Some teams are cursed. Some teams just do it to themselves. It doesn’t matter if Cleveland’s woes are a product of black magic or self infliction – they are just a mess, from top to bottom. Head coach Mike Pettine, opens up his second season as head coach with his best player suspended for the season and his back up quarterback as the talk of the town.
The Browns have a quarterback battle between a journeyman veteran who looked awful last season and a sophomore quarterback who had a two month long stint in alcohol rehab in the off-season. Fun times. Josh McCown, pulled the okey-doke on Tampa, when he looked great in his few starts with Chicago in 2013, leading the Bucs to believe they did the right thing by giving him a contract last season. McCown really has nothing left to give, and if he beats out Johnny Manziel for the starting job. . . eh. Manziel, is really the team’s best option. If not for nothing else, the Browns should start him just because they spent a first round pick on him and this isn’t a team with playoff aspirations anyhow. The world still wants to see Manziel – fail or succeed – give the fans of the NFL what they want and just start him.
Somebody needs to tell Manziel to not be so jumpy in the pocket. The Browns, if they have anything, it’s an offensive line. Left tackle Joe Thomas is probably the best at his position in the last decade. The Browns will have some things to deal when this season is done though. Their center Alex Mack can opt out after this season and tackle Mitchell Schwartz is in the final year of his deal. Will anybody blame them for abandoning this ship when this season ends?
The backfield isn’t too shabby either. There is a lot of youth there with a lot of upside. Unfortunately, as of now two of those three have some nagging injuries that may leak into weak one of the regular season. Rookie Duke Johnson, might be the best out of the three, but he has been wrestling with a hamstring issue in early practices. Terrance West should be fine physically when the season starts, but the Browns are losing patience with him (on and off the field apparently). He’s not a bad kid, just “plays around too much.” Isiah Crowell is the bruiser back, who might be the lead rusher on this team by default. Crowell is good, but better suited for goal line and short yardage situations. The health of this backfield is everything to this offense. Everyone knows they’re going to run the ball a lot this year so. . .
Say what you will about Josh Gordon, the truth is: he’s the best receiver we’ve barely seen play. Without Gordon, this receiver group is just awkward and lame. Brian Hartline is a career possession guy with limited speed. Andrew Hawkins isn’t threatening any secondary in this lifetime; and the Browns signed Dwayne Bowe who was the number one receiver on a team in which not one receiver caught a touchdown. That right there says it all.
This defensive unit was disappointing last year, but when you have a bad offense continuously putting you in bad spots, there is only so much you can do after a while. The Browns are hoping for the best by putting their rookie defensive linemen right into the line of fire. Danny Shelton of Washington and Xavier Cooper of Washington State are two defensive tackles that have the potential to explode offensive lines right up the gut. Cooper is the more active of the two, while Shelton tries to gobble up space inside. This is a big defensive line, that needs to get to ball carriers early – but once those ball carriers get to the outside, it’s all on the line backers and secondary to finish the job.
The linebacker group is interesting to say the least. Barkevious Mingo was drafted in the first-round in 2013 and the Browns have seen little return on that investment. The potential to be a complete bust looms in the clouds circling Mingo this season. Nate Orchard out of Utah, might do what Mingo hasn’t and that’s be the pass rusher they want from the linebacker spot. Paul Kruger is someone people can never figure out. Sure, he had eleven sacks last season – but what does he do really? He’s just one of those players you just assume is above average, but he doesn’t really “wow” you, when you watch him. Karlos Dansby is the veteran of the group who last year only had forty seven tackles in twelve games. . .
The Browns have studs in the secondary. Donte Whitner and Tashaun Gipson make up one of the best safety combinations in the league (it’s going to be hard to dethrone that duo in Seattle. . .) and corner back Joe Haden is consistently in the discussion of “top five corners” in the league. With Buster Skrine signing with the New York Jets, it’s time for last year’s first round pick Justin Gilbert to wake up and take control of his future. He showed a lot of promise in college, but seemed like a fish out of water in the pros. The Browns will surely give him his chance, but they signed veteran Tramon WIlliams just in-case Gilbert is better served as the nickel corner.
The Browns have so many interesting stories on their team, but none of it will amount to much. There is no doubt they will stay in some games, but it’s going to a one dimensional offense and a lot of inexperience on the defense line that will ultimately hold them back. Best case scenario is that the youth on this team gain experience in what will be a trying season, while the veterans. . . collect pay checks?
Predicted Record: 4-12
Predicted Pro Bowlers: Joe Haden, Joe Thomas, Donte Whitner