The Browns have reached the halfway point of their season at 3-5, so it’s time to assess how everyone has faired up to this point. Remember, these grades are far from final and there will still be some extra credit opportunities. Think Jaguars at home in Week 13.
Brian Hoyer’s two weeks of “B” grades saves the group from the “F” Brandon Weeden earned. Weeden can now repeat the course next summer, somewhere else. Probably when he returns to Oklahoma State at 31. Joking aside, the second half of the season is looking up with Jason Campbell in, simply because Weeden has likely flunked out for good.
Trading starter Trent Richardson in the third week of the regular season hasn’t changed the lack of production at running back. Willis McGahee has shown only brief flashes of his former self and isn’t prepared for the grind of an NFL season.
In a word, the play of the Browns receiving corps could best be described as horrendous. A lack of receiving depth had supposedly been addressed by trading for Davone Bess in the offseason. Bess has been a colossal disappointment and one of the biggest offenders where this group has been downright dreadful; Dropped passes. Josh Gordon’s play can’t save this group. Even he’s had his ups and downs.
Jordan Cameron’s emergence in the first half of the season has exceeded all expectation. Cameron leads all tight ends in receptions and is second only to Jimmy Graham in yardage.
The offensive line has probably been the biggest disappointment for the Browns, considering that the power run game was supposed to be a focal point of the offense. There has been some improvement in recent weeks and getting rid of a quarterback who holds the ball for too long will take some heat off these guys, but the Browns still can’t run the football with any consistency.
Offensive Coordinator – Norv Turner
Norv catches a lot of flak and ultimately he’s responsible for all the poor showings in the aforementioned categories. But he’s really drawn the short end of the stick this season. A quarterback carousel. A starting running back traded. An undisciplined receiving corps. Shoddy offensive line play. Having to water down the offense for Weeden. Having Weeden still miss on those high percentage throws. There’s been one constant with three different Browns quarterbacks though; Guys have been consistently getting open.
Phil Taylor and Desmond Bryant have spearheaded a much-improved rush defense and applied ample pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
Barkevious Mingo is starting to make a name for himself, as if that was going to be a challenge. Craig Robertson has been a liability in coverage. D’Qwell Jackson has been the usual model of consistency. Paul Kruger is not getting home too often for the sack but is unrelenting.
Tremendous strides have been made in the Cleveland pass defense, which finished 25th last season. Joe Haden has emerged as a shutdown #1 corner but, perhaps more importantly, the once-victimized Buster Skrine has really stepped up in the second cornerback spot. Tashaun Gipson was the other young question mark in the secondary going into the season and Gipson has struggled.
Defensive Coordinator – Ray Horton
The Browns still have plenty of room for improvement defensively and need to find more consistency, but overall, Ray Horton has certainly gotten the most out of an inexperienced defense.
The Browns will be searching for answers at punt returner now that Travis Benjamin is out for the season. The biggest strength of the special teams in the first half could become as big of a mess as the kick return situation. The Browns have gotten as much out of kicker Billy Cundiff and punter Spencer Lanning as could be expected.
Head Coach – Rob Chudzinski
Head coaches will ultimately be judged by wins and losses and, in that area, Rob Chudzinski is starting to fall below average after a surprising start. But after a string of horrendous coaching situations in Cleveland, Chud has earned a little slack. For the first time in a long time, it looks like the Browns players are buying into their head coach. It’s been difficult to keep this team motivated through the adversity and distractions they’ve faced, but they seem resolved to continue working hard to keep the team in games. Chud’s aggressiveness has been a welcome deviation from years of ultra-conservative coaching and the players are responding.