Cleveland Browns Season Preview

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Aug 18, 2014; Landover, MD, USA; Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel (2) shakes hands with Browns linebacker Karlos Dansby (56) against the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Three Key Off-Season Additions

The Cleveland Browns made a number of big additions in the off-season that should have a great impact on their team. While many longed for a big time wide receiver the Browns built their team on the defensive side of the ball and on the offensive line. Here are the Three Key Off-Season Additions to the Cleveland Browns roster.

Karlos Dansby

The Cleveland Browns brought in Karlos Dansby on a 4 year, $24 million contract with $12 million guaranteed. Dansby was a huge part of the top flight Arizona Cardinals defense last year. At one point he was in consideration for Defensive Player of the Year. He made huge impact plays last year including 6 sacks, 4 interceptions, 19 pass deflections, 1 fumble recovery and 2 touchdowns.

For the Browns he adds a big play dimension that has been missing from the middle of the defense. Dansby will make those type of impact plays instead of tackles 3 and 4 yards down the field. Not only is Dansby a very athletic inside linebacker but his football IQ helps him be in the right place at the right time. During pre-season a defender had to hold Dansby to stop him from intercepting a screen pass he had sniffed out perfectly. Those type of impact, smart plays will be a huge addition for the Browns this year.

Ben Tate

The Cleveland Browns ran through a number of running backs last year. Starting with huge draft bust Trent Richardson, whom the previous regime was able to salvage by getting a first round pick for, and ending up with little known Edwin Baker. In between the Browns employed Willis McGahee, long past his prime, Bobby Rainey, Fozzy Whitaker, Chris Ogbonnaya and Baker, all of whom may never have a prime. The Browns look to end that ugly carousel this year with the addition of free agent back Ben Tate.

Tate has experience in the Kyle Shanahan system that has allowed him to step right in and take control of the starting tailback position. Even with the Browns trading up into the 3rd round for small school back Terrance West, Tate has held control of the backfield situation. Coach Mike Pettine has even stated recently that Tate is a three down back. Tate has the ability to break big plays while setting up his blockers to gain positive yardage on most runs. His knowledge in the Zone Blocking Scheme, and ability to put his foot in the ground to make a quick cut, puts him head and shoulders above anyone the Browns employed at RB last year.

Joel Bitonio

Some may make an argument for Donte Whitner, the hometown boy returning to make an impact, and they wouldn’t be far off. Whitner and Dansby will set a new tone for the secondary. Andrew Hawkins might also prove to belong on this list. Yet it was the drafting of Joel Bitonio in the second that could end up defining the season. While Tate may be able to setup his blockers well, his blockers still have to be able to do their job. Bitonio is a big, strong, nasty lineman with quick feet to make an impact on the line and get out in space to make blocks.

With Joe Thomas and Alex Mack on the line the Browns had 2 cornerstones. Yet Mitchell Schwartz and John Greco, who won the right guard competition, have not proven to be elite. Instead of relying on what was already in house, or spending big in free agency, the Browns spent a high draft pick to fortify another spot on their line. It was a sign, with many more to come, that the Browns of 2014 would be a running team. Bitonio will have a huge impact on that type of team.

3 Key Additions / 3 Key Subtractions / 3 Key Decisions / Biggest Strength & Weakness / Fantasy Football Contributors / Johnny Manziel / Schedule Evaluation /  QB Opposition / AFC North / Buffalo Bills Picks / Social Media/Connecting Predictions & Conclusion