The 2011 Cleveland Browns will be an intriguing team, that’s for sure. With a new offense, defense, and coaching staff, no one is quite sure what to expect from this team. There were glimpses of a positive future during the preseason sprinkled with moments of mistakes that will be par for the course with this young team.
Nevertheless, that hasn’t stopped Peter King, a senior writer at Sports Illustrated, from considering the Browns a top story line of 2011. In the most recent issue of the magazine, King says:
"Not only does the West Coast offense of Browns president Mike Holmgren and rookie coach Pat Shurmur fit quarterback Colt McCoy to a T, but Cleveland has the power backs (Peyton Hillis, Montario Hardesty, and Owen Marecic) to bleed some long drives. What’s more, the Browns have only one 2010 winning team (Indy) on their schedule before December. Don’t be surprised to see them in the division race on Thanksgiving – and maybe even leading it."
That is some mighty high praise for such a young team, and with Peyton Manning out, the game against Indianapolis should no longer feel so intimidating. With a schedule that soft, the Browns have a real chance to make some noise this season.
But does that mean they will? Young teams make mistakes and lose games that they are meant to win. Plus, the league fluctuates so much that it is hard to go by the records of opponents’ previous seasons as a barometer for the strength of a team’s schedule. You can bet that the Browns will find themselves in close games against supposedly lesser opponents – that’s just the way this league is built.
That doesn’t mean the Browns won’t be compelling or, at the very least, competitive. It’s hard to imagine them as a playoff contender, as so many things will have to go right for them, but stranger things have happened. At the very least, it’s going to be an entertaining start on what will hopefully be the road to contention.