The Cleveland Browns have had an offseason bustling with activity at every turn. There were roster moves galore, trades, free agent signings, and holdouts. The NFL draft was the first under the direction of new team President Mike Holmgren and GM Tom Heckert. The results were received strangely at first, but there seems to be a method to their madness.
Overall, it was a very exciting, optimistic time to be a Cleveland Browns fan.
In a surprising move, Holmgren elected to keep Coach Eric Mangini and his staff, with one caveat:
He brought in former Seattle Seahawks offensive coordinator Gil Haskell to incorporate some sets and formations of the West Coast into Browns offensive coordinator Brian Daboll's base offense.
Next, the Browns added golden child Colt McCoy in the third round of the draft and made conflicting statements about whether he will play this year.
Regardless, the stable of arms we now have clearly gives us a better shot at a high noon gunfight.
Delhomme's job will be to manage the game and try not to throw the ball into tight spaces.
With the additions of running back Montario Hardesty and tight end Ben Watson along with Jerome Harrison, he should have check down options with excellent hands available to him on almost every play.
The Browns have been quite vocal about the addition of a Cyclone package, which will include Wallace as the quarterback and Cribbs in the backfield.
The players will line up parallel to one another so either one could take the deep snap.The options are almost limitless and will drive defensive coordinators nuts.
Cribbs will be back in the Flash package and he will have more weapons this year with Montario Hardesty, Jerome Harrison, Peyton Hillis, James Davis, and a better cast of receivers. He might actually hand off or throw the ball instead of keeping it on every play.
Between the Cyclone and the Flash package, defensive coordinators will have to plan for three different looks.
Running back Montario Hardesty has been the most impressive rookie in camp. He knows where to be, what the audibles are, and what his blocking assignments are.
Hardesty is a sculpted 6'0", 225-lb rocket who bursts through the line, but also knows how to set his blockers up.
Jerome Harrison just signed his tender and better come to training camp with his game face on because this rookie has serious designs on the starting position.
The Browns' tight ends are quite possibly the best in the NFL. They acquired Ben Watson and Alex Smith through free agency and Evan Moore returns from last year.
Watson is a superb, all around tight end with good hands. Smith is bigger than Watson and a better blocker but also has reliable hands.
Moore is a finesse tight end with an incredible pair of hands who can double as a wide receiver.
The Browns offensive line has two building blocks in All-Pro left tackle Joe Thomas and center Alex Mack. They drafted an interior line prospect, Shawn Lauvao, who is a strong, intelligent mauler that should start sooner rather than later at guard.
Eric Steinbach is back at left guard and the Browns signed Tony Pashos to play either right guard or tackle. Floyd "Pork Chop" Womack is also in the running for a spot on the right side of the line, as is former Bengal Scott Kooistra.
Cleveland then set about revamping the secondary through a trade and the draft. Cornerbacks Sheldon Brown and rookie Joe Haden will battle incumbent starter Eric Wright for the two starting positions in training camp, with the loser becoming the nickel back.
The draft brought a pair of talented safeties to a woefully thin and poorly performing area of the team. Rookie battering ram T.J. Ward is locked in a battle with veteran Mike Adams for the starting free safety position, while rookie strong safety Larry Asante is playing with the first team defense as he awaits a training camp challenge from recently signed Abe Elam.
Regardless of who starts, the safety positions should be much better this year than in years past.
A lot of observers and publications thought the Browns needed a veteran wide receiver, but GM Tom Heckert said he was happy with what they had on the roster.
Brian Robiskie makes the man look prescient. Out of all the players this offseason, Robiskie has been the most improved. He catches everything anywhere near him, runs his routes perfectly, and just plays good clean football.
“So far Brian Robiskie has had an outstanding camp,” Mangini said. “He’s showed up quite a bit. He’s running good routes and made some big plays pretty much every day. ”
That's awesome to hear about Brian. Perhaps he'll give Cribbs a run for the starters spot.
Mohamed Massaquoi is the unquestioned number one receiver after a solid rookie campaign and he hopes to minimize his drops this year. Joshua Cribbs worked hard over the winter on his route running and hopes to have a better 2010.
Chansi Stuckey is supposed to be a possession receiver but he had seven drops last year. Carlton Mitchell has been dinged up in camp and seems to have an uneven set of hands, but he does have speed that the team desperately needs.
Johnathan Haggerty runs a 4.44 40 yard dash and has good hands."He's gotten some more looks because of the good things that he's done and I'm excited about what he's done." said Mangini. "Now it's a function of what he can keep doing."
Hopefully he continues to develop when the pads go on in training camp because we need his speed and hands.
The linebackers have been in a unique situation with D'Qwell Jackson and Matt Roth sitting out all organized team activities this offseason.
Scott Fujita and Chris Gocong have been singled out for praise by Mangini for their intelligence and drive.
David Veikune has made a permanent switch to inside linebacker and has had positive reports, but Mangini is holding off on any praise until the pads are on and he can see him lay some lumber.
Marcus Benard has looked explosive and ready for an expanded role as a pass rushing specialist.
The defensive line looks like Shaun Rogers will start at end, with Ahtyba Rubin at the nose, and Robaire Smith at the other end. Kenyon Coleman and C. J. Mosley will be reserves.
Rookie Clifton Geathers is an excellent prospect who needs to keep his temper in check if he wants to play for Mangini.
Brian Schaefering is a valuable swingman who has earned Mangini's trust.
The Browns have definitely improved the quarterback situation in my opinion. Even if Jake goes down, I would much rather have Seneca as my backup than Brady or DA.
The running game could be lethal this year. Harrison and Hardesty are each the real deal in their own way, while Hillis has a hard-nosed style and is a good receiver out of the backfield.
Let us not forget the return of last year's preseason phenom, James Davis, who is capable of a home run at any point in a ball game.
Robiskie alone makes this year's wide receiving crop better than last years. Mohamed, Robo, and Cribbs, are a decent triumvirate to start the season with.
Haggerty just might be that $50 scratch off lottery ticket and Mitchell oozes talent, he just needs a lot of one on one time with the jugs machine.
The revamped secondary can't be worse than last years, so we're ahead of the game right there. Our top three corners should be able to compete with anybody, while our safeties are going to have some growing pains.
The linebackers make me dizzy now that D'Qwell and Roth have signed, so I won't speculate on starters. I do wonder who the playmakers will be outside of Benard and Roth. Bowens, if hes not on the bench, is one, and maybe Gocong. But if you look at Fujita and Jackson's stats, they're tacklers not playmakers. Just a thought.
The defensive line is thin but competent. Rogers should have a great year.
The offensive line apparently has three positions settled and Pashos, Womack, Kooistra, and Lauvao are battling it out for the two spots on the right side. Hopefully, Mangini decides early so the line has an opportunity to gel before the season starts.
Overall, I think the Browns will surprise a lot of teams in 2010. The influx of talent combined with the stability of the coaching base has set the tone for a successful transition into a new decade full of promise.