Cleveland Browns: With Pieces in Place, Will Fans Finally See the Big Picture?
When owner Randy Lerner brought in GM Phil Savage and head coach Romeo Crennel his thoughts were simple, Savage would bring in missing pieces and Crennel would put them into place on the field.
If you had been following the Browns since their reinstatement into the league in 1999, their play and results were nothing that you would have wanted, with the exception of a squeak into the playoffs in 2002.
The Browns were literally the joke of the league, considered a hopeless team and thrown in the discard bin with the likes of the Detroit Lions and Arizona Cardinal.
After a "Kardiac Kids"-type 2007, the discarded Browns supposedly came out of nowhere to win 10 games and almost obtain a wild-card berth into the playoffs.
So the national media is finally starting to hop on the Browns bandwagon and predicting big things in 2008.
The Browns' franchise has a very good-looking offense which is led by QB Derek Anderson, with the highly touted backup Brady Quinn waiting for his chance. Anderson is blessed with one of the league's top receiving tandems in the NFL (possibly top five?) in Pro Bowlers WR Braylon Edwards and TE Kellen Winslow, the surefire hands of Joe Jurevicius, and the off-season addition of Donte Stallworth.
The backfield doesn't jump out at you, but is very solid for the Browns with returning starter Jamal Lewis, who showed in 2007 he has plenty of gas in his tank by running for over 1300 yards.
Backing him up is the combination of Jason Wright, who is a very good backup, and Jerome Harrison who has yet to figure out how to pick up blitzes in the NFL. Leading the way for these three is FB Lawrence Vickers who is an option in both the passing game and running game.
The Browns offensive line is headlined by the number three pick in the 2007 draft class, LT Joe Thomas, who made the Pro Bowl in his first season and is going to see plenty more in years to come.
Next to Thomas is a two-time Pro Bowl alternate who is an excellent pass blocker, LG Eric Steinbach. At center, Hank Fraley is a legitimate starter who has been a steady component to the line. The RG position is currently filled by long time Brown Ryan Tucker, who filled the position very well coming back from his mental illness.
At RT we have Kevin Shaffer, who was paid big dollars to be the LT for years to come, but who actually works out better on the right. Not mentioned or accounted for is LeCharles Bentley, who for all we know is going to make his case to start for the '08 Browns.
Defense is where the Browns have made the difference and will hopefully allow Romeo to mold the defense he has yet to field since coaching in Cleveland. The additions of DT Shaun Rogers and DE Corey Williams were HUGE, in more ways then one for this Browns defense.
The reason being is the Browns have yet to have a NT who is capable of commanding double teams and freeing up the Browns young and talented linebckers, mainly first-round draft pick OLB Kamerion Wimbley, and MLB D'Qwell Jackson.
Phil Savage is also hopeful that DE Corey Williams can fill a void at the end position. The defensive line has been the biggest area of concern for the Browns because they haven't possessed enough talent or size to shut down opposing running games. Hopfully things will change with the addition of these two.
The Browns have young talented linebackers in Kamerion Wimbley, D'Qwell Jackson, and backup Leon Williams, who were all drafted in 2006.
They are accompanied by veterans Andra Davis, Willie McGinest, and Antwan Peek. The linebackers are viable and are all capable of producing on the field, yet the Browns may want to look for another threat opposite Wimbley.
With the Shaun Rogers trade the Browns lost possibly their best CB in Leigh Bodden, who Chad Johnson talks up as being an elite corner in the NFL. So the duties at CB are left to two second-year guys in the talented Eric Wright and come from nowhere Brandon McDonald.
Covering them from the safety positions will be Sean Jones and Brodney Pool, who are both second-round draft picks and extremely talented, both poised for breakout seasons, especially Jones.
With the additions of Rogers, Williams, and Stallworth the Browns are potential Super Bowl contenders. Be sure to give credit to GM Phil Savage who has put together a young and talented group of players on both sides of the ball, and a coach who has done a good job of putting this puzzle together. Hopefully '08 will be be a great year for the Browns and their fans.
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