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Cleveland Browns – Off Season Team Needs
The Browns, by all accounts, were the worst team in the NFL during the 2009 season. It’s a wonder Eric Mangini is still eating out of his Browns paycheck. But for a team in turmoil, there is certainly a lot of talent in this team. Now it’s up to football czar Mike Holmgren to bring that talent together and create winning ways.
What went wrong in 2009: Don’t let the Browns’ 5-11 record fool you. The Browns started the 2009 season 1-11 before winning their last 4 against the Steelers, Chiefs, Raiders and Jaguars. The Browns’ only other win? Against bills. The Steelers were doing well last season, but were clearly a shell of their former Super Bowl winners. The other 4 teams? Come on, you can’t seriously tell me that none of these 4 teams scares you.
The Browns’ defense ranked in the bottom half of the league in both running and passing defense. But don’t let those numbers fool you. The Browns defense ended up being on the field probably more than any other team this year. I’ve had the opportunity to watch the Browns several times this year, and boy was their pitiful offense. The Browns generated the 3rd under 1st tries in the league. And on top of that, the Browns converted just 32.6% of their third down opportunities last season. I’ll tell you what the Browns couldn’t do on offense. They couldn’t run the ball. They couldn’t pass the ball. They couldn’t get a solid quarterback game. They couldn’t open the receivers. They couldn’t protect the quarterback. They couldn’t move the chains. So what exactly did this breach do? Well, they have a talented offensive line (Joe Thomas, Eric Steinbach) and that’s about it.
But do not get me wrong. It’s not like the 2009 Browns defense is comparable to the Ravens in 2000 or anything. They had their share of problems. They had problems stopping both the run and the pass. And at times, the Browns looked a lot like a high school team on the field. However, there is a lot more talent on this side of the ball. Shaun Rogers, D’Qwell Jackson and Kamerion Wimbley are all guys you can build a defense around. Even Eric Wright has some talent and could be a strong no. 2 cornerbacks for the Browns. It really will take someone like Mike Holmgren to piece that talent together into a usable defense.
Who might be gone: Well, Derek Anderson, Rex Tucker, Jamal Lewis, Hank Poteat, Hank Fraley, Brodney Pool and Rex Hadnot (among others) have already been kicked out. Shaun Rogers would also like to be traded. There are now grumbles about Brady Quinn leaving. When a team is this bad, as I said before, there are no safe jobs for players.
Biggest team needs: Besides quarterback and receiver, the Browns are really, at least, mediocre everywhere. It gives the Browns the luxury of going into the draft to really pick the best player available. Ideally, the Browns would like to have one of the top two quarterbacks (Jimmy Clausen, Sam Bradford) in the draft. However, assuming both quarterbacks are off the board at no. 7 picks, Eric Berry can drop here. Gerald McCoy can fall here. If neither of those two players is available, the Browns can come here for a guy like Joe Haden or Dez Bryant. While neither player has a great combination, both are clearly top-flight talents that could give an immediate injection of life to defense or attack, respectively.
The Browns have already brought in Seneca Wallace, Tony Pashos, Antonio Bryant, Scott Fujita and, starting today, Ben Watson. There are also some grunts from former Panther Jake Delhomme coming to Cleveland. Even if Delhomme comes to town, all of these signings are good, but not great. Browns still face receiver and quarterback needs after dropping Donte Stallworth and Derek Anderson (not that either player played spectacularly in 2009, if they played at all) . Because the Browns have yet to make serious play for one of the big receiver quarterbacks in free agency, one has to assume the Browns will meet those needs through the draft. Keep your radar on guys like Dezmon Briscoe, Tony Pike and Damian Williams on draft day.
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