near the top of the league in carries. He is a back with the ability to dominate, even if the rest of the offense isn’t ready to do that. Big things are coming in Trent Richardson’s future.
Should he go down, the Browns have experience on this section of the depth chart. Both Montario Hardesty and Chris Ogbonnaya have stepped in and produced at the NFL level during portions of their careers.
While the running backs have depth, the wide receiving corps is lacking it. Josh Gordon is in his second year, and showed spurts of being a top tier talent in his first year. If he can continue to improve his route running and become a more versatile threat, he could become a legit number one receiver. He looks like a steal after being taken in the second round of the supplemental draft last year.
Other than Gordon, this receiving corps lacks proven playmakers. Greg Little is an average possession receiver, but has little else to offer the offense, and hasn’t shown himself to be a quality number two option. Recently acquired Davone Bess, formerly of Miami, has shown flashes of potential but has not been consistently productive. Cleveland needs at least one of these two to emerge as a quality option that can consistently put up numbers if they want to compete this year.
Jordan Cameron leads the pack in the tight end department. The fact that you haven’t heard of him should show you the level of experience they have at tight end. Cameron is talented however, and young. He has the athletic ability team’s desire these days, fitting the mold of the Antonio Gates. Thrust into a starting role for the first time in his young career, Cameron will shine. If you are a fantasy football player like myself, keep an eye on where Cameron is on your draft boards, he may be the biggest surprise of the season. Remember his name.
Perhaps the biggest strength of this roster. The fact that they are protecting an immobile quarterback and a running back with a growing reputation for being brittle doesn’t help their case. Joe Thomas leads this group of studs, but each of these men could start on just about every roster. The Browns have at least one piece of their foundation in place as they attempt to rebuild themselves into a contender.
The Browns defensive line lacks the big names typical in a strong NFL front, however they are all hungry to show their ability this year. Accounting for 25 of the team’s 38 sacks last season, this is a front that has the ability to positively impact a game. Anchored by Taylor in the middle, the switch to a 3-4 this year will have its challenges but will prove to be a positive change in the end.
Once again lacking big names, there are several young players who will make an impact this season. Quentin Groves is not off to a good start in a Brown’s uniform, already having been arrested this off season. He was arrested for solicitation of a prostitute earlier this year. Sheard will be moving from defensive end to outside linebacker with the transition to a 3-4 defense. He lead the team in sacks last season with 8.5 and will be looking to improve on that total this year.
Joseph Haden remains one of the premiere corners in all of football and single handily makes this a strength of the Browns’ roster. Other than possibly Richardson, he is far and away the best player on this roster. He has the ability to completely shut down the opposing team’s best wideout, no matter who it is. The rest of the secondary is unproven but benefits greatly from Haden taking pressure off of them by dominating all on his own.
Way too early preview and prediction for the Cleveland Browns 2013 season:
The Cleveland Browns will once again be the bottom dwellers in the AFC North, there simply is too much talent on the teams above them for the Browns to fall anywhere else when all is said and done. They will improve however, and would stand a shot at finishing above .500 if they didn’t have to play six games against their division.
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The Guardian Express