The 2015 season is fast approaching for the Cleveland Browns, and with it will come another batch of either unheralded or under-producing players that surprise everyone with their production on the field.
The coaching staff is talking up just about every player on the roster, so we have to look a little deeper and see just who will jump off the pages of the Monday morning reports starting in September.
Dec 7, 2014; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns cornerback Justin Gilbert (21) returns an interception for a touchdown against the Indianapolis Colts during the third quarter at FirstEnergy Stadium. The Colts beat the Browns 25-24. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
Justin Gilbert had a rocky rookie season, there are no two ways about that. From his movement out of the starting lineup to the bench, to his flashes of brilliance with vast valleys of non-production and, finally, his off-the-field immaturity that led to his being benched in the final game of the 2014 campaign, Gilbert’s season has been well documented. This off-season Gilbert has done all of the right things. From working with perennial Pro Bowler Joe Haden, to his admitting that he probably needed to be benched in the final game of last season.
“I wish [the deactivation] hadn’t happened that way, but I think it really helped me. I think last year pretty much humbled me. A lot.” – Justin Gilbert
Gilbert was a Top 10 selection in the 2014 NFL Draft for a reason. His college production was that of a cover corner who was one of the best in the nation. His physical attributes are ideal for a cornerback in the NFL. At 6 feet and 202 pounds, Gilbert not only has the size, but the speed (a 4.37 time in the 40) and the strength (20 reps on the bench press at the NFL Combine) to be a great cover corner in the NFL for many years to come. Having Tramon Williams join the secondary this year will take the pressure off of Gilbert, allowing him to do great things for the Browns in 2015. Now that his rookie season is out of the way, expect Gilbert to start playing like the eighth overall selection in the draft.
Aug 2, 2014; Akron, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns tackle Mitchell Schwartz (72) blocks a pass rusher during training camp at InfoCision Stadium Summa Field. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports
Mitchell Schwartz came into the league in 2012 with a lot of promise after the Browns drafted him in the second round, and the general feeling is that he has failed to live up to his potential during his first two seasons. Schwartz very quietly had a solid year at right tackle for the Browns last season, and this year working alongside versatile rookie Cam Erving he will truly take the next step as a solid right tackle for the Browns.
Schwartz has the physical abilities and the know how to be a solid fixture on the Browns line. He still has some work to do against the run, and he’ll get there, but his run blocking will help the Browns three-headed rushing attack put up some big numbers in 2015.
Oct 12, 2014; Glendale, AZ, USA; Arizona Cardinals tight end Rob Housler against the Washington Redskins at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
If there was ever a play who underwhelmed in his first few years in the league, it would be former Cardinals turned Browns tight end Rob Housler. In four years with the Cardinals, Housler managed just 1,133 receiving yards and a lone touchdown reception. At 6-foot-5 and 238 pounds, Housler has great quickness and athleticism, with the ability to go up and get the ball along with the size to create mismatches all over the field.
Whether it’s Josh McCown or Johnny Manziel under center, the strategy will be the same for the Browns. Manage the game, limit turnovers and control field position. This bodes well for Housler, as with his size he’ll be an easy outlet for either quarterback, meaning those short passes will add up to some good yards on a weekly basis.
With the Browns having so many big bodies to target in the red zone, Housler could easily get overlooked by the defense and pick up some good mismatches, resulting in some added touchdowns to his stat sheet.
The Browns are a team that is going in the right direction and Gilbert, Schwartz and Housler are just three of the players that will help the Browns finally get over the hump. Starting this year, these guys will live up to their potential and become solid starters for the Browns, not just in 2015 but also hopefully for years to come.
Who do you think will be a breakout player for the Browns in 2015?