Cleveland Browns Season Preview

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Aug 7, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos safety T.J. Ward (43) grabs the face mask of Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (3) during the first half at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

Three Key Off-Season Subtractions

The Cleveland Browns did not have a huge amount of losses in the off-season (Yes there is a joke about having so many losses in the regular season here). The Browns did allow players to move on that could have had an impact on the team. Their losses were often mitigated in free agency or the draft though.

T.J. Ward

T.J. Ward, along with Joe Haden, were the identity of the Cleveland Browns defense for the past couple of seasons. As free agency opened the expectation was that the Browns would try to keep both Alex Mack and T.J. Ward. The hope was that one would sign allowing the team to use one of their tags on the other. The Browns did (transition) tag Mack, but allowed Ward to walk. Ward had some parting words for the Browns new brass upon his departure but they had already moved on to Whitner.

Ward’s aggressive in the box style of play was fun for Cleveland fans. He was the definition of a strong safety. He made big plays in the box but was a liability in coverage. In an ever more pass happy NFL Ward’s contributions are more linebacker than safety. Ward signed with the Denver Broncos, for a smaller contract than Whinter, and the Browns haven’t looked back. Ward’s excitement and big hits will be missed but the Browns feel they have upgraded the position.

D’Qwell Jackson

D’Qwell Jackson was a staple of the Cleveland Browns defense for 7 seasons, missing 1 entire season in 2010. Jackson was a consummate professional as he transitioned with the teams many changes of leadership. Jackson seemed to get frustrated but that only seemed to be his desire to win not with Cleveland in general.

Unfortunately many of the positives stated about Dansby could be noted as negatives for Jackson. Jackson was a sideline to sideline player who made most of his tackles 3 to 4 yards down the field. Rarely were his plays impactful, though he was always solid. For his entire career he only has 11.5 sacks, 8 INTs and 1 TD. Jackson was always able to get the Browns defense lined up correctly and stayed consistent throughout his career, except for 2 seasons drastically impacted by injury. His production just was not enough to keep paying him elite money for non-elite play.

Josh Gordon

A unique loss is that of Josh Gordon. Gordon set the NFL on fire and destroyed record books, even with only playing in 14 games last season. While the Browns threw far to often last year and forced the ball Gordon’s way, his production and excitement factor were off the charts. Browns fans finally had an offensive weapon to be excited about. A player that struck fear into the hearts of defenders and made all the highlight shows. Even the looming year long suspension, which led then CEO Joe Banner to explore trading him mid-season, wasn’t able to stop the hype train on Gordon.

Then on the second day of the NFL Draft, right after an exciting Justin Gilbert, Johnny Manziel and the Bills 2015 1st round pick the day prior, news that Gordon would likely miss this season surfaced. The Cleveland balloon of excitement for their Browns was quickly deflated. Anger and frustration lowered as the Gordon situation took longer and longer to play out. By the time Training Camp opened, and no decision had been made, Gordon started to be a sympathetic figure. Last week the final anvil dropped with his year long ban.

Gordon means an already thin wide receiver corp is far worse. With Gordon the Browns have a top flight receiver to take attention away from Pro Bowl tight end Jordan Cameron and allow Andrew Hawkins room to work on the inside. Without Gordon an aging Miles Austin, with his hamstrings ready to strain at any time, creates no fear for defenders and bottles up the Browns run and pass game. The loss of Gordon is a huge blow to the Browns 2014 season.

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