The Biggest Media Misconceptions About the Cleveland Browns
The Cleveland Browns' second-ranked pass defense is a mirage and common misconception by sports media sources.
Whether you agree with the notion that the Cleveland Browns have an elite pass defense or not, it is a reality that the mainstream sports media has perpetuated.
This misconception has captured Browns' fans spirits and can be best attributed to the desire for them to see something positive—anything positive—from a defense that struggled mightily a season ago.
Sometimes everything is not always as it appears. With the Cleveland Browns, that is more than often the case. See for example: Derek Anderson and the high-flying Browns offense of 2007.
What else is there circulating that the media has completely missed on about this Browns team?
Brandon Weeden has been repeatedly been asked if he is planning on holding out from training camp if the team and his agent cannot come to an agreement about a guaranteed fourth year on his contract. ESPN has taken the bait and has reported Weeden is holding out.
However, if he were holding out, it would have to be from something. Right now, the lull in team activities has Weeden in a holding pattern until an agreement can be made. But he certainly isn’t and doesn’t plan to “hold out” from the Browns offseason activities.
"It'll get done,'' he said. (via ESPN) "We're working. It takes two sides, though.''
Nothing to see there.
So what else is there that the media has just gotten completely wrong about the Browns this year?
Sheldon Brown Will Be Moving to Safety, Ever
Ever since Sheldon Brown has put on a Cleveland Browns uniform, murmurs have been heard from various media outlets (ESPN, Cleveland Plain Dealer, AP) about the likelihood of Brown making the transition to the safety position.
His age is cited as a cause for perceived diminished skills as the main catalyst for this positional change. Despite his having lost a step or two in his game at cornerback, keeping him in the game by a positional change to safety makes sense superficially.
After all, Brown is a very experienced secondary player and is an asset on the field due to his knowledge and feel for the game.
This long-time misconception has recently been put to rest by GM Tom Heckert. Heckert said the following at a Browns Backers banquet in Akron, Ohio (via the Cleveland Plain Dealer):
"Sheldon Brown is never going to play safety unless some disaster happens," said Heckert. "You can put that to bed right now. He's a corner."
Brown, however, may be on his way out of Cleveland sooner rather than later. The Browns have two young and promising corners in Buster Skrine and James Dockery who are vying for more playing time.
After one more season to play with and learn from Brown, the two should be ready to step in and complement the likely starters of the future, Joe Haden and Dimitri Patterson.
The Browns Have an Elite Secondary
The myth of the vaunted Cleveland Browns pass defense is perhaps the biggest misconception in all of football.
There is no denying the unit has progressed significantly after the drafting of safety T.J. Ward and standout cornerback Joe Haden. Those two guys are excellent football players and encouraging signs of a pass defense on the rise. But the unit just isn’t where it is perceived to be—in the elite category.
For much of the 2011 NFL season, opposing offenses ran the ball at will on the porous Browns front seven. In fact, the Browns rush defense surrendered a third-to-worst league average of 147.4 YPG to opposing rushing attacks.
That number is staggering!
Don’t you think that a 30th-ranked rush defense has a lot to do with the second-ranked pass defense? The two are corollary of one another. The poor rush defense isn’t the only factor in the inflation of the Browns’ pass defenses’ success.
The horrid offensive production of Pat Shurmur’s Colt McCoy-led offense is another strong factor in this façade. Teams simply did not have to take chances in order to beat the Browns. Why risk it? Why put up 31 points when 17 will do?
With exception to the Week 3 win over the Miami Dolphins, teams passed at ease when they needed to on the supposed No. 2 pass defense in the NFL. Statistics are not always telling of the real truth on the field. This is one of those cases.
The Browns’ secondary has certainly improved through the draft and been supplemented with trades (Sheldon Brown) and signing free agents Usama Young and Dimitri Patterson. However, the unit is still young and susceptible to the big play.
It’s this inability to contain offenses for four quarters and to stop teams in passing situations that has hampered their ability to really stand out as the elite unit they are perceived to be.
The Browns Are Going to Finish Last in the AFC North in 2012
Nearly every media outlet has pegged the Cleveland Browns to finish last in the AFC North in 2012.
Every year, the media fails to recognize the shifts in the power structure of the NFL. Last year, it was the youth of the Cincinnati Bengals that sparked their exciting and successfully unpredictable season.
Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it.
Picking the New England Patriots, Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens to go to the playoffs every year is not a wise venture to enter into in this business. You’ve got to think outside the box and recognize change before the next guy does.
There has been and will be real change in Cleveland this season. Will it end in the Cleveland Browns winning the Super Bowl? Probably not. But it does mean a couple significant things are going to happen this season that many don’t think have a shot to go down.
The Browns will not finish last in the AFC North. Unfortunately for the expansion Browns, the division has been one of the toughest in the AFC over the past decade. The continual rebuilding cycle in Cleveland has made the franchise a stepping stool for continual Steelers and Ravens playoff berths.
The Bengals are even getting in on the action now.
Something tells me this year is going to be different. The additions of Trent Richardson and Mitchell Schwartz will completely change the landscape of the football games played within this division. When Peyton Hillis ran effectively against the Ravens in 2011, the Browns were right there in contention.
The Browns’ passing attack looks like it is set to take off after years of inconsistent play at the quarterback position. A novice could look over these developments and tell you 2012 is not going to be business as usual in Cleveland, Ohio.
Don’t let ESPN and the rest of the national tell you how bad your Cleveland Browns are going to be. Believe in the changes you see and hope that they come to fruition this season. After all, proving the national sports media wrong is what Cleveland loves best.
Browns' Wide Receivers Need a Veteran to Mentor Them
The Cleveland Browns wide receivers do not need a veteran mentor in order to succeed at the NFL level.
Who mentored A.J. Green in Cincinnati a season ago?
The strong-armed and accurate delivery of Brandon Weeden will alleviate much of the concerns of this wide receiver corps' ability to perform at an NFL level. Much of the passing game was constrained by the Browns' minimizing the playbook due to the limitations of Colt McCoy as a passer.
However, Weeden can't catch the ball for his receivers.
It's up to the group to build a strong game rapport with the rookie quarterback in order to perfect their timing and focus when Weeden's strong throws are hitting them between the numbers.
It's a matter or proper coaching and execution.
Not a matter of mentoring and developing from peers.
Follow Mike on Twitter @BigHoagowski