Some random thoughts as I enter the first season in the last couple years where I actually have hope.
Do Not Let The Browns Draft In The "50's"
David Veikune, #52 overall, 2009
Montario Hardesty, #59 overall, 2010
Bad luck and bad drafting (or both) have ensured that for the 2nd year in a row, the Browns get no production from 2 high picks. You are not going to be a long term winner if you keep tossing high picks away (see Browns, Cleveland, circa 1999-2009).
Easier To Find. Jimmy Hoffa Or Legitimate Depth On The Browns D-Line?
Hard question to answer. I'm going with Hoffa. That is one SCARY THIN UNIT. People tend to discount the importance of the defensive line in the 3-4 but look what happens to Pittsburgh everytime super stud end Aaron Smith goes down with an injury. They PLUMMET in production. The 3-4 defensive linemen, while not getting the press of the linebackers, can either tie up the blockers or give them an "OLE!'
See how many tackles Fujita can make with a 330 pound guard pulling in his face. Got to have a good D line in the 3-4. Right now the Browns line is just "ok" and is one injury away from being not so ok/abysmal.
Now For Something That's Really Different, Ladies And Gentleman, We Give You A REAL Offensive Line
Remember the days where we used to lament that the Browns would not invest a high pick on an offensive lineman? I remember it being big news when they actually spent a 3rd rounder on Melvin Fowler (remember him?). Now they have 3 starters that they invested a "first day pick" in. Yeah, yeah, I know that 3rd round is not "first day" anymore technically, but to me, 1st, 2nd or 3rd round is first day.
Joe Thomas (1), Alex Mack (1) and Shawn Lauvao (3) are all high Browns draft choices. Add in Eric Steinbach (2nd round pick of the Bengals) plus Tony Pashos (5th round pick of the Ravens) and you just may have something there!
It just goes to show what happens when you draft right and the picks work out. This could be a top 5, if not top 3 unit this year. Contrast the Browns offensive line with the Browns defensive line. No comparison.
The Browns Will NOT Suprise People With The Run
I really HOPE that what we witnessed in training camp was not Tim Couch and Kelly Holcomb all over again. Remember when they both lit up Green Bay in a preseason game and it looked like either one could take the keys of a Browns high powered offense and roll the league? Jake Delhomme and Seneca Wallace did look good but I temper that with the fact that they looked good against vanilla defenses that did not game plan against them. I am cautiously optimistic that the Browns passing game will improve (how could it get worse) because Delhomme and Wallace are simply better options and the Browns offensive line makes it easy for any QB to at least stay upright. I hope that's the case because the Browns will see a lot of "8 in the box" until they prove they can move the ball through the air.
Feeling Better About The Overall Defense
I like the investment the Browns have made in their linebackers and defensive backs. I think those 2 units will be hampered until the team can address the defensive line fully next season but there is a lot of talent roaming around in the back 2/3 of the Browns D. I really feel like the Browns, in spite of their defensive line problems will end up 15-20 in overall defense this year. That would be a huge improvement from the 25+ range they're usually in. Early on it will be a little tough as guys like Haden and Ward adjust to the pro game but overall I feel much better about the talent on this unit.
Teams Will Be Worn Out Playing The Browns
Joe Thomas leading the charge followed by Lawrence Vickers and then you have to tackle Peyton Hillis. As tough as James Harrison is, he will TIRE of that by the 3rd quarter for sure. After you get through 300+ pounds of Ahyta Rubin you then have 270-pound Matt Roth jacking you up. I'm betting Ray Rice won't like that combo too well in the couple meetings the Ravens have with Cleveland. The Browns still don't have some of the pieces they need but they, for the first time in many years, have some guys that will hit, hit, hit and then hit you some more for 4 quarters. I do not expect the playoffs (see below) but I do expect all of the Browns opponents to remember that they played a real smashmouth NFL team, especially in the whirlpool the next day.
Throw A Parade For 8-8
This is a team that could go 6-10, 7-9, 8-8 or 9-7. I don't see anything beyond that and really am thinking 7-9. A .500 record after YEARS of futility (the 2007 season notwithstanding) would be cause for celebration (and more hope) in the streets of Cleveland. If EVERYTHING and I mean EVERYTHING goes right, they could get to 9-7 and possibly sneak in for the 6th seed, but most likely we are looking at improvement but no playoffs.
As Long As It's Not Over By October
The last few years especially have been brutal. Not only are they bad but they're so bad, you are thinking by October that the season is completely over. This team, up until the final 4 games last year, has been UNWATCHABLE. I am not thinking that will be the case this year. The Browns will hang around all year, give us exciting games from time to time and be in the conversation in the AFC throughout the season, up until the end. It will be a stark difference from last season.
Overall I'm not feeling playoffs, but I am feeling this team's upswing.
Just don't let them draft in the 50's anymore.