Hello Browns and Sports fans! As most of you know, I am an avid (and frequently disappointed) Cleveland Sports fan. Thus, I spend many of my free hours (and sometimes not so free hours) consuming any information I can about the teams, and this time of year that’s the Browns, NFL, and the preseason. Also, I think I am perfect person to give an accurate view of the upcoming season as I am simultaneously an optimist, a realist, and a cynic. Thus, here are my thoughts on the team for this year.
Applauding Progress…I am excited about the new coaching staff. I like the new offensive system, and I like the quick progress that Colt McCoy has made picking it up. I like that Holgrem and Heckert are building through the draft. That is the strategy of most teams that are successful for long periods of time, like the Steelers and the Colts. Meanwhile, the teams that make big splashes in free agency, such as the Redskins, continue to have up-and-down, and mostly down, results.
…While Tempering the Excitement. That being said, Colt is still a second year QB. He has no proven receivers, and even the ones with talent have flaws and lack break-away speed. The defense has some good young pieces, but there are plenty of holes and almost no depth. ESPN scouts did a list of the top 200 NFL players right now based on a summation of the ratings. The good news: Joe Thomas was #9 overall. The bad news: the next Brown came in at 171, which was Alex Mack. Peyton Hillis snuck into the 190s. With 32 teams, each team should average about 6 players on that list, with 3 being in the top 100. You just don’t make up that type of talent gap overnight in the NFL, no matter how well coached and disciplined you are.
Top Ten Browns Players
1. Joe Thomas – No contest. So glad they locked him up for the foreseeable future.
2. Alex Mack – I’m torn. The offensive line is extremely important, and plenty of teams need help at these two very important positions. On the other hand, you’d like one of your top 2 guys to be a skill player of some sort.
3. Joe Haden – You could put so many guys in this spot, but I think Haden showed a lot his first year and will be a Pro Bowler either this season or next.
4. Peyton Hillis – Absolutely love the way he plays. He’s a totally blue-collar guy, which is what Clevelanders gravitate towards. Unfortunately, that style also scares the crap out of me for a RB, as it leads to increased fumbles and injuries.
5. Josh Cribbs – Best special teams player in the league. Holds the record for most career kickoff TD returns. Returns punts well, and is the first to the ball on most kick coverage teams. Runs the Wildcat effectively when they call it. Oh, and he catches the occasional ball at WR too!
6. T.J. Ward – Probably not the best cover safety by any stretch of the imagination, but boy will he knock the crap out of you in open space. He’ll pay out a few fines in his career for it, but fun to watch. Still has room to grow and develop too.
7. Scott Fujita – You got to have a solid veteran like him on your team, and he’s consummate pro.
8. Colt McCoy – I hope I’m right here, and that he deserves this spot. Has lots of developing to still do, but the kid just seems like a winner to me. He finds ways to make plans and do what he has to do for his team. Has to prove he can play in bad weather though, because…you know…it’s Cleveland!
9. Phil Dawson – So glad they held on to him. One of the most underrated and consistent kickers in the league, especially consider the stadium/weather he kicks in for half his games (more than half if you consider Pit/Cin stadiums)!
10. Phil Taylor – Hope I’m right here as well. I think this kid is stud, and I’m glad the Browns took him while getting MORE draft picks out of it.
Honorable Mentions: Ben Watson (Another key veteran), Evan Moore (great when healthy), D’Qwell Jackson (having a great camp), Greg Little (someone has to step up at WR)
Prediction. I’ll do better than a prediction, I’ll point to the games that they will win, lose, and a few that are toss-ups. On the bright side, they have a very manageable schedule, especially early on. The bad part, 4 of the last 5 games are against Baltimore and Pittsburgh, and as I mentioned, I don’t think they are quite there to compete for the playoffs just yet in this division. Also, I don’t think people realize how big the losses of Eric Steinbach and Reggie Hodges for the year are.
Wins: Cin, Mia, Ten, Sea, @SF, Jax
Losses: Bal, @Bal, Pit, @Pit, @Hou
Tossups: @Ind (Wk 2, if Manning plays, move to loss), @Oak, StL, @Cin, @Ari
So, if they win two of those tossups (my money is on @Cin and either Oak or Ari), that’s an 8-8 season. But I’m guessing they lose one of the one’s I have under wins and aren’t able to make it up from the losses column, so I’m going to put my official prediction at 7-9. Hope for better, but it’s a step in the right direction and another year of development for the young guys.