NFL PREVIEW: CLEVELAND BROWNS
June 20, 2012INDIANA SPORTS PAGE
Cleveland Browns Preview by Kelci Baker, EIHSS Sports
Last year: 4-12, 4th in AFC North, missed playoffs
After going 4-12 in 2008 and 5-11 in 2009, Browns President Mike Holmgren had a lot of worries going into the 2010 season. Under head coach Eric Mangini, the team went 5-11 and 4-12 in Pat Shurmur's first year last season. Instead of finding something to immediately fix the problems, Holmgren is banking on free agency and building through the draft alongside general manager Tom Heckert. Out of 53 total players on the roster last year, 13 of them were Heckert draft choices and another, safety T.J. Ward, finished the season on injured reserve. What the Browns expect is about eight of this year's draft picks to make the final roster. With a 0-6 record against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC North, making the playoffs this coming season would be an amazing achievement.
Brad Childress uses a West Coast style offense for the Browns. It's his first year as offensive coordinator after being offensive coordinator for the Philadelphia Eagles. Coach Shurmur was under him as quarterbacks coach. Because both of them learned their game from Any Reid with the Eagles, there should be no changes in offensive philosophy. A sign that they won't be pass crazy this coming season is with the third overall pick in the draft, running back Trent Richardson. Having to replace Colt McCoy is soon to be 29-year-old rookie quarterback Brandon Wheeden. The Browns believe he'll be more accurate and has a stronger arm than McCoy and will make the receivers better. There's no way to know for certain until the season gets underway if that's true. Improving the right side offensive line was a priority for the team during offseason. How quickly 37th overall pick Mitchell Schwartz learns the system at right tackle will factor in to how successful the Browns are as a unit.
Under defensive coordinator Dick Jauron, the Browns used their 4-3 style to finish second in pass defense, and allowed only 307 points, the fifth fewest in the NFL last year. Leading the team with 8.5 sacks and five forced fumbles was second-year end Jabaal Sheard. If he keeps up that same momentum, he should exceed those numbers in the coming year. Confidence lies greatly in cornerback Joe Haden. The Browns assign him the opponent's best receivers each week. Cleveland is solid up the middle with Ahtyba Rubin and Phil Taylor at tackle. D'Qwell Jackson anchors the middle linebacker position. After missing the last six games the season because of a foot injury, T.J. Ward is back as a healthy strong safety. This team has to prepare for a heavy quarterback schedule. They'll be facing Eli Manning, Peyton Manning, Philip Rivers, Carson Palmer, Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III. The defense will be tested when they get to these games. They were 30th against the run last year, and now they need more consistency from Taylor. The team has faced other problems such as linebacker Scott Fujita, 33, not only finished each of the last two years on injured reserve, he also was suspended three games after what is being called, the Bounty-gate investigation.
The Browns special teams were sloppy at best under coordinator Chris Tabor. Two field goals were blocked, and they gave up a TD on a fake field goal and a kick return. Steady in their spots are kicker Phil Dawson, punter Reggie Hodges and return specialist Joshua Cribbs. Replacing Ryan Pontbriand at midseason was long snapper Christian Yount who brought with him some stability.
Shurmur has an offensive coordinator he's familiar with which helped him settle in and will further help him as he starts his second year as head coach. He'll continue to call plays and aid in the game plan.
RB Trent Richardson of Alabama was the best out of the 11 picks the Browns received in the 2012 draft. They hope that he can lead Mike Holmgren's Browns to the Super Bowl the same way former Alabama back Shaun Alexander did for Holmgren's Seattle Seahawks.
RB Trent Richardson. Alabama
First round. 3rd pick overall.
QB Brandon Weeden. Oklahoma State
First round. 22nd pick overall.
There was a chance he'd still be available in the second round but Cincinnati didn't want to take the chance
T Mitchell Schwartz. California
Second round. 37th pick overall.
He's expected to start on the right side
NT John Hughes. Cincinnati
Third round. 87th pick overall.
This pick gives the Browns depth
WR Travis Benjamin. Miami (Fla.)
Fourth round. 100th pick overall.
Bejamin will be returning punts, kicks
LB James-Michael Johnson. Nevada
Fourth round. 120th pick overall.
He'll be used as backup for D'Qwell Jackson
OL Ryan Miller. Colorado
Fifth round. 160th pick overall.
He has the ability to play both RG or RT
LB Emmanuel Acho. Texas
Sixth round. 204th pick overall.
Had a team high 131 tackles
DL Billy Winn. Boise State
Sixth round. 205th pick overall.
More than likely, he'll play tackle
CB Trevin Wade. Arizona
Seventh round. 245th pick overall.
He can play the nickel
TE Brad Smelley. Alabama
Seventh round. 247th pick overall.
He caught 34 passes last season
Cleveland's 2012 Regular-Season Schedule
Week 2, Sept. 16: Cleveland Browns vs. Cincinnati Bengals, 1 p.m. ET, CBS
Week 3, Sept. 23: Buffalo Bills vs. Cleveland Browns, 1 p.m. ET, CBS
Week 4, Sept. 27: Cleveland Browns vs. Baltimore Ravens, 8:20 p.m. ET, NFL Network
Week 5, Oct. 7: Cleveland Browns vs. New York Giants, 1 p.m. ET, FOX
Week 6, Oct. 14: Cincinnati Bengals vs. Cleveland Browns, 1 p.m. ET, CBS
Week 7, Oct. 21: Cleveland Browns vs. Indianapolis Colts, 1 p.m. ET, CBS
Week 8, Oct. 28: San Diego Chargers vs. Cleveland Browns, 1 p.m. ET, CBS
Week 9, Nov. 4: Baltimore Ravens vs. Cleveland Browns, 1 p.m. ET, CBS
Week 10, Nov. 11: BYE
Week 11, Nov. 18: Cleveland Browns vs. Dallas Cowboys, 1 p.m. ET, FOX
Week 12, Nov. 25: Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Cleveland Browns, 1 p.m. ET, CBS
Week 13, Dec. 2: Cleveland Browns vs. Oakland Raiders, 4:15 p.m. ET, CBS
Week 14, Dec. 9: Kansas City Chiefs vs. Cleveland Browns, 1 p.m. ET, CBS
Week 15, Dec. 16: Washington Redskins vs. Cleveland Browns, 1 p.m. ET, CBS
Week 16, Dec. 23: Cleveland Browns vs. Denver Broncos, 4:05 p.m. ET, CBS
Week 17, Dec. 30: Cleveland Browns vs. Pittsburgh Steelers, 1 p.m. ET, CBS
Unsigned Draft Pick