Here is my annual Cleveland Browns preview:
This Browns team has been completely turned over. Gone are the types of players you just cannot win with – low effort, low ceiling players. Now this team is built around talent and attitude. Leadership is at every position group. We are ready to reap benefits of the awful Sashi years (and even further back).
Quarterback: Ladies and gentlemen, WE HAVE A QUARTERBACK. This is not a drill. Grab your beer and stay calm. Well, we have two. They say if you have two then you have none. Well I have watched the Browns my whole life and I sure as hell know what it looks like when you don’t have a Quarterback. So give me 2. We have a steady veteran in Tyrod Taylor. He is shifty and can move the chains with his legs. He throws a beautiful deep ball and is above average in his accuracy. Leads one to ask “well how the hell did we acquire him then?” Because Buffalo is crazy. He doesn’t take too many chances but what was Buffalo before Tyrod? They looked a lot like Cleveland before Tyrod. I watched a Quarterback throw a ton of interceptions last year, go ahead Tyrod – be conservative. With all that being said, look at his weapons and defense. If he doesn’t turn it over, we are a playoff team. (That was scary to type…it felt pretty cool, though). Oh, and we have Baker $%#&ing Mayfield sitting there waiting on his turn. He is our future. He might already be better than Tyrod, this is Tyrod’s time and team. I cannot wait to see what it looks like when Mayfield is running this team. I have already bought a jersey (it was one of those $17 ones from China, I should have it before his Hall of Fame speech). WE HAVE A QUATERBACK(s). Group Grade: B+++++
Running Back: As an Ohio State fan, I always wanted Carlos Hyde as the Browns RB. Seems like the perfect bulldozer for Lake Erie football. Admittedly, I have drooled about Chubb being our RB since I saw him first play at Georgia. I had a joke here, but I have two daughters so I am not going to say anything about Chubb’s last name to describe my excitement of him in a Browns uniform. Moving on. Duke Johnson is going to have himself a year in Haley’s offense. He is going to be all over the place. I expect to see him in one of the slots in every passing situation and in all no huddle situations. I like the idea of using him in the backfield pre-snap and motioning him to get the defense to show something pre-snap. I like everything about this group. This group can run it down your throat, catch swing passes and punish DBs, and they can do it as a group – so they will be fresh. Group Grade: A-
Wide Receiver and Tight End: We are stacked here. You know it. I know it. The league knows it. It starts with Gordon. His highs have been high (you know what I mean). He is the most talented WR in the league when he is playing. Probably even when he’s not playing – I’ve never understood that phrase. If he is out there, nobody is stopping him. The defense has to shift coverage. The defense has to step back and open up our run game. When that coverage shifts, we have Juice ready to Bless’em. Easily the best slot receiver in football and on pace to be the best slot receiver to ever play the game. Dolphins gave up on him because he’s a diva. Get us to the playoffs and diva your ass off, bruh. We have two players in this group that have the potential to take our offense to another level – Rashard Higgins and Antonio Callaway. If one of them takes off, we have a top 5 offense. If they both take off, we have the scariest offense in the league. Higgins has been a victim of our QB play (along with all of us fans too) since he has been in Cleveland. He has been in positions to make big plays, just hasn’t been allowed to. Callaway should never have been there in the draft where we got him. He was the most talented receiver in the draft. But he likes the weed and other students credit cards. Oh well. Just go Bless’em. David Njoku is going to be a bigtime name at the end of this year. He is a freak amongst freaks. Last year he made plays in the red zone. This year he is going to make plays everywhere. Seth DeValve (Smart Gronk) just needs to get healthy and he is a decent playmaker. Not sure how often he sees the field with Gordon, Landry, Njoku, Higgins, Callaway, and Duke all ahead of him in the ‘pass catching’ depth chart. Not to mention Fells is our blocking TE. But that is a good problem to have. Group Grade: A
Defensive Line: “We have the best Defensive End in the NFL.” At the end of the season, you can say this – and it will be 100% true. Myles Garrett is a monster and this season is going to be painful for opposing QBs. Ogbah better be what Dorsey thought he was when he passed on Bradley Chubb in the draft. He showed plenty of flashes prior to his injury last year. If he puts it together this year, our defense is going to be scary. On the interior, I am excited to see what kind of step Oganjobi and Coley will take this year. They both have all the potential in the world. Both can squeeze gaps and collapse the pocket. But can they both do it throughout a 16 game season when they are counted on? We gon’ learn this year. We need to get deeper here. Injuries to any of our 4 starters is going to be tough to overcome. If we stay healthy, these guys are an above average group all together. Garrett definitely elevates them. Cross your fingers that we stay healthy. Group Grade: B
Linebackers: The loss of Kendricks is a blow. With him, we were the deepest, most talented LB group in the league. You tell me a team that can boast 4 linebackers of Kendricks, Shobert, Collins, and Kirksey – while only needing to play a max of 3 of them at a time. With that said, we are pretty good here. We have 3 linebackers that are pro-bowl potential. Burgess is one of the best backup linebackers in the league and has shown he can step in and ball out when he is needed. If Collins can return to his New England form, we might lead the league in sacks and takeaways. Group Grade: B+
Defensive Backs: Yeah, who knows with this group. Our best player (Denzel Ward) is a rookie. Our second best (Damarious Randle) player is switching positions from last year and will be approximately 76 yards off the line of scrimmage. We have 2 pretty decent strong safeties who might as well be considered linebackers. I’m not sure they can cover a tight-end if they both tried at the same time and their lives depended on it. Terrence Mitchell might be a brilliant free agent find. I have no idea what sport Carrie was playing during the preseason. EJ Gaines can be a player in the secondary, if he hurries up and gets healthy. BBC (Briean Boddy-Calhoun, you weirdos) is the only thing we have that is a known commodity in this defense. He is one of the best slot corners in the league, but we are trying to play him at FS. This position group have the potential to look like our QB group for the last 20 years. But, Ward seems ready for the league, Mitchell has been great in camp and preseason, and Randall is a great athlete for the backend of the defense. This group just needs to be opportunistic and take advantage of that pass rush. Basically, what I am saying is they will be cheering for Myles to get to the QB more than us fans. Group Grade: B-
Coaching staff: I don’t know what type of pictures Hue has of the Haslams but they are not going to fire him. No matter what. Not ever. Not even if there is a fire. I want to see those pictures….. Anyways. Todd Haley was the most significant assistant coach hire in the offseason of any sport. Whatever it takes to stop that Hue Jackson offense. I can’t wait to see him get into rhythm with Tyrod. Mid-season, this offense is going to be amazing to watch. Gregg Williams is still a great defensive coordinator. Even though he basically runs punt block every play like a 7-year-old playing Madden (I was that kid). Has anyone ever considered how great he would be if he actually used all 11 players on defense. Oh well, we will never know.
Division outlook: Steelers are still the Steelers. Although they ain’t quite those Steelers anymore. They are vulnerable now. The Ravens have no idea what is going on anymore. They actually think Lamar Jackson can play QB in the league. Nobody tell them that he can’t. This is gonna be funny to watch. Until then, they are going to play Flacco. Yeah, I’m not worried. The Bengals will be Bengal average again. Probably 7-9. That seems like a Marvin Lewis thing to do. Prediction: Browns win the division. Give me some Koolaid, baby.