This year, the Cleveland Browns have shown themselves to be a promising, young and deeply flawed football team.
You know you're Cleveland fan when you're just happy not to be in last place. While we currently occupy that spot with our record, the statistics tell a different story. Brandon Weeden continues to improve and young receivers like Josh Gordon are emerging as viable downfield threats.
Yet, as we continue to lose, fans are forced to look at the less-than-obvious cracks in the system.
Free agency is a golden opportunity to start that repair process. Last year, we locked in the likes of Josh Cooper and Tashaun Gipson. Back in December, I thought we signed the guy who played Darryl on The Office. But Craig Robertson has shown his immense value and reminded us why the least talked-about acquisitions can ultimately be the most important.
With that in mind and with the holidays fast approaching, here is my 2013 free-agency wish list for the Cleveland Browns.
Get on it, Santa. And a coffee maker would be nice, too.
Montario Hardesty has been a capable backup during the excruciating course of Trent Richardson's injuries. However, with the seemingly exponential growth of NFL linebackers, the majority of running backs are succeeding as much on their durability as their talent. They often have a short shelf life; fantasy owners are undoubtedly nodding along.
And we've also seen that the least-hyped backs can absolutely explode at any given time. While the Browns aren't likely to pick up a huge name and established presence in free agency, they can at least grab some fresh legs with the potential to turn into something more.
And that brings us to the guys who help to make the run possible.
Often a thankless position, the tight end spot can truly transform an offense if manned by a really solid player. Cleveland's Ben Watson is averaging 8.1 yards per reception and has a touchdown to his credit. Of course, there isn't an overwhelming amount of competition for throws from the likes of Greg Little, but still.
The problem is blocking. A solid tight end has to assist in getting more breathing room for the running backs behind him. Just ask Evan Moore, who had a couple nice touches and even a touchdown in preseason. The guy couldn't block, and his subsequent disappearance from the roster reflected that.
The Seattle Seahawks snatched up Moore during free agency, and it would be nice to see the Browns concentrating their energy on the same position next year.
According to the outside-the-box statistics found at Football Outsiders, the Cleveland defensive line stuffs opposing running backs behind the line of scrimmage on about 13 percent of carries. That puts us dead last in the league.
Our run defense has been leaving a lot to be desired lately. Just a couple weeks ago, Ahmad Bradshaw trampled the line for 200 yards and a touchdown. The Giants averaged 7.1 yards per carry and rushed for 14 first downs (compared to Cleveland's three). That, my fellow Brownies, is a trouncing. It's also the most compelling reason that we lost the game.
A few strategic additions to the defensive line could put us back on the right track to being a feared presence on the ground. We just need to choose wisely to supplement what we already have on the defensive side of the ball.
I've been a good girl this year (so long as Santa didn't see the "shaving cream incident") and I'm hoping my wish list will be honored. In the meantime, Pat Shurmur and company must be hypertuned into those often elusive cracks in the system, because their jobs might just depend on it.
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