Cleveland Browns: Report Card Grades for 2012 Free Agent Acquisitions

Amy DittoeContributor IIIOctober 3, 2012

CLEVELAND, OH - SEPTEMBER 09:  Wide receiver Jeremy Maclin #18 of the Philadelphia Eagles misses a catch as he is guarded by defenders L.J. Fort #58 and Dimitri Patterson #21 of the Cleveland Browns  their season opener at Cleveland Browns Stadium on September 9, 2012 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)
Matt Sullivan/Getty Images

Heading into Week 5, the Cleveland Browns are testing their notoriously loyal fanbase perhaps more than ever. Though we've been competitive every week, a win would certainly boost morale and help me save face at the bar every Sunday.

Focusing on the positive, however, there have been some bright spots on this extremely young team. I still think the 2012 draft could go down as one of the most sneakily successful ones in recent memory. But like a good Scotch, this team may just need some time to reach its potential. 

One of the positives is in Cleveland's talented batch of undrafted free agents. L.J. Fort, Craig Robertson and Tashaun Gipson have provided a noticeable lift to an already rather solid defense. 

L.J. Fort

This undrafted linebacker is a fellow Midwesterner (Northern Iowa), so we can assume he's a hard worker and all-around good guy. We all are. Except some of us are girls.

But I digress. Due to injuries spreading like the common cold, Fort got a start against a volatile and often explosive Philly offense in Week 1. He put up respectable stats that even included a sack and an interception. Not bad for a guy who was slighted on draft day. 

Fort showed quick thinking and good decision making; the rest can be coached up. It might just be a matter of time before he becomes a regular fixture in the Browns' D. 

Grade: B+

Craig Robertson

Robertson was placed on the practice squad in December 2011 and was officially signed in January. He made it through camp and cuts to secure a spot on the final roster. And we are so happy he did. 

Robertson's been a fantastic edition to this Browns' defense, registering 27 tackles (19 solo) on the season. He doesn't have as many sacks as D'Qwell Jackson, and sacks are sexier.

But like my Grandma on Thanksgiving, he just seems to be an underlying force to ensure that everything runs smoothly. 

I like Robertson, and I think he'll continue to make a positive difference. 

Grade: A-

Tashaun Gipson

Gipson's been another quiet but steady contributor for the defense this season. He's hanging in there with Usama Young, at 10 and 11 tackles, respectively. 

We haven't seen a lot of him yet, as he's mainly been rotating in and out. But his fresh legs are only part of the package, along with his seemingly instinctual coverage. He'll only continue to get better.

"We're rebuilding" seems to be a phrase parroted by Cleveland fans for years on end. It's an excuse mostly met by a sympathetic-but-kinda-patronizing smirk from a Patriots or Steelers fan. But this year, we actually seem to be doing it. 

There are several young guys who could continue to make a difference; it's only more remarkable that they were undrafted. Here's to our impending win, bolstered in large part by an exciting and evolving defense. 

Grade: B