Where We Stand – the Cleveland Browns – Part I
Now come the multiple weeks in between the Browns holding minicamp and training camp, and our opportunity to analyze the many assets on the roster. Granted, fans have only been able to see the players participate in shorts, but that hasn’t stopped my breakdown before. Training camp and the preseason will be extremely telling for all members of the team – I am hopeful many can continue to improve during that period. First, we look at the offensive side of the ball and thoughts about those athletes.
Quarterbacks: Right now it appears that it is Josh McCown and then a bunch of other guys. I am happy to hear he is looking very well in practice, but he has not been facing pressure and complex defensive schemes. I am reluctant to completely buy in, I just want a quarterback who can keep the team in games and do what it takes to achieve victories. I have no expectations for Johnny Manziel, but if he is able to act like a pro and limit his mistakes this summer – maybe he will get his shot down the road.
Running Backs: I really want to see what this group can do in 2015. Duke Johnson, Isaiah Crowell, and Terrance West each possess unique traits and abilities. The Browns were expected to have a solid running attack unit last year, but the wheels fell off mid-season what Ben Tate lost his mind (not literally). Throwing more to these guys will be a critical part of the offense, and welcomed by me as the Browns have strayed away from this aspect for many years. Each of these three bring something different to the table, and I anticipate weekly offensive game plans to revolve around the team grinding out many yards with the running backs.
Wide Receivers: The lightning rod of the offense, this group has been debated frequent by both local and nation media. Are they the worst group in the NFL, or are they underrated? Dwayne Bowe and Brian Hartline, while not flashy, will run proper routes and secure catches when given an opportunity. I am very excited to see the growth in Taylor Gabriel; he appears to “get it” and should improve upon a solid rookie campaign. Vincent Mayle might surprise us all and have a great rookie campaign, while if Andrew Hawkins performs up to expectations in the slot role – this gang can be a very good one.
Tight Ends: Rob Housler, Gary Barnidge, Jim Dray, and maybe E.J. Bibb? That’s whom the Browns are trotting out at tight end this season. Expectations are far from high, but as long as this group does what is asked (hauling in occasional passes and can block consistently), I will not be disappointed. There will not be a Jimmy Graham type of performance from this unit, but making the most of their opportunities is all I ask.
Offensive Line: Here’s where the offense will hang their hat during the 2015 season. Whether it’s opening up holes for rushers or keeping the signal caller upright, the five men upfront should be performing exceptionally from summer to winter. Drafting Cameron Erving should provide depth that was lacking last year. My hopes are high for the line – why can’t the offense flourish with a tremendous front (it worked for the Cowboys in 2014)?