Cleveland Browns: A Coach's View of How Close to the Playoffs They Are on O
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Yesterday we reviewed the defense. Now we look at the Browns offense in detail.
Anyone who suffered through the Browns' 2011 season knows the year did not go well on the offensive side of the ball. Head coach Pat Shurmur was still learning his team and the O was very offensive—but not very effective at all.
One measure of a playoff team is how many players on the roster are playoff and starter quality.
The team needs at least seven playoff quality players (PQP) on offense to be competitive for a spot in the post season.
A team needs three on the offensive line, two at WR, one RB and one at QB.
But the team must also have at least 14 starting quality players on the offense.
That includes seven on the O line including rotational guys, three WRs and two RBs, one TE and the QB.
Here are the players I believe are playoff quality on offense.
Going Down again
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The team does not have a starting quality QB on the roster
now. Colt McCoy is the starter but was among the lower rated QBs in the league.
I have detailed my evaluation of Colt's play in a previous article here on the Bleacher Report.
The bottom line on Colt is that he is capable of being a starting quality guy and could develop into a PQP.
However, I doubt he can lead the team to a Super Bowl and that is what I am interested in for the team.
Seneca Wallace, a used Seahawk, is not now nor has he ever been a candidate for a starting job.
He knows the West Coast Offense but does not see his job as requiring him to share his knowledge with Colt.
Wallace would prefer to start somewhere, but that won’t happen either. I doubt he will be on the roster in 2012.
Thaddeus Lewis, who worked with head coach Pat Shurmur in St. Louis, is an unknown. He has a
strong arm but is roughly the same size as Colt.
Total: No PQPs and one possible starting quality player
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Peyton Hillis is an Unrestricted Free Agent and most likely won’t be back. Even if he is, there is serious doubt he is a PQP.
He had one great year and for that season was clearly a playoff quality running back.
Can he do it for two or three more seasons? I doubt it. He is closer to being a starting quality guy.
Montario Hardesty was a second round pick in 2010 and promptly got hurt. That should not have been a surprise because he had injuries two years at Tennessee.
This year was different—but not in a good way. Hardesty got hurt in pre-game warmup. He has no field vision. And with injuries to both knees, I doubt he still has his jump step either.
He is fragile as fine china. I have seen no indication he is or will ever become a starting quality guy.
It will be a plus if he is able to contribute anything to the team in 2012.
Brandon Jackson came over in 2011 from the Packers after being cut but was hurt before he unpacked his bags.
He was the starter in 2007 but lost his job and never got it back. He has some speed but has not yet proven he can be a starter again.
Because of the Browns' lack of depth, he could be the starter in 2012 without having proven a thing. He is at least a proven backup.
Chris Ogbonnaya was plucked off the Texan’s practice squad and played hard. He was in Texas with Colt but does not have the athleticism to be even a quality backup.
Armond Smith was an undrafted rookie. He has speed but is very small and has no regular season resume.
FB Owen Marecic, a fourth round pick in 2011, never got going.
He was not quick enough to pick up the blitz and did not have the play recognition to know where it was coming from. He was also not an effective replacement for Lawrence Vickers blocking the run. He gets stuffed on the backer blocks which lie at the heart of the West Coast Offense's inside running game.
Total: No PQPs and one additional starting quality player
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Greg Little, a second round pick in '11, is just beginning to learn the position. He has potential but
is nowhere near starting quality now. He is strong with decent speed and good size, but he needs to learn how to get open and catch the ball.
He has football instincts and is capable of becoming a solid #2 guy.
Joshua Cribbs has been working on becoming a WR for three seasons. He is not there yet. He struggles to get off the line at the snap, and while he has made some outstanding catches when he is single covered, he is not able to catch the ball against double coverage.
He is a special teams monster but his time at WR is hurting his return game.
He has also lost a step. I think this is one experiment that has run its course.
