Cleveland Browns Predictions
The Cleveland Browns have just one winning season in the last nine years. They haven’t been to the playoffs since 2002, and that streak is not likely to come to an end this year. The Browns are coming off a 4-12 campaign in 2011, and they haven’t won more than five games since ’07.
Pat Shurmur enters his second season as head coach and is clearly on the hot seat. He is working with Mike Holmgren to try and build this team from the ground-up, but it may take another year or two to see significant improvement. Here is a look at their offense and defense, along with my prediction on where Cleveland finishes in the AFC North in 2012.
The offense managed just 13.6 points and 289 total yards per game last season to rank near the bottom of the NFL in both categories. Its ridiculously high 21.2 yards per point is likely to come down this season as Cleveland can’t possibly be worse in the red zone than it was a year ago. Too many times the Browns had to settle for field goals rather than touchdowns.
Holmgren believes that rookie Brandon Weeden is going to be their quarterback of the future after taking him with the 22nd overall pick in the first round. He’ll likely replace Colt McCoy, who completed 57.2 percent of his passes for 2,733 yards with 14 touchdowns and 11 interceptions last year.
The Browns will also be working with a rookie at running back after selecting Alabama’s Trent Richardson with the 3rd overall pick in the first round. He was a consensus All-American, the Doak Walker winner and a Heisman finalist. Chris Ogbonnaya (334 yards, 4.6/carry, one TD) and Montario Hardesty (266 yards, 3.0/carry) will battle it out for backup duties.
Cleveland has been lacking playmakers at receiver for years. They have tried to fill the void with youth, but so far it’s not really working. Greg Little (61 receptions, 709 yards, two TD), Josh Cribbs (41, 518, four TD) and Mohamed Massaquoi (31, 384, two TD) are all back. Little had a solid rookie season and could eventually be that playmaker they’re looking for. TE Benjamin Watson (37, 410, two TD) is back after a solid ’11 campaign. The Browns drafted rookie WR Travis Benjamin (Miami) in the fourth round and he could surprise.
The offensive line is led by five-time Pro Bowl LT Joe Thomas and C Alex Mack. LG Jason Pinkson and RG Shawn Lauvao each started all 16 games last year. They have a combined three years of NFL experience between them, so they are young and improving. Cleveland drafted rookie RT Mitchell Schwartz (California) in the second round and management believes he is a big upgrade at the position.
The defense held up its end of the bargain last year, allowing 19.2 points and 332 total yards per game. If it could get a little help from the offense, the Browns could be a surprise team in the AFC North this season.
The defensive line has no big names, but the numbers along this unit were pretty solid a year ago. Returning will be DE Jabaal Sheard (55 tackles, 8.5 for loss, 8.5 sacks), DT Ahtyba Rubin (83 tackles, 5 sacks) and NT Phillip Taylor (59 tackles, 4 sacks). Both Sheard and Taylor were rookies last year and proved they belonged in the NFL. The Browns have signed DE Frostee Rucker (44 tackles, 6.5 for loss, 4 sacks) from Cincinnati to give them another pass rusher.
The linebacker corps also lacks big names, but MLB D’Qwell Jackson finished second in the NFL with 158 tackles last season. He also had 12 tackles for loss and an interception. Flanking Jackson will be returning starters Scott Fujita (50 tackles, 2 for loss, one INT) and Chris Gocong (70 tackles, 8 for loss). This is certainly an underrated unit as a whole.
The secondary returns intact. CB’s Joe Haden (65 tackles, 19 pass break-ups) and Sheldon Brown (48 tackles, 13 pass break-ups, two INT) are solid. SS TJ Ward (39 tackles, 3 for loss) had 123 tackles as a rookie in ’10 before missing eight games last year due to injury. FS Usama Young (70 tackles, 4 for loss, one INT) returns, but he needs to show a better knack for reading offenses and finding the ball.
AFC North Prediction – 4th Place (5-11 Record)
I really like the talent that Holmgren and company have added through the draft. I believe Weeden and Richardson are going to pan out big-time in the coming years, giving Cleveland the kind of explosive offense it has been missing for a long time. Weeden won’t have a ton of playmakers to work with at receiver in his first year, which is something that has hurt McCoy the last few seasons. The Browns also boast one of the most underrated defenses in the NFL. However, the schedule ranks #4 in the league in difficulty this season, which will make the going tough. I see the Browns as an underdog in all 16 of their games this season as they’ve drawn a brutal home schedule that includes the Eagles, Bills, Bengals, Chargers, Ravens, Steelers, Chiefs and Redskins. They will pull off a few upsets, but I expect them to finish with five wins or fewer for a fifth straight season.
Individual Team NFL Season Predictions
|AFC West||AFC North||AFC South||AFC East|
|Kansas City Chiefs||Pittsburgh Steelers||Indianapolis Colts||New England Patriots|
|San Diego Chargers||Baltimore Ravens||Jacksonville Jaguars||New York Jets|
|Oakland Raiders||Cleveland Browns Predictions||Houston Texans||Miami Dolphins|
|Denver Broncos||Cincinnati Bengals||Tennessee Titans||Buffalo Bills|
|NFC West||NFC North||NFC South||NFC East|
|Seattle Seahawks||Chicago Bears||Atlanta Falcons||Philadelphia Eagles|
|St. Louis Rams||Green Bay Packers||New Orleans Saints||New York Giants|
|San Francisco 49ers||Detroit Lions||Tampa Bay Bucs||Dallas Cowboys|
|Arizona Cardinals||Minnesota Vikings||Carolina Panthers||Washington Redskins|