Can Rookies Lead the Cleveland Browns to the Postseason in 2012-2013?
In order for the Browns to make their first postseason appearance since the 2002 season, they will need their rookies to produce and become play-makers right away.
The Browns could potentially have rookies contributing on every position group this season.
That is not exactly a recipe for success.
The most important of those will be 28 year-old quarterback Brandon Weeden.
The strong-armed QB out of Oklahoma State should not be expected to light up the scoreboard immediately. Even though he is older and more mature than the normal rookie, he still has to gain experience in the West Coast offense and develop chemistry with his receivers. He will make mistakes just like every rookie in the league has done.
Running back Trent Richardson out of Alabama will be counted on to carry the workload in the running game. If Richardson produces like a third overall pick should, he will help Weeden's performance tremendously. A thousand plus yards rushing is not out of the question for Richardson.
They will be starting a rookie on the offensive line as well. Mitchell Schwartz from the University of California will start at Right Tackle and be counted on to shore up the right side, which was an issue for the Browns last year.
The Browns are also expecting significant contributions from their 2 rookie receivers, Josh Gordon and Travis Benjamin.
Gordon has a lot to learn as he didn't even play football last year at the University of Utah. He has all the physical tools to be a special receiver, but he has to learn the playbook and shake off the rust which will take time.
Benjamin and his 4.26 speed (via The Cleveland Plain Dealer) will give the Browns legitimate speed on the outside—something they have been sorely lacking for many years.
Rookies will also need to perform on the defensive side of the ball.
Defensive Tackles John Hughes and Billy Winn will get significant playing time to help plug up the middle until DT Phil Taylor returns from injury. The Browns were already 30th in team rushing defense last year allowing an average of 147.4 yards per game (via ESPN.com), so taking away a starter and adding 2 rookies won't make it easier.
Linebacker James Michael Johnson, a 4th round pick out of Nevada, will most likely be starting Week 1 to replace Scott Fujita because of his 3 game suspension. Chris Gocong is already out for the season with an Achilles injury (via ESPN.com), so for the position that has the least amount of depth, Johnson probably will get a good amount of playing time.
Cornerback Trevin Wade, a 7th round pick out of Arizona, could also get a lot of playing time this year in the wake of Joe Haden's possible 4 game suspension for Adderall use (sources told ESPNCleveland.com) and Dimitri Patterson's ankle injury in the first preseason game against the Detroit Lions.
Do you think the Browns will make the playoffs this season?
Conclusion: It is highly unlikely that a team with so many rookies being counted on to perform right away at such a high level will make the playoffs. The talent level on the roster has improved greatly from last year, but with the combination of being in arguably the toughest division in football and having the 3rd toughest schedule in the NFL with their opponents having a combined .527 winning percentage from last year (via ESPN.com), the Browns will not make the playoffs in the 2012-2013 NFL season.
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