We continue our previews of all 32 NFL teams over the course of 32 days (or so), with an overall season prediction post, leading up to the start of the 2015 season. Here, we preview the Cleveland Browns, coming off a last-place finish in the AFC North last season.
Finishing 2014 with seven wins was the Browns’ best record since a 10-6 season in 2007. There was a lot of controversy in Cleveland last season after the drafting of QB Johnny Manziel, who ended up starting only two games. The Browns’ main quarterback from last season, Brian Hoyer, is now on the Texans, and the quarterback situation is again muddled in 2015. QB Josh McCown appears to be the leading candidate to begin the season as the starter at the position in Mike Pettine’s second season as the Browns’ head coach.
Between the controversy at quarterback, a lengthy suspension of WR Josh Gordon, who ended up playing just five games, and no breakout player in the running game, the Browns finished near the bottom of the league in offense last season — ranking 27th out of 32 teams. The defense– ranked ninth in the league — was better and was the driving force behind the Browns nearly finishing the season with a .500 record.
The Browns tried to add to the offense in the offseason, signing McCown and WRs Dwayne Bowe and Brian Hartline. None of those are marquee players but are arguably better than what the Browns had on their roster before the signings, especially with Gordon suspended for the entire 2015 season. The Browns’ best offseason move was probably taking RB Duke Johnson Jr. in the third round of this year’s draft. Johnson ran for more than 1600 yards and 10 touchdowns in his last season at the University of Miami in 2014. Although he probably won’t be the starting back at the start of the season, he could easily take over that role during the season if he can continue the success he had in college. But if a team is relying on a rookie running back — and a third-round draft pick at that– to lead the offense, it doesn’t speak highly of the team’s prospects for the year.
The Browns aren’t going to get much help from their schedule, The easiest part of the schedule comes early on, with home games against the Titans and Raiders in weeks two and three, respectively. After that, things get tougher with consecutive games at the Chargers and Ravens, followed by a home game with the Broncos. The season ends with consecutive road games against the Seahawks and Chiefs before ending the year with a home game against the Steelers. This is going to be another bad season for the Browns, and I don’t see them winning more than a handful of games.