NFL Preview: Cleveland Browns

Head Coach: Eric Mangini
Offensive Coordinator: Brian Daboll
Defensive Coordinator: Bob Ryan
Special Teams Coordinator: Brad Seely
Owner: Randolph Lerner

Offensive Starters (Projected)
QB: Jake Delhomme
HB: Jerome Harrison
FB: Lawrence Vickers
WR: Joshua Cribbs
WR: Mohamed Massaquoi
LT: Joe Thomas
LG: Eric Steinbach
C: Alex Mack
RG: Floyd Womack
RT: John St. Clair
TE: Ben Watson

Defensive Starters (Projected)
DE: Robaire Smith
DE: Kenyon Coleman
DT: Shaun Rogers
LB: David Bowens
LB: Eric Barton
LB: D’Qwell Jackson
LB: Matt Roth
CB: Joe Haden
CB: Sheldon Brown
FS: TJ Ward
SS: Abram Elam

Special Teams
K: Phil Dawson
P: Dave Zastudil

@ Tampa Bay
Kansas City
@ Baltimore
@ Pittsburgh
@ New Orleans
New England
New York Jets
@ Jacksonville
@ Miami
@ Buffalo
@ Cincinnati

Position Battles:
This team returns a lot of starters from last year’s team, so there aren’t a lot of battles going on in camp.

One of the battles is at Corner, the team brought in Sheldon Brown and drafted Joe Haden to compliment Eric Wright, and both have more talent than Wright and should take the starting positions. A lot will depend on how quickly Haden can adjust to the NFL.

Outside Linebacker could be another position in flux. Matt Roth is more of a pass rush threat and the team added Scott Fujita and Chris Gocong in the offseason, both players who could step up and take the starting spot opposite David Bowens.

Rookies to Watch:
Haden was the first round pick and if he adjusts quickly, he’ll be a key to the teams’ season.

Another key to the season could be TJ Ward at safety. He’s got very good speed for a safety and is really good at reading the QBs eyes. He’s been injury prone in college, but has the talent to make a big impact on the defense.

The rookie who could make the biggest impact is Montario Hardesty. He’s not going to start because Jerome Harrison is primed for a breakout season, but Hardesty could be a shortyard/goalline threat as he’s a bigger body and can excel running between the tackles. Because of that, he’s going to get carries. He’ll probably steal a couple TDs and he might become the 4th quarter running back when they are trying to run the clock out.

Season Expectations:
The Browns finished on a high note last season winning their final 4 games of the year. The schedule and division they play in won’t do them any favors as far as improving their win total from last year, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be an improved team from last year. If Jake Delhomme can recapture some of his past magic, the team is going to be very competitive. If he’s throwing picks at the rate he started last season, the team might take a step backwards. Colt McCoy needs a few weeks to a year at least to get adjusted to life in the NFL, so throwing him into the mix to early won’t help if they start off on the wrong foot. At running back, Jerome Harrison was the key to the team’s great play down the stretch last year and will be a big part of any success this season. Having Hardesty alongside takes some pressure and a lot of hits away from him, helping him to stay healthy throughout the year. WR is still a thin position in Cleveland, Cribbs is getting better but is not a number 1 receiver, and Massaquoi isn’t suited to be a number 1 either, although he’ll probably put up the closest to number 1 numbers. The O-line is as steady as they come, Thomas is a stud at LT, Steinbach is one of the best guards in the league and Alex Mack is taking big steps at center. I think the offense is going to struggle this year and it will most likely be the weak link that holds them back.

The defense on the other hand should be much improved off of last year’s efforts. They were slightly worse than middle of the pack last season, but they were also decimated by injuries throughout the year. If they can stay even half as healthy as last season they have to step forward. Shaun Rogers can still be a disruptive force on the inside that can single handedly contain a running game if he’s motivated to do so. The linebackers should be strength again this year with a healthy D’Qwell Jackson and Eric Barton for the full season. Combine that with a full season of Matt Roth, the addition of Chris Gocong and Scott Fujita and they have plenty of depth and talent at the middle level. On the backside they added a lot of talent during the draft starting with Joe Haden in the first round and TJ Ward in the second round. Both should make an impact on the defense this year. Sheldon Brown and Eric Wright give Haden a pair of veterans to learn from before he takes over as a starter. Overall the defense and running game should keep the team in most of their games, but if they have to rely on the passing game they will be in trouble. I don’t think they are going to add many wins off of last year’s team, but that should help them heading forward as they’ll have another early draft pick that they can finally use on a playmaker on offense. (Paging AJ Green…)

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