The new regime in Cleveland will certainly have a lot on their hands this upcoming summer as they take over a team that had possibly one of the strangest back-to-back seasons in recent memory.
The Cleveland Browns were edged out of the playoffs late in the 2007 campaign under Romeo Crennel. They followed the promising season with a dismal year in 2008, that just kept getting worse with a combination of injuries and letdowns on the field.
Now, trying to put all that behind is Eric Mangini, a man who himself suffered a similar fate in New York. He took the Jets to the playoffs in 2006, then followed with a 4-12 record in 2007. In his final year with the Jets he dealt with the Brett Favre comeback fiasco, fading down the stretch, and missing the playoffs which led to his departure.
This new season ahead of him and the Browns is nothing if not intriguing as Mangini has brought in a host of former Jets on both sides of the ball to aid in the transition of the incumbent roster.
Notable pickups in the off-season include former Jets defensive backs Abram Elam and Hank Poteat. They should help out 2008 starters Brandon McDonald and Eric Wright in the secondary. Another Jet that was added to the defense was linebacker Eric Barton.
The draft was a roller coaster for the new staff in Cleveland, as multiple trades on the first day. Mangini and new General Manager George Kokinis opted to stick to the football savvy picks in top center Alex Mack and Ohio State receiver product Brian Robiskie.
Both rookies should have an immediate impact on the squad as the new season approaches, filling needs at both center and presumably slot reciever. Robiskie, sure to be a fan favorite, was called a reach by some but has the tools to make an impact right away with his football knowledge and sure hands in the slot.
Former Bills tight end Robert Royal, will try to fill one of the biggest spots on the offense after Kellen Winslow vacated the starters role in a trade with Tampa Bay. This could also allow for 2008 draft pick Martin Rucker to get a chance to break into the game plan with his pass-catching ability from the tight end position.
Still remaining are staples on both sides of the ball with Pro-Bowler Shaun Rogers looking to continue his dominance in the middle of the defensive line. Joining him will be Robaire Smith, looking to rebound from an injury-plagued 2008 season.
Also, returning and possibly the most heated topic of the off-season is receiver Braylon Edwards, who had a disappointing season in 2008 after a brilliant year in 2007, when he caught sixteen touchdown passes on his way to the Pro-Bowl. He will look to return for either Brady Quinn or Derek Anderson.
Both Quinn and Anderson are sure to be embroiled in a competition come camp, and this will be a very critical part to the continuity and coherence of the offense going into 2009.
Surely, the new season will only be the beginning of Mangini's new test, but there is certainly a promising mix of veterans and youth that can contribute in the future to help the Cleveland Browns compete for a long awaited Super Bowl Championship.
The Browns will start to put it all together in just a few short months when they go to work in Berea in August.
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