Cleveland has officially become the capital of Manziel nation, that much is understood. What is far less understood, or perhaps missed by many, major media (especially national media) outlets is that the Browns have transformed many elements of their roster, not just the quarterback position. Because of this attention needs to be given to players who have breakout potential in 2014. Thinking back to last year, one could point to individuals like Jordan Cameron, Josh Gordon, or even Alex Mack as players who greatly increased their game from the year before. Although their are many players on the Browns roster who could fall into this category for 2014, the following three are my picks to surprise many NFL pundits across the country.
Barkevious Mingo A top-ten pick in 2013, Mingo started his rookie season on a tear. Collecting sacks in his first three NFL games, Barkevious seemed to be a slam dunk pick (the first, and only, first-round pick in the Banner-Lombardi era.) Production would fall, however, as Mingo only collected two sacks the rest of the season. Various small injuries, combined with a limited repertoire of pass rushing moves, and potentially not enough weight to play defensive end seemed to doom Mingo’s season. I truly believe that in Mike Pettine and Jim O’Neil’s scheme, Mingo can be a pass rushing force, look for him to exceed his five-sack total from his rookie season.
Charles Johnson If you said who? as you read that name, do not feel bad. Johnson’s Browns’ career has been marked by only one, infamous story. Last year, in the middle of the season the Browns signed Charles Johnson from the Packers practice squad. Although was not out of the ordinary, the fact that during his physical a torn ACL was found was rather rare. Besides gaining league-wide ridicule for signing a player with a torn ACL, the Browns gained little else from this signing, until 2014. Now that Johnson is on the mend, the roster move is becoming a little more clear. Perhaps the Browns were simply trying to find a diamond in the rough, due to the fact that Johnson is listed at 6-2, 215 lbs., with a 4.35 40-yard dash to his credit. Although any comparison to Josh Gordon would be beyond hyperbole, Johnson could in fact make a splash in the wake of the Gordon suspension. Johnson could very well end up being a practice squad player in Cleveland as well, but he has the physical tools, and potential opportunity, to become a contributor to the Browns passing game.
Terrance West As much as I wanted to avoid adding rookies to this list, I couldn’t pass over West. A third-round pick from Towson, West has already made a splash during the Browns’ OTAs. A powerful back with a deceiving burst, West is expected to split carries with Ben Tate, who was signed as a free agent a few months back. The intrigue behind West is that it is difficult to evaluate his true talent because of the competition he played against at Towson. Although it is Division 1A, Championship Subdivision (formally D-IAA), 2,500+ yards and 41 touchdowns are unheard of numbers. I expect West to be a surprise in a Browns running game that will be on the forefront of the offense. My prediction is he will split carries this year, and perhaps as early as next year be the featured back in the Browns’ offense.