To say that last season went to “hell in a hand basket” was an understatement. First off, the Browns stunk as their 3-13 record would suggest. Cleveland won only one of their last 11 games! Johnny Manziel proved to be a “lightning rod” for controversy as he could not stay out of trouble. If that was not enough, they fired coach Mike Pettine, brought in a “baseball guy” in Paul DePodesta to be the Chief Strategy Officer, and elevated former General Counsel for the team Sashi Brown to become Executive VP of Football Operations. Despite all of the changes and distractions they were able to hire Hue Jackson, former Raiders head coach and Bengals offensive coordinator. Here is a closer look at the Browns.
Strongest Position/Area: Left side of the Offensive Line. Despite all of the “eyesores” on offense for the Browns, the left side of the offensive line was a bright spot. Joe Thomas has and still is one of the premier offensive linemen in the game. He is technically sound and rarely gets beaten. Also, his durability has been astounding! He has never missed a start in nine seasons! Left guard Joel Bitonio has proven to be solid blocking in the running game, and is surprisingly athletic. This a really good tandem on the left side of the offensive line that is “holding down the fort” for the Browns.
Weakest Position/Area: Wide Receiver. This team did not have a lot of talent at wide receiver last season. Now, what will the Browns do without their two leading pass catchers at receiver in Travis Benjamin and Brian Hartline? Drafting Corey Coleman is a start, but they need more, a lot more. Andrew Hawkins is a slot receiver who has caught more than 50 passes only once. Taylor Gabriel has only started 6 games in his career. This is what the Browns have at their disposal right now. They have plenty of work to do.
Strongest Position/Area: Cornerback. Even though Joe Haden was hurt most of last season, he is still a very good player. Tramon Williams did a decent job as well. The Browns have depth at the position with Pierre Desir and Justin Gilbert. I think Coach Jackson can light a fire under Gilbert , who is talented yet undisciplined. Charles Gaines is a guy to watch as well.
Weakest Position/Area: Run Defense/Pass Rush. To have some much girth on the defensive line and be 27th in the NFL at stopping the run is pretty embarassing. They struggled mightily to contain the running game as opponents ran for 100 or more yards in 12 of the 16 games. The front seven has been ballyhooed as the strength of the team, but they have came up short too often in recent years. The pass rush is severely lacking as they only registered 29 sacks last season. There is no real threat of a rusher on defense. Barkevious Mingo has been a colossal disappointment registering only seven sacks in three seasons. Paul Kruger’s sack total went down to 2.5 after having an 11-sack season in 2014. The front seven has to start showing improvement of else.
Draft Report: The Browns did a great job of amassing draft picks, but I’m not sure if they picked a bunch of impact players. Corey Coleman was highly productive at Baylor, let’s see what he does in a pro-style offense. They drafted Ricardo Louis and Rashard Higgins to provide some depth. I can see Higgins getting a lot of snaps early. I like the picks of Carl Nassib and Emmanuel Ogbah a lot. They were highly-effective pass rushers in college, and hopefully helps this anemic pass rush. Quarterback Cody Kessler is an interesting “developmental” guy just in case RGIII does not work out.
Spotlight Player: Robert Griffin III. Speaking of Mr. Griffin, he is my spotlight player because he leaves Washington on shaky terms, and now arrives in Cleveland where they just got rid of another malcontent in Johnny Manziel. Griffin, by some accounts, was not well-liked by some of his Redskin teammates so image repair is needed. The good thing is Hue Jackson is a really good coach of quarterbacks and he has faith in Griffin. Sometimes it only takes one coach and team to show faith in a player. I believe Griffin still has a lot to offer talent-wise, and for a team that might just be the least talented team overall in the NFL, Cleveland needs all the talent they can nab. I do think he will be the starter week 1 of the season.
Up Next: Baltimore Ravens