As a life long fan of the Cleveland Browns I remember a lot of the good years but have also seen all of the bad ones. It has become common place the last several seasons to say wait until next year. A true Cleveland Browns fan knows what it’s like to dream about the next season, or the NFL draft, while trying to forget the season that just ended. Why we keep believing that next year will be different is impossible to explain. I guess if you are not a true Browns fan, you wouldn’t understand any way. So while I count the days until the draft, and then training camp, let me take a look at this year’s 5-11 Cleveland Browns.
Quarterback- To be honest, our QB play was not very good. During the four game winning streak that ended the season, it was plain to see the coaches had no faith in either Brady Quinn or Derek Anderson. Simply put, the Browns won those games in spite of their quarterbacks. I do have hope that Mike Holmgren will either develop what we have or go out and find our franchise QB.
Offensive line- Left tackle Joe Thomas is going to the Pro Bowl for the third straight year. Eric Steinbach was solid at left guard. Alex Mack, last years first round pick, made positive strides at center. He finished the season very well. Rex Hadnot battled through injuries to share the right guard spot with Hank Fraley and Floyd Womack. Womack moved over to right tackle in place of John St.Clair in the last few games of the season. The line as a whole, was pretty decent. In the four game win streak, the Browns rushed for 228 yards per game when everyone knew they had no passing game. They did allow 30 QB sacks but Cleveland finished 8th in the league in rushing. The offensive line doesn’t need a lot of help but I would like to see a right tackle among Cleveland’s 11 draft picks.
Wide Receivers- Mohamed Massaquoi caught 34 passes for 624 yards and three touchdowns as a rookie. His route running was weak and he needs to do a better job at fighting for the ball. Chansi Stuckey showed promise after a slow start and Mike Furrey has good hands but split time at safety. Brian Robiskie has very good hands but struggled getting open in his rookie year. Cleveland needs to find a veteran receiver through free agency to improve this position. Hopefully both Massaquoi and Robiskie will play at a higher level with a years experience.
Running back- Jerome Harrison looks like he can be a good one. After gaining 286 yards against the Chiefs, Harrison opened some eyes on the coaching staff. it’s a shame it took until the 14th game to realize what he could do. Josh Cribbs needs to get more carries as a running back. He’s a better fit at running back than at wide receiver. Chris Jennings looked good at times and rookie James Davis looked very good in preseason. Davis was injured early in the season but should make a full recovery. I don’t think running back is a position of need, in fact it looks promising. Vickers at fullback is outstanding. He needs to get some carries as well.
Tight End- Evan Moore showed great hands but is young. He is still developing but could be a good one. Steve Heiden was injured once again and is probably nearing the end. Robert Royal was a decent blocker but drops more than he catches. Mike Gaines and Greg Estandia are backups. Moore is the class of this group.
Kicker- How long can Phil Dawson continue playing at such a high level? He is as steady as a rock.
Punter - Dave Zastudil’s value to the team was never more evident than when you watched Reggie Hodges punt. Zastudil is one of the best.
Defensive line - Robaire Smith had a very solid season at age 32 and coming off an injury in 2008. I was very impressed with Ahtyba Rubin. He plays nose tackle like it’s supposed to be played. Corey Williams also did a nice job when moved inside. Shaun Rogers’ season ending injury may have been a blessing in disguise because it allowed Rubin and Williams to play the nose. Rogers is a great talent and should be moved to end next year. Kenyon Coleman and C.J. Mosley played well at times. The Browns defensive line finished the year playing well and is not a major need going in to 2010.
Linebacker - David Bowens moved inside after D’Qwell jackson and Eric Barton went down to injuries and played very well. Matt Roth was signed off waivers and was an immediate starter as well as the teams best outside linebacker. Kameron Wimbley was solid at his OLBer position.. Rookie Kaluka Maiava played a lot due to injuries and looked like a rookie at times. Jason Trusnik is a smart player but not a starter. He played a lot due to injuries. Losing Jackson hurt this unit. The Browns may need to draft an inside backer who can challenge for a starting spot. Rookie David Veikune couldn’t get on the field.
Safety - This is a major need for the Browns. Cleveland needs to find a play making, intimidating, safety in the draft. Maybe even two. Brodney Pool suffered yet another concussion, ending his season early. Pool can’t be counted on next year because he may be one more big hit from retirement. Abe Elam is not a play maker and probably not a starter. Receiver Mike Furrey had to play safety because the Browns were that bad. Enough said.
Corner back - Eric Wright had a nice year and continues to improve. He is Cleveland’s best corner by far. Mike Adams was decent filling in but he is more of a safety. Brandon McDonald started out the year as a starter but played his way to the bench. He is a nickle back at best, but could do a nice job in that role. Hank Poteat struggled mightily. Rookie Coye Francies looked impressive in preseason but was inactive for most of the year. Cornerback is another big need for the Browns. A solid starter must be found to play opposite of Wright.
Special Teams - The strength of the team. It should be because nearly every player the Browns signed or traded for was a special teams player. Blake Costanzo was a demon on this unit and Josh Cribbs set an NFL record for career touchdowns on kickoff returns.
Coaching - At the bye week I would have said Eric Mangini would not be here another year. Not only Mangini but his entire staff is coming back for an encore. I have to give them credit, the players played as hard as any Browns team I’ve seen and showed the heart of champions during the win streak. More talent is needed but the coaches deserve credit for bringing this team as far as they did.