The other night, I was watching football with a few of my buddies, and the Cleveland Browns randomly came up in conversation. It’s not really every day that they come up in conversation or in sports news; that is, unless it’s either a Johnny Manziel-related controversy or a joke.
I was just thinking to myself about their team, looking at their roster. Truth be told, they’re not that far off from being good. When it gets down to it, they’re only missing a few positions. And yeah, I know what I just typed. Let’s look at it.
Offensively speaking, I think the Browns are missing consistency at quarterback, a running back and a receiver. Their offensive line, led by left tackle Joe Thomas, sneakily has some of the best starters in the NFL. They can keep the right quarterback upright and they can open up holes for some running backs. In my opinion, you can’t be a good team with no offensive line, so Cleveland can check that off.
As far as a quarterback goes, the struggles that come with the position in that city is implied. Everyone knows about the busts- the Tim Couch’s, Jason Campbell’s, Brady Quinn’s (sigh) and Brandon Weeden’s of the world. The latest seems to be Johnny Manziel, though he has shown flashes of brilliance. I think his true problems stem from his off-the-field antics and a lack of support from management. I’d be willing to bet the results wouldn’t be too bad if they gave him the keys to the car for sure for 16 games. But even if they’re not, the Browns just need a quarterback that won’t mess up. I think the problem is more of an issue in consistency as opposed to talent. No, they don’t need an all-star, like a Brady, a Newton or a Manning. What they need is someone like a Teddy Bridgewater or an Alex Smith; a guy who isn’t going to turn the ball over, and a guy who will be on the field for each game.
They’re also missing a running back. The Browns have the 29th ranked rushing offense, with about 86 yards rushing per game. They had Trent Richardson, who was good for his rookie year, but he’s obviously since been traded and is now out of the league at age 25. This season, they’ve gone with a running back-by-committee, headlined by rookie Duke Johnson and Isiah Crowell. They will probably have a top-5 pick, so they have a good chance to go get consensus top running back prospect (and N2K Sports’ #1 running back prospect) Ezekiel Elliot. The dude is a do-it-all back who can run, catch passes, and block. I get that he had his issues with Coach Urban Meyer over his usage, which I perceive to be something that scouts will take notice of, by why should the Browns care? He’s a better option than either of the two guys they already have. If it’s touches he wants at Ohio State, it’s touches he’ll get with the Browns. Look at him, why wouldn’t they?
The receiving problem could, in theory, fix itself. It already isn’t as bad as people would think- it’s the 11th best passing offense in the league. But they still could use another wideout. Remember Josh Gordon? The guy who inexplicably continues to both smoke weed and put himself in scenarios where weed is present even though it’s gotten him in issues before? Well, his contract with the Browns. And, oh by the way, he happens to be really good.
In Gordon’s rookie season, he caught 50 passes in all 16 games for over 800 yards. In his second season, which was cut to only 14 games due to a suspension (for, you guessed it, marijuana), he exploded for over 1,600 receiving yards and 9 touchdowns. If he can just cut it out with the pot he’d be a great NFL talent, and exactly the type of playmaker the Browns need. It’s almost a blessing for the Browns- he’s an excellent talent, but I can’t see any team paying top dollar for his services because of his past, even if he is an elite talent when on the field. If the Browns can keep him around, then all of the sudden, Travis Benjamin, who has really come on this year to showcase his talents, would be a second option drawing opposing team’s second best corners. His production would go up, too. That’s not even counting tight end Gary Barnidge, who’s been one of the most productive players in the NFL this season. Before you know it, whoever is quarterbacking the Browns has some good options to throw to.
Defensively, they are actually really, really good. They’ve got a lot of talent, with the most notable names being cornerback Joe Haden, linebackers Karlos Dansby and Paul Kruger, and safety Done Whitner. But when you’re on the field as much as them and put in the situations that they’re put in, the stats aren’t going to be so good-looking. The best remedy for the defense is a more successful offense who can keep possession of the ball.
In summary, Cleveland needs a consistent, reliable, solidified starting quarterback, a two-way running back that will scare defenses (draft Ezekiel Elliot), and another weapon in the receiving game (Josh Gordon, stop smoking weed). If they can get that, the coaching staff can do the rest. Mike Pettine is a players’ coach who seems to have the team’s respect. He’s got some good advisors and good assistant coaches. I don’t think fixing the Cleveland Browns’ situation isn’t as hard as it looks.
GIFs courtesy of SB Nation, Reddit