Cleveland Browns – 2014 Season in Review – Part I
Well, the Browns finally broke their streak of either four or five wins dating back to each season since 2007. They started slow, won some “easier” games in the middle of the schedule, and finished on a tough note. Let’s review what occurred for the Cleveland Browns over the past several months.
Free Agency: The two major acquisitions for the Browns were veteran linebacker Karlos Dansby (formerly of the Arizona Cardinals) and Donte Whitner (previously with the San Francisco 49ers). Both were dubbed as clubhouse leaders, whose mentality would rub off on teammates. Looking back, I am very grateful Ray Farmer secured this duo; I want to see these types of signings to occur annually (or at least until there are multiple verbal leaders already in place). The biggest decision last year to was re-sign center Alex Mack, whose mid-season injury proved the former California Bear’s worth.
2014 NFL Draft: Admittedly, I was surprised by the Browns’ activity on draft day. Instead of drafting fourth (and going for wide out Sammy Watkins), the Browns traded down with the Bills and scooped up Justin Gilbert at the eighth pick. I like obtaining the second first-rounder in 2015, but have been underwhelmed by his play. Hopefully, he gets his act together in his second season.
Many lauded the trade from the twenty-sixth to the twenty-second selection to grab Johnny Manziel. It’ s well known that I preferred Teddy Bridgewater, who put up better numbers as a rookie. The hype surrounding the kid is amazing, but so far the disappointment has been glaring. I really want him to improve (and quickly), but time will only tell.
The Joel Bitonio pick baffled me initially in the second round. News of Josh Gordon’s suspension trickled out a few hours earlier, so I was preparing for a Marquise Lee or Jordan Matthews in the second round. However, the lineman was the right call – the guard had an excellent year and I am glad Ray Farmer chose him. With the porous effort at right tackle, getting an athlete like Bitonio next year is a must.
Chris Kirksey and Terrance West were the other two picks that contributed frequently in their rookie campaigns. Both middle-round selections had their ups and downs, but I am glad that they are members of the Cleveland Browns. The inside linebacker held down the job while veteran Karlos Dansby’s knee injury caused him to miss multiple contests. The rookie rusher will be a fixture of this offense going forward; he filled in well this season, especially after the team jettisoned Ben Tate.
His running mate is one of the two gems the general manager found following the draft. Isaiah Crowell was a free agent pickup that had many great moments running the ball, and found the end zone eight times in the process. His output rivaled that of Trent Richardson, whom was a first-round pick that has declined greatly (in terms of output) since that year. K’Waun Williams is the other find by the Cleveland Browns; the cornerback accepted his role as a part-time (nickel or slot) cornerback over the season. I hope he continues to grow to the point of being a full-time starter as early as 2015.
Conclusion: It would appear that despite a few disappointing early picks; the Browns have some tremendous building blocks looking ahead. I would love to see something to rival this in 2015 – but we have to remember what went down to finish off 2014.