Cleveland Browns Season Preview

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Aug 8, 2014; Charlotte, NC, USA; Buffalo Bills wide receiver Sammy Watkins (14) stands on the field prior to the start of the game against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Three Key Off-Season Decisions

Firing Joe Banner and Mike Lombardi

No matter what spin was placed on the pair of Joe Banner and Mike Lombardi were not welcomed back by Jimmy Haslam. While the duo made some wise decisions, namely trading Trent Richardson for a first round pick and drafting Armonty Bryant in the 7th round, they had their fair share of blunders as well. Not the least of which is what has been described as a terrible head coaching search process. Banner is now spending time on Twitter, where he is surprisingly frank, while Lombardi is back with our old friend Bill Belichick.

The unique power structure put in place by Banner caused reported concerns for head coaching candidates during the search. The manner of the search, as well as the much reported nature that Banner was forced on to Haslam, was the final straw in the tenuous relationship. Banner and Lombardi are responsible for bringing in the Browns current GM and head coach so their finger prints are not off the team just yet.

Hiring Mike Pettine and Kyle Shanahan

The duo coming in together is a vital point. Mike Pettine is in his first year as a head coach in the NFL, though he has been the head man in high school. Pettine, known as Blunt Force Trauma, has presented a strong personality for the fans, a far cry from many of his predecessors. His knowledge of the AFC North, from his time in Baltimore, as well as his history of leading solid creative defenses plays right into the strength of the roster and the style needed in the AFC North.

Kyle Shanahan as an offensive coordinator is seen as a huge get. This is the first time Kyle gets out of the shadow of his father Mike Shanahan. Even in his first role as offensive coordinator with the Houston Texans he was work for his dad’s protege Gary Kubiak. Shanahan has a long history of a solid running game with a creative play action passing game off of it. Shanahan is vital to the development of the team as Pettine is mostly an offensive guy. Shanahan’s ability to manufacture a passing game, using the run to set it up, will dictate the success of the Browns offense.

Ignoring “Need” at Receiver

Even before the Josh Gordon situation the Cleveland fans believed the team needed to get a good/great second receiver. A few interesting names in free agency (James Jones, Julian Edelman and others) were the first hopes. Andrew Hawkins, a possibly great slot guy was the big free agent pickup. Then the draft came and many called for Sammy Watkins. Some were even okay with Mike Evans. Either way drafting a wide receiver high would of calm the nerves of the excited fan. It wasn’t to be. In fact in a talent rich with receivers the Browns drafted none. They signed a few as undrafted players and then added veteran Miles Austin but no big moves created unrest among the Browns faithful.

The lack of a top flight receiver still looms over the season. With Gordon fans wanted another receiver. Without him they want 3. Looking back free agency may have been a solid place to pony up for a player who could at least solidly fill on outside role. In the draft the Browns are, and hopefully fans will be, satisfied with the players they took instead of a receiver. Justin Gilbert should start along side Joe Haden for years to come to form a dynamic duo. Johnny Manziel will hopefully develop into a start level quarterback from the pocket, while still having his feet as amazing weapons. Joel Bitonio we already covered, as well as future starting RB Terrance West. Christian Kirksey looks like a steal at the ILB spot next to Karlos Dansby and Pierre Desir provides depth and size in a passing league.

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