NFL Season Preview: Cleveland Browns Search for an Identity
The entire Browns franchise is in limbo. With team owner Jimmy Haslam embroiled in his Flying J controversy, the team has made wholesale changes across the board. Haslam sought to place his stamp on the team by bringing in his own general manager, who in turn brought in his own head coach – Rob Chudzinski, the former offensive coordinator of the Carolina Panthers. His new offensive coordinator is Norv Turner, the renown offensive guru of the past 20 years in the NFL. It is clear that the Browns are focusing their efforts on improving upon a very stagnant and, at times, inept offense from 2012.
Brandon Weeden appears to be getting the nod at QB going forward, as is Trent Richardson as lead RB. Joe Thomas is the best left tackle in the NFL. However, after that, there is uncertainty galore at nearly every position on both sides of the ball for the Browns.
The team brought in veteran QB Jason Campbell to serve as Brandon Weeden’s mentor/backup. They jettisoned Colt McCoy and brought in Brian Hoyer to serve as third-string QB. The RB corps is unimpressive aside from Richardson; featuring newly-acquired Dion Lewis from Philadelphia, Brandon Jackson from the Packers and returning Montario Hardesty. The WR corps is apparently in a state of flux, with Josh Gordon facing a potential year-long suspension due to a variety of substance abuse issues. Greg Little has had troubles hanging on to the football. The team has given up on Josh Cribbs, as they felt that he had lost a step and was not a suitable threat in any way outside of special teams going forward. Travis Benjamin and Davone Bess figure to be go-to targets for Weeden, given that oft-injured Mohamed Massaquoi moved on to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Cleveland drafted highly-touted Barkevious Mingo to play DE/OLB, and figures to be an immediate contributor to go along with Phil Taylor and Billy Winn on the defensive line. The Browns’ LB corps may be the lone strength of the team. Led by D’Qwell Jackson, newly-signed Paul Kruger and veteran Quentin Groves, there will be plays made by this unit. The question marks surround the younger, rotational players that have been recently drafted. The Browns need contributions from these players, particularly since their secondary was amongst the worst in the NFL last season. TJ Ward and Joe Haden are stars in the making, but fringe players like Buster Skrine and Chris Owens are nothing to write home about. The Browns like Eric Hagg, however. They will need serious improvement in play from the secondary if they are to escape the AFC North basement in 2013.
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