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Cleveland Browns – Off Season Team Needs
The Browns were, by all accounts, the worst team in the NFL during the 2009 season. It’s a miracle Eric Mangini is still eating from his Browns paycheck. But for a troubled team, this team certainly has a lot of talent. Now it’s up to football czar Mike Holmgren to bring that talent together and create some 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 okay last season, but they were clearly a shell of their previous Super Bowl win. The other 4 teams? Come on, you can’t seriously tell me that any of those 4 teams scare you.
The Browns’ defense ranks in the bottom half of the league in both rushing and passing. But don’t let that number fool you. The Browns’ defense was on the field perhaps more than any other team this year. I had the opportunity to watch the Browns several times this year and boy was their offense pathetic. The Browns generated the 3rd fewest 1st downs in the league. And on top of that, the Browns only converted 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 could not pass the ball. They couldn’t play a solid quarterback. They could not open the receivers. They couldn’t protect the quarterback. They could not move the shackles. So what exactly was this crime? Well, they have a talented offensive line (Joe Thomas, Eric Steinbach) and that’s about it.
But don’t get me wrong. Not that the 2009 version of the Browns defense was comparable to the 2000 Ravens or anything. They had their own problems. He had trouble stopping both the run and the pass. And at times, the Browns looked like a high school team on the field. However, there is much more talent on this side of the ball. Shaun Rodgers, D’Quelle Jackson and Kamerion Wimbley are all guys you can build a defense around. Eric Wright also has some talent and could be a strong number. 2 cornerbacks for the Browns. It would really take someone like Mike Holmgren to put this talent together for a serviceable defense.
Who could go: Well, Derek Anderson, Rex Tucker, Jamal Lewis, Hank Poteet, Hank Fraley, Brodney Poole and Rex Hadnot (among others) have already been shown the door. Shaun Rodgers also wants to be traded. Now Brady Quinn is rumored to be gone as well. When a team is this bad, like I said before, there are no secure jobs for players.
Biggest team needs: Aside from quarterback and receiver, the Browns are really at least mediocre everywhere else. This gives the Browns the luxury of going into the draft to select the truly best player available. Ideally, the Browns would like to get one of the top two quarterbacks in the draft (Jimmy Clausen, Sam Bradford). However, assuming that both quarterbacks at no. Pick 7, Eric Berry could fall here. Gerald McCoy can fall here. If neither of those two players are available, the Browns could reach for someone like Joe Haden or Dez Bryant. While neither player has a great combination, both are clearly high-flying talents who can bring instant life to a defense or offense, respectively.
The Browns have already brought in Seneca Wallace, Tony Pashos, Antonio Bryant, Scott Fujita and, to date, Ben Watson. There are also some rumblings of ex-Panther Jake Delhomme coming to Cleveland. Even with Delhomme coming to town, all these signings are good, but not great. The Browns still face needs at receiver and quarterback after letting go of Donte Stallworth and Derek Anderson (not that either player played spectacularly in 2009, if at all). Since the Browns have yet to make a serious play for any big-name quarterback at receivers in free agency, one has to assume the Browns will address these needs through the draft. Keep your radar on guys like Dezmon Briscoe, Tony Pike and Damien Williams.
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