Babes Breaks Down The Competition In The AFC North: Cleveland Browns

Featured, Sports and Bets — July 30, 2014 at 10:05 pm by

by Babes

Sizing ‘Em Up: Browns

NFL training camps are in progress and the first preseason games are within sight.  It’s football season, babes, and it’s time to take a close look at each of the Ravens’ AFC North divisional foes.  Today I’m breaking down the perennial cellar dwellers, the Cleveland Browns.  We’ve all heard the phrase “taking the Browns to the Super Bowl,” when somebody has to take a shit, but I’m actually thinking this year they may actually crawl out of the crapper and challenge for third place in the division.

The offense has been atrocious in Cleveland basically since they came back into the league in ’99.  That’s what happens when you go through starting quarterbacks like Charlie Sheen does hookers.  This year they go into camp with a quarterback battle brewing between incumbent Brian Hoyer, who is coming off an ACL tear, and rookie first round pick Johnny Manziel.  Hoyer did play well last year when it was his turn, but only got three starts before tearing up his knee.  He is the favorite to start opening day, possibly just for the fact that Manziel is too immature and too raw to take the reigns right away.  No matter who starts in September, it will be Johnny Football taking over the starting gig at some point this season.

Whoever is in at quarterback at whatever point of the season should have the luxury of being able to lean on a strong ground game.  New offensive coordinator Kyle Shannahan is very capable of designing a productive running game, no matter which QB is handing the ball off.  If Hoyer is in there look for more of a traditional attack.  When Manziel gets his crack, look for Shannahan to implement some of the zone read he had so much success with in Washington with RG3.

The Browns had a big need at running back and they did a good job of addressing that need this offseason.  They signed Ben Tate to a very cap friendly deal and they drafted  local Towson product Terrance West in the third round (Right before the Ravens were gonna take him.).  The two should make a formidable one-two punch that is more than capable of toting the rock effectively thirty-plus times a game.  They also have Dion Lewis as a speed/third down back and “do everything” utility fullback Chris Ogbonnaya.  All four backs are capable of catching the ball out of the backfield.

At wide receiver the Browns are waiting to hear the fate of all-world star Josh Gordon.  The guy can play his nuts off, but man, he is a dumbass.  With two failed drug tests and then a DWI, he is facing a one year suspension.  Without Gordon in the lineup, the 2014 Browns might make the 2000 Ravens’ passing game look explosive.  As it stands now, the Browns will start Ed McCaffery and Herman Moore at receiver…ugh…. I mean Miles Austin and Nate Burleson.  All joking aside, that starting pair is by far the worst pair of starting receivers in the league, and maybe one of the worst ever.  There is a bright spot in the slot, however, with the explosive Andrew Hawkins.  The trouble with him is that he’s 5’7″ and 170 pounds, so durability will be an issue.

At tight end, the Browns’ Jordan Cameron broke out last year with nine touchdowns.  He is looking impossible to cover thus far in camp, but he will undoubtedly be the opposing defenses’ main focus in pass coverage.  The Browns signed Jim Dray away from the Cardinals in the offseason and he is an above average blocker with pass catching skills.  Gary Barnidge is strictly a blocking tight end, and two years ago he was rated the best blocking tight end in the business.  I see this as a definite strength of the Browns.

The offensive line as a whole is a top-ten unit in the league.  Joe Thomas at left tackle is the best in the NFL at his position….period.  Center Alex Mack was basically trapped in Cleveland this offseason, but he will return as a top-five center.  Rookie second round pick Joel Bitonio will start at one of the guard spots, with John Greco manning the other guard spot.  Mitchell Schwartz starts at right tackle, rounding out an average right side of the line.  Joe Thomas masks a whole lot of insufficiencies along the rest of the line because the Browns can always slide protection away from him.  That makes an average right side seem above average.  Overall, I would say the Browns sport the best offensive line in the division.

On defense, this team will remind you a lot of an old Raven defense.  Of course, head coach Mike Pettine is a disciple of Rex Ryan and his all-out attacking style of defense.  The Browns traded back and then up again to snag corner Justin Gilbert at eighth overall in the draft.  This move ensured Pettine could play the aggressive defense he wants with two ball hawking corners that can play man-to-man and be left alone on their own islands.  The Browns also made a splash in free agency by signing vets Karlos Dansby and Donte Whitner.  Dansby solidifies the front seven with his presence in the middle.  Dansby is an above average run stopper and an excellent blitzer and pass rusher from inside.

The Browns play a 3-4 front with massive fatty Phil Taylor clogging up the middle.  Ahtyba Rubin and Desmond Bryant play the defensive end spots to round out an average defensive line.  The outside line backing core is a team strength, with Jabaal Sheard leading the way.  Sheard is the team’s best pass rusher.  Former Raven Paul Kruger plays the other outside spot, but he has not lived up to the massive contract he signed two years ago.  The Browns used the sixth overall pick two years ago to take pass rusher Barkevious Mingo to augment the pass rush. Mingo reportedly has added some weight to his frame, which should help him better deal with the massive offensive tackles he faces.

As I mentioned before, the Browns now employ two top cover corners. Joe Haden is a top five corner, and Justin Gilbert was the consensus top corner in the draft this year.  Both excel in man coverage, which should take pressure off of the safeties.  Donte Whitner is a great hitter, but his range has shortened considerably over the years.  At free safety, Tashaun Gipson quietly snagged six interceptions last year.  Buster Skine makes for a solid nickel corner to round out the starting secondary.  This group is very opportunistic and should have no problem creating takeaways.

Special teams are below average for the Browns. Billy “I Miss Big Kicks For a Living” Cundiff handles the placekicking duties.  Travis Benjamin will most likely win the returner job, a far cry from the days of Josh Cribbs.

Overall, I see the Browns running the ball and playing good defense.  That formula is good for at least five or six wins.  I just don’t see Brian Hoyer being able to make enough plays in the passing game early in the season without Josh Gordon.  I see a two and four start that leads to Johnny Football’s chance at starting.  I think it will be exciting, but the Browns are no better then 7-9 this year.

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