In the NFL today, the teams that consistently win such as: Pittsburgh, New England, and Indianapolis not only have an immense amount of talent, but they have a philosophy that is in direct correlation with their roster.
In other words, who they are as a team is just as important to their success as what their talent is.
One of the biggest issues with the return of the Cleveland Browns has been their lack of an identity on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. After 10 seasons and four different coaches, the Browns still do not have any idea who they are.
While it is unknown how new head coach Eric Mangini will succeed in Cleveland, one thing that will be apparent during his regime is that he will establish an identity that both the league and the fans can relate to.
As a prodigy of NFL mastermind Bill Belichick, Eric Mangini’s philosophy has always coincided with his mentor; which is a run-oriented, ball-control, offense, along with a run-stopping, play-making, defense.
In order to play this type of football, it requires strength on both the offensive and defensive lines.
With Offensive Coordinator Brian Daboll, along with Offensive Line Coach George Warhop, Coach Mangini hopes to have three-fifths of his offensive line strength in place with LT Joe Thomas, LG Eric Steinbach, and rookie C Alex Mack!
While Jamal Lewis regressed during the 2008 season, the coaches believe that a healthy, rededicated Lewis, as well as a distribution of carries between little-used veteran Jerome Harrison, and 2009 sixth round pick James Davis; the Browns will hopefully achieve the goal of running the football consistently.
As far as the passing game is concerned, Coach Daboll will institute a ball- control type of passing game with physical receivers who not only can catch the ball, but can assist in the running game by blocking downfield.
With big play receivers such as: Braylon Edwards, Brian Robiskie, and Mohammed Massaquoi; along with possession receivers David Patten, and Mike Furrey, the Browns should be set in that regard.
However, the key to making this offensive machine run is finding a smart, efficient, quarterback who not only can make plays consistently, but also eliminate turnovers. Mangini and Daboll must decide if the operator of this machine is either QB Derek Anderson or QB Brady Quinn.
While the Browns defense will continue to run the 3-4 alignment, new Defensive Coordinator Rob Ryan will attempt to be extremely aggressive with his play-calling. Ryan’s defense will enforce more blitzes and stunts in an effort to put pressure on imposing quarterbacks.
No matter who the coordinators were under former head coach Romeo Crennel, the Browns consistently had problems applying quarterback pressure; which contributed in them ranking no higher than 27th in the league on defense during his tenure.
Defensive Line Coach Bryan Cox, and Linebackers Coach Matt Eberflus will help Coach Ryan find the players that will provide enough pressure on the quarterback to consistently make plays.
Led by All-Pro NT Shaun Rogers, the Browns' D-Line will rotate a plethora of linemen to help stop the run such as: Robaire Smith, Shaun Smith, Corey Williams, and ex-Jets Kenyon Coleman and C.J. Mosley.
The linebackers that will assist mainstays D’Qwell Jackson, Kamerion Wimbley, and Alex Hall in making plays are ex-Jets Eric Barton and David Bowens. Another linebacker looking to make a name for himself this year is 2008 fourth-round pick Beau Bell; who missed most of last season with a knee injury.
The secondary in Coach Ryan’s defense will play more press coverage which will allow them to play opposing receivers more physically. In the past, the Browns corners would play 10 to 15 yards off the receivers in an effort not to get beat deep.
Along with returning defensive backs: Eric Wright, Brandon McDonald, Brodney Pool, and Mike Adams; the Browns have added DB’s Hank Poteat, Corey Ivy, and Roderick Hood in free agency and drafted rookie DB’s Coye Francies and Don Carey.
However, the key to this secondary will be S Abram Elam; who was acquired in their draft day deal with the Jets. He will start immediately and hopefully give them the ball-hawking, play-making safety that they have not had since the late Eric Turner.
Since this is still a work in progress, Browns fans should expect some growing pains. However, one thing is for sure, at the end of the day, these fans should finally understand who this team is! How long before fans get acquainted? Only time will tell.
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