Over the course of 32 days (or so) I will be previewing all 32 NFL teams, followed by an overall season prediction post, leading up to the start of the 2014 season. This post is previewing the Cleveland Browns.
Johnny Football. The rookie has never taken a snap in a regular season NFL game, yet some people expect him to be the savior of this long-suffering franchise that last made the playoffs in the 2002 season. Mike Pettine is in his first season as the team’s head coach — the Browns’ fifth head coach since 2005 — after Rob Chudzinski was fired after the 2013 season, his only one in the position. New general manager Ray Farmer is in a similar position, replacing 2013’s one-and-done GM Mike Lombardi. This kind of turnover shouldn’t be unexpected from a franchise that has won either four or five games in each of the last six seasons.
The Browns’ passing attack was average in 2013 with three quarterbacks — Brandon Weeden, Brian Hoyer and Jason Campbell — who started games for the team combining to throw for more than 4,300 yards with 25 touchdowns and 20 interceptions. The rushing game, however, ranked near the bottom of the league with the leading rusher, RB Willis McGahee, running for just 377 yards and two touchdowns. The entire team ran for just 1,383 yards — fewer yards than Eagles RB LeSean McCoy ran himself and fewer than 50 yards more than Bears RB Matt Forte.
This season doesn’t look like it’ll be much better for the Browns. Hoyer and Manziel are each likely to start some games, but who will they be throwing to? The team’s leading receiver from last year, WR Josh Gordon, is facing a yearlong suspension, which he is appealing, for multiple violations of the league’s substance-abuse policy. If Gordon misses the year, the top receivers are likely to be former Cowboys WR Miles Austin, who hasn’t had a 1,000-yard season since 2010, former Lions WR Nate Burleson, who has started a total of 13 games the last two seasons, and former Bengals WR Andrew Hawkins, who has a total of 995 receiving yards in three NFL seasons.The bulk of the running game is expected to be handled by RB Ben Tate, who spent his first three seasons as a backup for the Texans.
If Gordon misses the year, it could be another four-win season for the Browns. And even with the star receiver, the team will likely be hard-pressed to win more than about six games. Without a proven star, except Gordon, at any of the offensive skill positions, it’ll be a tough road ahead in 2014 for the Browns. At least Cleveland has LeBron again.
Sources: http;//www.clevelandbrowns.com, http;//www.pro-football-reference.com