2016 NFL Season Preview: Cleveland Browns

Free agent additions: QB Robert Griffin III, ILB DeMario Davis, S Rahim Moore

 

Free agent departures: C Alex Mack, S Tashaun Gipson, OT Mitchell Schwartz, SS Donte Whitner, WR Travis Benjamin, ILB Karlos Dansby, ILB Craig Robertson

 

Early Draft selections: WR Corey Coleman, DE Emmanuel Ogbah, DE Carl Nassib, OT Shon Coleman, QB Cody Kessler

 

Offense: Vinny Testaverde, Ty Detmer, Johnny Manziel, and now RGIII…the Browns have a history with Heisman QBs. RGIII has a lot of talent, but will he bring his “me-first” diva attitude? Or did he learn from his mistakes in Washington? His patience will certainly wear thin quickly playing in Cleveland. Hell, he’s not even technically the starter right now. Josh McCown is. I don’t think that will last long though. McCown is 36 and injury-prone. Also, when they lose a bunch, they will blame the starting QB as always. RGIII will get his shot.

As far as weapons, Gary Barnidge came out of nowhere to record 1,043 receiving yards and 9 TDs. He will serve as a serviceable receiver, but I’m not counting on those numbers happening again. Rookie Corey Coleman will provide some excitement and big plays, but I’m not sure he’s ready to be a “move the chains” type of receiver yet. The Browns will struggle to get first downs. Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson Jr. are the running backs, and they aren’t scaring anyone. The offensive line, led by Joe Thomas, will be decent, but it lost some talent as noted above. It certainly won’t be able to make up for the lack of ability at the skill positions.

 

Defense: It’s not much better on this side of the ball either. The defensive line consists of Xavier Cooper (new starter), the other Des(mond) Bryant (pretty good), and 2015 #12 pick Danny Shelton (needs to improve). If Cooper is good, it’s not a bad starting 3, but there is no depth behind them other than rookie Carl Nassib.

They will need to step up big in stopping the run, because the linebackers behind them all are no good. Paul Kruger, Barkevious Mingo, and Demario Davis are all disappointments. Chris Kirksey (who?) might actually be the best of the bunch. The Browns gave up 4.5 yards per rush last year, and it probably won’t get much better this season. I imagine Emmanuel Ogbah will take Mingo’s place at some point during the season. The Browns recorded only 29 sacks last year, so I’m sure they hope Ogbah can help improve that number.

In the secondary, the Browns lost the very talented Tashaun Gipson to Jacksonville. Rahim Moore is still young, but suffered a terrible injury 2 years ago that might still affect him. Joe Haden is looking for a bounce back year after an injury riddled 2015 season. The other starter is currently the 33 year old Tramon Williams, so it does not seem like Justin Gilbert will ever live up to his lofty draft status. The Browns gave up around a 102 QB rating to opposing quarterbacks last year, and unless Haden or one of their low draft picks steps up, it won’t be much better this year.

 

Special teams, schedule, and intangibles: The Browns are pretty good at returning kicks (25.3 yards per return) and punts (11.2 yards per return) themselves, but are terrible at covering punts, allowing 10.3 yards per return.

Placekicker Travis Coons is fairly accurate, going 28-32 last year, but does not have a very strong leg, as he went 0-2 from 50+ and only kicked 27 touchbacks in 70 attempts. He also missed 2 PATs.

Punter Andy Lee maintained a respectable 40.1 net punt average. It does not seem like he does his punt coverage unit any favors with a low number of punts downed inside the 20 as well as a low fair catch rate.

The Browns have an experienced coaching staff, but they have their work cut out for them. Hue Jackson will get the most out of his offense, but I don’t see it translating to wins just yet. Hopefully the Browns don’t feel like they need to start over in 2 years again.

If the Browns were good, they would have an awesome home-field advantage. Fans can’t win the game for you, however. The Browns went 2-6 at home last year, but took the Broncos to overtime and of course suffered through a blocked kick return TD on Monday night.

The Browns do not have ANY easy home games. The Cowboys and Chargers both figure to be better, and then the Browns have to deal with the Jets, Patriots, Giants, and AFC North teams. I could see them MAYBE beating the Jets, Giants, or Chargers, but they certainly won’t be favored in any of those games. As for road games, their best chance might be at Philadelphia in week 1 against an unhappy Sam Bradford.

 

Position Ratings (out of 5 stars):

browns stars

Summary: The Cavs won a championship, and who knows? Maybe the Indians will join them. What we do know for sure is that the Browns are the worst team in the NFL in 2016. They have been smart to hoard draft picks, and they might even get 2 picks in the top 5 in the 2017 NFL draft. However, when looking at this season, I see a team with no franchise player, no talent, and no hope.

 

Prediction: 1-15 (4th AFC North)

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