Saturday, September 8, 2012

Cleveland Browns Preview

The Cleveland Browns continue a rebuilding process that could be scrapped at the end of the season as new owner Jimmy Haslem could clean house or pick and choose whom he would like to keep around.
Improvement would go a long way towards people keeping jobs,but a brutal schedule works against the Browns this season.

The Browns are going all in with "Veteran Rookie" Brandon Weeden getting the starting nod at quarterback.
I suspect despite the first round status  of Weeden that this is a one year tryout for him.
A bad season would likely mean the pressure will be on the Browns to go after Matt Barkley next season,so the time is present for Weeden to show promise.
Last year's starter Colt McCoy returns as Weeden's backup and if recent history is the norm,McCoy will see some action.
Pat Shurmur favorite Thaddeus Lewis is the third stringer to round out the group.

First rounder Trent Richardson will be the workhorse at running back.
Richardson is fighting off a knee injury and will take time to get to full speed,but is expected to be the back that the Browns have lacked since their return in 1999.
Disappointing Montario Hardesty,third down back Brandon Jackson and last years waiver surprise Chris Ogbonyanna round out a running corps that could compliment Richardson,although not replace him.
Second year man Owen Marecic will be the only fullback on the roster after a disappointing 2011.

Second year wideout Greg Little is back to lead a young group pass catchers that added two rookies,but no veteran presence in a bunch that could have used one.
Little dropped a lot of passes last season,but I think that was part of the maturation process and the drops should well,drop this season.
Mohammed Massaquoi will start on the other side,mainly out of need.
Massaquoi always has injury issues and has underachieved,so this should be his last chance with the Browns to bust open.
Cleveland spent its second round pick next season to land a first round talent in Josh Gordon,but will need to be patient with Gordon as he missed last season and will need time to adjust.
Speedy Travis Benjamin was a fourth rounder and will attempt to be a deep threat and Jordan Norwood will be a slot receiver  after a promising 2011.
Josh Cribbs will see the occasional pass in five wideout formations.

The Browns look to be relying on second year man Jordan Cameron as the team begins to phase him in as the tight end future.
Ben Watson is the listed starter,but concussion issues plague Watson and I think he is one hit away from leaving the game.
Alex Smith is back as the third string blocking tight end....

Cleveland used a high draft pick and a middle rounder in an attempt to fix a leaky right side of the line.
The left side is first rate with Pro Bowler Joe Thomas at left tackle leading the way.
The perennial star is the rock of the line and helped Jason Pinkston break in at guard last season after being a fifth round pick.
Pinkston looks to be improved between Thomas and center Alex Mack and should be a solid left guard.
Mack made the Pro Bowl at center and along with Thomas will be the foundation for the team.
Shaun Lauvao is back at right guard after some struggles in his first year as a starter.
Mitchell Schwartz was tabbed in the second round at right tackle to hopefully fill the gap that has been such a problem for the Browns over the last few seasons.
The former Cal Golden Bear was taken over a few higher rated tackles,so there is some interest in seeing how Schwartz performs.
Veterans John Greco and O'neil Cousins return as backups and are joined by massive Ryan Miller,a fifth rounder from the draft.
Miller and Cousins might see time at both guard and tackle as the season progresses....

The defensive line has common ground with the offensive line in this statement-the left side of the line is solid with the right side having questions.
Second year man Jabaal Sheard returns after a great rookie season rushing the passer at end.
Ahtyba Rubin adds the rarest of all defensive tackles-one that can rush the passer and stuff the run.Rubin might be a Pro Bowl contender this season.
Phil Taylor will miss some of the season with a injury and the Browns hope that rookies John Hughes and Billy Winn can make up for the loss.
Free agent signee Frostee Rucker was signed from Cincinnati to start at right end.
Rucker is coming off his career year and I wonder if that was the case of a contract year performance.
Juqua Parker will be the pass rusher off the bench after signing from the Eagles and Emmanuel Stephens rounds out the bunch...

The linebackers were hit by injury when Chris Gogong blew out an Achilles and will miss the season.
D'Qwell Jackson is back after a terrific 2011 to start in the middle.
Aging vet Scott Fujita won his appeal with the league to avoid a suspension,but Fujita is slow and injury-prone,so to me this is little gained.
Rookie John-Michael Johnson will start on the outside over Fujita and Kaluka Maiava will start in the place of Gogong.
Rookie free agent L.J. Fort made the team and another rookie in Tank Carder of TCU was claimed on waivers to add depth.
Craig Robertson is a special teamer listed as a linebacker.

Joe Haden leads a group in the secondary that looks similar to a unit that struggled in 2011.
Haden has a suspension issue on the legal drug Adderall on the horizon,but the final decision is still unknown.
Dmitri Patterson was re-signed to a lucrative deal to start at the other corner,but slow footed Sheldon Brown retained the starting spot anyway.
Patterson will be the third CB with second year man Buster Skrine and rookie Trevin Wade the other corners.
T.J. Ward starts at strong safety after a disappointing year and second year player Eric Hagg will be the free safety after beating Usama Young out for the job.
Ray Ventrone is the reserve,but is more of a special teams ace than a defensive back...

Phil Dawson returns as the ever reliable kicker and Reggie Hodges will be back as the punter after missing 2011 due to injury.
The pair provides a good kicking game and Hodges will be the holder for Dawson's placement attempts.

Josh Cribbs will be the main returner on kicks and punts with Buster Skrine assisting on kickoffs and Travis Benjamin seeing the occasional punt.

I think this should be an interesting year.
The schedule is tough and things are looking up in some spots,but the depth is still weaker compared to most teams in the league and I have major questions about Pat Shurmur at head coach.
All and all,I think that things might be better although the record may not show it.
4-12,although a lesser slate might have seen 6-10.......

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