Nothing new in Cleveland in 2013, just another rebuilding year. The Browns are by far the cellar team of the AFC North. This team is not without talent, but the pieces haven’t all fallen in place yet. And it doesn’t help them that they play in the toughest division in the AFC.
Quarterback Brandon Weeden will get one more year to prove he can be a starter in the NFL. Weeden is entering the second year of his career, and he will turn 30 years old this October. Weeden had flashes of promise in 2012, but he needs to develop greatly. I really can’t imagine him transforming into a good quarterback; he entered the league too late.
The Browns signed Jason Campbell as another possible option at quarterback. Campbell could possibly relieve Weeden of his duties, if he plays under par. Weeden would have to really fall flat out on his face, in order for Campbell to see playing time.
Trent Richardson put together a solid rookie season, and he showed off many flashes of promise. Richardson brings a nice mix of speed and power. He also proved to be a worthy pass catcher in 2012. Richardson caught 51 balls last year. Don’t be surprised if he has a breakout season in 2013.
The Browns added former Dolphins WR Davone Bess to their roster. Bess is likely to assume the slot receiver position, it’s where he naturally fits. Bess is at his best on underneath routes. He’s not one to make plays in traffic.
Josh Gordon is expected to be the No.1 wideout. Gordon was very impressive in his rookie season. He has the all-around talent to be a No.1 receiver in the NFL.
Greg Little will then be the No.2 receiver for Cleveland. Little is a physical force, but his hands need to be more consistent. He dropped way too many easily catchable balls.
The Browns may have the worst group of tight ends in the NFL. Jordan Cameron has not been great in his two seasons of pro football. While free agent acquisitions Kellen Davis and Gary Barnidge are both known to be below average receivers.
The Browns have themselves a great offensive line. Joe Thomas, Alex Mack, and Mitchell Schwartz are all very fine lineman. The only problem here is their guard play. Cleveland’s line is close to being the best in the league.
The defense is switching to a 3-4 this year. It’ll be interesting to see how the transition affects the team.
The starting nose tackle is projected to be Ahytba Rubin; he’s played the position once before. Phil Taylor and Desmond Bryant will then take over the end positions. This defensive line has potential to be scary good.
The Browns landed Paul Kruger off the free agency market after his big season in Baltimore last year. Kruger is a fantastic pass rusher as shown in 2012. He is an adequate run defender, he’ll need to improve in that area.
The Browns drafted Barkevious Mingo with the 6th overall selection in the 2013 NFL Draft. I can’t see him becoming a starter any time soon. Jabaal Sheard will continue to start at OLB. D’Qwell Jackson will be one of the starting inside linebackers, while the other slot is still open. The linebackers of this team will be the deciding factor as to whether or not this can be a great defense.
T.J. Ward is starting to develop into one of the best safeties in the league. Ward is a devastating hitter, and he’s become better in coverage. Ward has SS locked up, but free safety is wide open for the Browns. 2013 will mark the third different starter in three years at free safety for this team.
At cornerback, Joe Haden and Buster Skrine combine to make a very solid top 2 CB duo. Chris Owens is expected to be the nickel back, a position that suits him well.
Pro Bowlers Phil Dawson and Josh Cribbs are gone. Shayne Graham and Brandon Bogotay will fight for the kicker job. It also looks like Spencer Lanning will take over as punter in 2013. Dion Lewis may see time as a kick returner, but he hasn’t fared well in that department during his pro career. Travis Benjamin is also a possible candidate as a returner.
I really don’t have much faith in a soon-to-be 30 year old, second year quarterback. There’s a good incoming QB class, maybe the Browns will finally strike gold in the 2014 draft. The Browns have major potential, but there at least a couple years off from becoming real contenders. And playing in the AFC North puts an even bigger dagger in their chances.
Overall Grade: C