Friday, August 12, 2011

NFL 32 in 32: Cleveland Browns

Where has the promise from the 2007 season gone? They were a tiebreaker away from making the postseason, to going 4-12, 5-11, then 5-11 again. Now that Mike Holmgren has gotten his feet in the sand in Cleveland, he's finally starting to make some moves, starting with the new head coach Pat Shurmur. Has there been enough changes for this team to compete? Or will it be the same old, same old Browns?

What's New: Mostly, the newness is in the coaching staff. Pat Shurmur was the offensive coordinator for 2 years in St. Louis before coming over to Cleveland, and he will look to implement a new style for an offense that has needed it plenty in the past 3 years. There is a new defensive coordinator too in Dick Jauron. He has proven that he can change a defense in many ways, and he's done that in the past. Without the head coaching duties, he can step back and really focus on a defense that can be good, but needs more tutoring. They only made 2 free agent signings of any note, CB Dmitri Patterson from Philadelphia, and RB Brandon Jackson from Green Bay, to complement Peyton Hillis. 1st round pick Phil Taylor will look to anchor a defensive line that needs one badly.

Biggest Strength: Their running game. Peyton Hillis has gone from one of the many backs in the rotation in Denver, to being on the Madden cover in Cleveland. He surprised everyone last year with his performance, and he'll look to do that again in the face of the Madden Curse. Brandon Jackson will also help spell Hillis when needed. The offensive line in front of both of the backs and QB Colt McCoy is also very good, led by Joe Thomas and Eric Steinbach.

Biggest Weakness: They are sorely lacking talent on the defensive side of the ball. Dmitri Patterson will help the secondary, but he was a liability in Philadelphia. There is some young talent there, but there is not enough talent ready right now to make this defense good enough, even with Dick Jauron's tutelage. Offensively, their only wideout of note is Josh Cribbs, and while he is explosive, he's really the only choice Colt McCoy has on offense. Brian Robiskie is up and coming, but not quickly enough it seems. Mohamed Massaquoi is also a good target, but he has had injury problems.

Outlook: It seems like the rebuild is taking more time than expected, and Cleveland fans will have to wait a little longer for this team to truly be a contender. Good work has been done and a decent foundation has been set, but there isn't enough there right now for this team to be a threat for a playoff spot just yet.

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