These are the top 10 reasons why I believe the Browns will make an impact in the AFC North in 2010.
Even though Cleveland’s schedule is ranked the 10th toughest for the 2010 season, it gives the Browns a great opportunity to get on the right track early. The first two games of this season will be played against Tampa Bay (in Tampa) and the Kansas City Chiefs (in Cleveland). The Bucco’s finished last season with a dismal record of 3-13 and seemed almost lost at times when playing under first year head coach Raheem Morris. The Chiefs did not fare much better in 2009 posting a 4-12 record also under a first year head coach, Todd Haley and former Browns GM Scott Pioli.
As much as Steelers fans may not want to admit it, the loss of Ben for the first 4-6 games of 2010 is going to definitely hurt Pittsburgh. Roethlisberger will definitely miss the first four games against Atlanta, Tennessee, Tampa Bay and Baltimore. Also, depending on reinstatement, Ben may also miss the week six match-up against the Browns which he is 10-1 against for his career. If Pittsburgh struggles to open the season, it can give Cleveland a wide open chance to take control in the division.
Head coach, Eric Mangini, took a lot of heat last year for some questionable decisions on and off the field. Whether it was the quarterback flip-flop between Quinn and Anderson or an infamous rookie bus trip that sent the organization into a media frenzy, people had a very hard time getting on the Mangini bandwagon. After finishing last year strong, the Browns seem to have new faith in Mangini and his philosophy. Now that Cleveland finally has some confidence in their head coach, things should run a little more smoothly around Browns camp.
The 2010 draft helped the Browns enter a new era under team president Mike Holmgren. The draft was very reminiscent of his philosophies as Cleveland focused on the defensive side of the ball and the running game. The draft was also significant because of the addition of QB Colt McCoy. Most fans were very happy with the way that Cleveland was patient when drafting and managed to get the QB of the future as well as the pieces that will help in the short term. Cornerback, Joe Haden and safety, T.J. Ward, are expected to be in starting roles in 2010 and will help lock up one of the best young secondary units in the league while new RB Monterio Hardesty should also see a significant amount of playing time.
Now that Brian Robiskie and Mohammed Masaquoi have both had a year of NFL experience under their belt, fans can begin to expect more out of them. Brian had a bit of a rough going in 2009 but is said to look a lot better and more confident throughout OTA’s and Mini Camps this season. Massaquoi, on the other hand, had a very solid rookie year and is hopefully going to take the next step in 2010. These two will also be responsible for bringing first-year WR Carlton Mitchell through the NFL fire.
Cleveland has been scrutinized most of the off season for not signing a more capable wide receiver, but luckily for the Browns they got the next best thing. Benjamin Watson will bring Cleveland a tight end receiving threat that they have not had since Kellen Winslow had a good attitude. Even though Watson will be far from a savior, he is a very capable run blocker and has caught 20 touchdown passes over the course of his seven year NFL career. Benjamin has good size and good speed and fans should expect him to be a very important piece of the Browns short passing game.
What more is there to say about Josh Cribbs? Quite arguably the best return specialist in NFL history and better yet, he got paid. Cleveland now has Cribbs signed through a long deal that will keep him in Cleveland and the fans couldn’t be happier. Retaining Cribbs not only helps out the fan base but the whole team. Other players consider him a leader for his actions on and off the field and it is good to see a player with great character be rewarded for his hard work.
The Cleveland running backs are going to be one of the biggest keys in making the 2010 campaign a success. Fortunately for the Browns, there are many options to choose from. Rookie James Davis seemed to be heading in the right direction last year but suffered a season ending injury and may have very well ended his chances of starting in Cleveland. Jerome Harrison led the charge for the Browns in 2009 rushing for 862 yards which includes a 286 yard performance against the Kansas City Cheifs in week 15.
Cleveland Also has rookie Monterio Hardesty to add to the RB carousel along with new addition Peyton Hillis from the Denver Broncos.
Finally the Browns seemed to make a proper managerial decision. Since Holmgren has taken the reigns in Cleveland, optimism has been high and the roster has been overhauled. Mike has brought in players that love the game of football, work hard, and are leaders in the locker rooms. Even though many can argue that Holmgren can’t make the plays on the field, he has done all he can to put the proper pieces in order.
Brady Quinn or Derek Anderson? Finally a question that has no influence on the Cleveland Browns. Every successful team in the NFL has a guy behind center that is considered “their” guy. Jake Delhomme brings in 12 years of experience and has led a team to a super bowl in his career. Even though Delhomme struggled last season, trends say that he will bounce back and being in a new city like Cleveland can help the process. Worst case scenario, Jake should be a very good mentor for the younger Browns quarterbacks moving forward. If Jake can put up average numbers, and limit the turnovers, he should give Cleveland a chance to win every time they take the field.