Lovin' the Underdogs: Five Cleveland Browns Players Who May Surprise in 2010

Daniel WolfSenior Writer IMay 11, 2010

KANSAS CITY, MO - DECEMBER 20:  Kaluka Maiava #56 of the Cleveland Browns plays his defensive position during their NFL game against the Kansas City Chiefs on December 20, 2009 at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri. The Browns defeated the Chiefs 41-34. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Since sports began back ages ago, the story of the underdog has always captivated fans everywhere.

A team coming from nothing to win a championship has happened many times in the past, but even more encouraging is the story of an unknown individual, who rises above all the adversity to become a star that no one expected.

The Cleveland Browns are one of those teams in the NFL that could have several players who are virtual unknowns become the next underdog story.

It has already happened within the last decade with Pro Bowler Josh Cribbs, who went from undrafted quarterback out of Kent State University to setting the NFL record for career touchdown returns on kickoffs just one season ago.

For a team that has been constantly rebuilding since they rose like a phoenix back in 1999, the Browns may have several young players on their roster who may become the next Pro Bowl talent and star wearing an orange helmet.

Of the following players (sorry, no rookie underdogs on this list), one or more may become that next star player in 2010 and/or beyond.


Marcus Benard, OLB

Benard was an undrafted free agent out of the small college of Jackson State, but he was a pass rush specialist and actually had five sacks in one game against Alabama State.

He averaged 11.5 sacks per season in college, and Benard gave a sample of his ability to get to the quarterback late in the season last year and ended up with 3.5 sacks. Two of those sacks were against the Steelers.

On a defense that has many faces and formations under Rob Ryan, Benard will get plenty of opportunities in 2010 to rush the passer as an underdog in a linebacker group, that is much deeper than Browns fans have seen, since he showed so much promised in the tail end of 2009.


James Davis, RB

Davis showed promise in the 2009 preseason, but his rookie year was cut short due to a shoulder injury during a practice drill.

Remember that Davis played with highly touted rookie running back C.J. Spiller of this year's draft class, but Davis was also the guy who kept Spiller on the bench for two and a half season until he got injured and Spiller took over. This was the reason Davis dropped so far in the draft one year ago.

Now that the Browns have brought on rookie back Montario Hardesty, the back field is deep and crowded, but with head coach Eric Mangini being a run-heavy favorite, the Browns will look at all of their runners to get reps and this gives Davis a chance to be the underdog who breaks out.

Davis will get his chance in training camp and preseason once again, and he not only told media that he is considering 2010 as his second rookie season, but he also said he feels stronger and more powerful than ever.


Kaluka Maiava, ILB

In a linebacker group that is filled with players for the 2010 season, Maiava is one of the lesser talked about at this point of his young career, which could be good and makes him an underdog candidate.

Maiava came from USC and was the unknown linebacker in a draft class that already had Brian Cushing, Rey Maualuga, and Clay Matthews III as the headliners. Maiava may have saw his stock drop because he was the odd man out in the USC stable of linebackers, but he is by far the one guy to watch out of all of them.

Anyone who goes out and hunts wild boar with their bare hands during free time needs to be watched, and Maiava saw more playing time at the end of the 2009 season and made some strides in his development.

He may not be ready to start, but with a veteran like Scott Fujita to mentor Maiava along for the next couple of season, look for Maiava to be starting within the next few years as one of the Browns' inside linebackers.


Brian Robiskie, WR

The proclaimed "most NFL-ready wide receiver in the 2009 draft class" fell 100 yards of that title in his rookie year, only seeing the football field a handful of times, and now he is an underdog fighting for his chance at redemption.

Not the type of beginning a son of a wide receivers coach would like to start his NFL career, but being the son of a receivers coach will only help Robiskie develop since it most certain that his father Terry probably worked with and/or gave his a ton of guidance in this offseason to prepare him for the 2010 season.

Robiskie is part of a wide receiver group that is extremely young and untested, but if he can step up and become a leader of this young group, then look for good things not only from him, but from all the receivers that will make the Browns' regular season roster.


Ahtyba Rubin, DT

Rubin went from understudy of starter Shaun Rogers to Rogers' replacement in half a season last year...literally.

With a pending suspension and possible legal troubles on top of that, Rubin got his chance to prove himself in 2009 when Rogers went out for the season with an injury and the defense actually played better and stronger.

Rubin is a young underdog going into the 2010 season and may be the new centerpiece of the Browns' 3-4 defensive scheme, as long as he can continue to hold the line along with a double team to allow the pass rushers an opportunity to get to opposing quarterbacks.


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