Mohamed Massaquoi was one of the starters at the beginning of the season. He has not been the same since being knocked out against the Steelers last year.
He has straight line speed but cannot maintain it going into and coming out of cuts. As a result he does not get open often and has inconsistent hands.
Jordan Norwood showed some potential but is still very green. He also is small and has had concussion issues.
Carlton Mitchell has very good speed and is 6’ 3” and 215 pounds. He was one of my favorites coming out of college but seems to have a permanent parking spot on Dog House Drive.
Total: No PQPs and one potential starting quality player
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Ben Wallace will be 32 next season.
He has lost more than a step.
In 2010, he led the team with 68 catches. This season he dealt with injuries and had only 37.
He is a decent blocker with very good hands but ended the season on IR.
Evan Moore has been good but has been hurt a lot. He has spent time on Dog House Drive as well. His problem is he does not block well, but he's shown he can catch the ball. At 28 next season he has some time left if he can avoid getting benched.
Alex Smith is a UFA and won’t be back.
Jordan Cameron does not block and has not caught the ball much yet either. He is
beginning to look like a bust but is an athlete.
The team signed a Gronkowski, but not the Patriots' monster TE Rob. They snagged his brother Dan, who has bounced around the league and helps out only as a blocker.
Total: One (old) PQP and one potential starting quality player if Moore can get on the field.
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LT Joe Thomas is a perennial all pro that did not play as well in '11 as he did the year before.
He is solid both on the run and the pass but has to get back to his 2010 form.
C Alex Mack is also a PQP. He worked hard and played
with appendicitis. He has the feet to be able to help one bad G but not two.
That was the issue in 2011.
LG Eric Steinbach is only a potential PQP due to his injury last season, but he should come back and be close to what he was in 2010. When healthy he is a solid PQP and unless he has lost a step will help protect the QB and aid in the running game in 2012.
Tony Pashos is a good player when he is healthy, but that does not happen often. He played half the season on one leg and has missed major parts of his career. He is not reliable enough to remain the starter.
Jason Pinkston, a fifth round pick in 2011, played LG and Shawn Lauvao was installed as the RG.
The rookie Pinkston was a shade better than second year Lauvao but neither of them is even close to backup quality let alone as starters.
When injuries hit the O line the team signed a bunch of guys off the cut list of other teams.
That list includes T Oniel Cousins, G-C Steve Vallos, and G Artis Hicks, all of whom are UFAs. It is unlikely any of them will be back with the team if GM Tom Heckert can find replacements. Of the group only Hicks showed any potential and could be resigned.
Total: Two and a half PQPs and no potential starting quality players
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All in all, there is not much to work with on the offensive side of the line.
The O line needs a RT and RG. It also needs Steinbach to be healthy.
The skill positions are a mess and will get worse without Hillis.
The final score is not pretty.
The team has 3.5 PQPs one starting player and three potential starters.
The team is half way to the seven PQPs they need but even further away
from the 14 starting quality guys needed to be competitive for a playoff spot.
The team has 4.5 starters now (including PQPs) and three potential starters.
The team is in the best division in the league with three playoff teams in 2011.
The Browns need more than draft picks to become competitive in the AFC North let alone challenge for a playoff position.
This off season will be the test of just how committed the Holmgren administration is to winning. If they can get past their draft only position and sign some starting quality UFAs they have a chance to turn the team around. If not, their replacements will have to do it.
That is what I think. Tell us what you think.
If you want a different look at Cleveland Sports, join me on the Internet radio version of News, Notes and Rumors M-Th at 6 PM EST on http://mooheadradio.com/2.0/.
Bill Smith is a former coach of several semi-pro teams, has
done color on radio for college football and basketball and has scouted talent.
He edits http://fryingpansports.com. He is a senior writer for http://nfldraftdog.com/index.html. He has also published several novels on http://www.eBooks-Library.com/Contemporary/
and a non-fiction work at http://www.merriam-press.com/.