Cleveland Browns Season Preview
Aug 9, 2014; Detroit, MI, USA; Cleveland Browns cornerback Joe Haden (23) against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports
Browns’ Biggest Strength
The Browns biggest strength is obviously their defense. The depth on their defensive line and linebacking corp causes jealousy throughout the NFL. The six defensive linemen that make up the Browns Front 3 could all start for the team without the team missing a beat. That means the Browns can keep their line fresh throughout the game. Their linebackers have 3 starting caliber rushers on the outside in Jabaal Sheard, Barkevious Mingo and Paul Kruger. The pair of Karlos Dansby and Christian Kirksey is a perfect blend of youth and veteran savvy, and tons of speed. Craig Robertson, the weak link last year, has shown drastic improvement during the pre-season and could fight the other two for time on the inside.
The secondary will have it’s own set of growing pains but the talent and intensity if evident. Joe Haden is in the Top 5 at his position, and some would argue #1, while Justin Gilbert gives the Browns size and speed at the second corner spot, where they were killed most of last year. Buster Skrine has gone from a player often torched to the one having the best Training Camp for the team. A scrappy, hard nosed player, Skrine has improved tremendously since his rookie campaign. Tashaun Gipson isn’t known around the league but Mike Pettine’s defense might change that, even last year he started to get some deserved recognition.
Browns’ Biggest Weakness
As one might guess the team’s biggest weakness is their passing game. With the lack of receivers, the pressure that Mitchell Schwartz often gives up on the right side and the unproven QBs, Brian Hoyer and Johnny Manziel, the passing game could struggle mightily. One of the many reasons the Browns looked so vanilla on offense is their need to scheme to win, lacking the talent to do so. The Browns will have to find creative formations, adjustments and movements to beat more talented teams. No receiver, outside of Jordan Cameron, can beat a defense based on sheer talent. Andrew Hawkins can beat a corner with his amazing release moves, but if the ball is not delivered timely he can get shut down easily.
While it is a weakness, and especially strong given the direction of the NFL, the hope is that the run game and Kyle Shanahan can help manufacture something out of nothing. Anything is possible in the NFL. Can Cameron and the midget receiving corp pull a rabbit out of their hat and minimize this weakness? Anything is possible, but it is unlikely.