What if I said the Browns could turn their fortunes around this year--dramatically. Before you turn me completely off, hear me out.
Just last year the Browns were 4-12 and they didn’t seem to have made much progress. So what could the Browns possibly do to make a dramatic turnaround.
Copy their rival!
Besides bordering on blasphemy, Browns fans can only look down Interstate-71 and see what the division rival Cincinnati Bengals did a year ago in the draft. Most experts would say the Browns biggest problem was on offense—an understatement to say the least—because the Browns scored under 13 points a game.
The defense kept the Browns competitive for most of the games last year, but the offense was missing in action. I know the Browns were ranked as a top 10 defense, but statistics are deceptive and the Browns have the foundation for a good defense. However, I’m not going to label them as an elite defense.
A year ago, the Bengals realized that Carson Palmer was serious about his threat to retire rather than play again with the Bengals. They used their second-round draft choice to select Andy Dalton from Texas Christian. Dalton became the starter from Day One and he went on to lead the Bengals to a dramatic turnaround.
The Bengals were 4-12 in 2010 as well, and last year improved markedly to 9-7 and made the playoffs as a Wild Card team. Granted, the Bengals had a pretty good defense, but the offense is what helped them turn their record around. Dalton completed 58.1 percent of his passes, while throwing for 3,398 yards. He threw for 20 touchdowns and had 13 interceptions with an 80.4 QB rating.
The running game was similar to the 2009 season with Cedric Benson being the primary ball carrier. However, the Bengals dropped Chad Ochoconco and drafted A.J. Green with their top draft pick.
Green was truly a difference maker as he caught 65 passes for 1,057 yards and seven touchdowns.
In the draft, the Browns added three starters to the offense and those three could improve the offense significantly. Brandon Weeden, presumably will step in immediately and take over the offense.
Sure, he will have growing pains, but it is very conceivable that he could play as well as Dalton did as a rookie, or possibly even better.
A big part of Dalton’s success was the emergence of Green. The Browns first pick, Trent Richardson could easily make as big, if not bigger impact on the Browns offense as to what Green did. If Las Vegas were to put odds on Richardson’s numbers, I would take the over that he would account for more than 1,057 yards and seven touchdowns in the Browns offense this year. Primarily, because he’s a double threat, rushing and catching passes out of the backfield.
The biggest negative to date is the Browns have added only a fourth-round draft choice in Travis Benjamin at the wide receiver position. They have not added any veterans through free agency, nor draft a receiver with one of their top picks. It will be very interesting to see if Weeden makes the existing receiving corps better like Pat Shurmur and Tom Heckert intimated.
The Browns opted to add Mitchell Schwartz to play right tackle with the 37th pick, rather than select a receiver. I would’ve preferred they would’ve signed an unrestricted free agent like Eric Winston to play tackle and then they could’ve gone after a receiver.
However, Schwartz should provide instant improvement over the hobbled Tony Pashos from a year ago. We’ll see if adding the running back or the wide receiver was the more important way to go—or if really the quarterback was the real key.
So, if Dalton and Green can play a big part in turning the Bengals around, there is optimism that it could happen with the Browns.
Random Thoughts on Backup QB: I got a kick out of hearing QB Seneca Wallace on a local radio station this week talking about his role in mentoring rookie QB Brandon Weeden in the West Coast offense. Ironically, last year, he said it wasn’t his responsibility to mentor Colt McCoy and lobbied to the media about being the starter. Now, Wallace realizes that he’s not going to start since the Browns drafted Weeden to start and he’s lobbying to stay as the backup for the Browns. It’s funny what $2.5 million will make you say.
I am in the minority, but I believe that McCoy would be the better option as the backup. He has the personality to handle being the backup and he knows he will get another chance, either by injury or with another team. If McCoy is better than Wallace, he should be the backup. I don’t buy the line about the divided locker room. The players know what a No. 1 draft choice means and they will follow Weeden, especially as McCoy will not cause strife in the locker room. We all know the recent history of quarterbacks in Cleveland and virtually every year the starter goes down with an injury, thus McCoy would be a better option than Wallace, if that happens.
In addition, McCoy makes around $500,000 this year and is much younger than Wallace. However, Wallace has a longer history with Mike Holmgren than McCoy does. It will be interesting how this plays out.