The 2010 NFL season is almost upon us, and the Browns are set to open training camp in Berea, Ohio, amid fevered anticipation.
At long last, the team appears poised to have a breakout year. A sense of optimism surrounds the team as a whole, reinforced by a roster filled with many players on the cusp of individual breakthrough.
Here are 10 Browns with the potential to have huge breakout seasons. Of course, there are more possibilities than the ten players shown here, but what a lovely problem to have, right?
Please share your thoughts on other candidates for a breakout season in the comments below!
With 34 receptions, 624 yards, and three touchdowns on the year in 2009, Mohamed Massaquoi had what might be considered a pretty good season for a first-year player—even if his totals weren't quite up to par for a guy who was established as the team's No. 1 receiver by midseason.
In his sophomore effort in 2010, Massaquoi seems poised and ready to shatter those totals and truly own the No. 1 receiver designation.
With the help of experience, a more accurate passer throwing to him, and a stronger receiving corps around him, Massaquoi could exceed 70 catches, 1,000 yards, and 8-10 touchdowns on the season.
In 2009, the Browns were 4-1 when Ahtyba Rubin took over at nose tackle for an injured Shaun Rogers.
The current general consensus among those in the know is that Rubin will permanently take over the nose tackle spot in 2010, with Rogers sliding over to the defensive end position whenever he returns from his impending suspension.
Rubin has had time to get comfortable in the nose tackle position, and will have the advantage of being book-ended by two excellent defensive ends in Shaun Rogers and Robaire Smith, once both have fulfilled their punishments for gun charges.
Rubin banged out 49 tackles in 2009, and should easily exceed that number—and post a couple of sacks as well—this year.
Tight end Evan Moore broke his hand in training camp in Green Bay at the beginning of 2009, and though he signed with the Browns in November, he was not moved to the active roster until December 5th, when he was finally considered to be 100 percent healthy.
In three games last season, Moore had 12 receptions for 158 yards. For the curious, that's more receptions and yardage than free agent acquisition Robert Royal had in 13 games.
Moore probably has the best hands on the team. His totals in just those three games last season likely indicate that he will put up some pretty impressive numbers over a full season. This is particularly evident since he will have a more accurate passer at the quarterback position, and better blocking, which should help his yards after the catch as well.
Outside linebacker Matt Roth posted an impressive four sacks in six games with the Browns after catching on with the team midseason, following a falling out with his former squad in Miami.
For reasons never entirely specified, Roth then demanded a trade during the offseason, and stubbornly resisted signing until just moments before the deadline.
Roth is a five-year veteran in the NFL, but has never truly reached his potential. He has the skill set to have a breakout season in 2010 and establish himself as a top-tier OLB for the Browns.
If only he would just shut up and play out the season.
With just seven receptions, 106 yards, and no touchdowns in 11 games in 2009, wide receiver Brian Robiskie didn't exactly blow anyone away with his numbers in his rookie season with the Browns.
Still, the former Ohio State standout appeared to be gradually improving over the course of the season. He should obliterate his 2009 totals in 2010 now that he has adjusted to playing in the NFL.
Robiskie should also benefit from the improvements of fellow receiver Massaquoi, who could draw double coverage from defenders, and leave Robiskie wide open frequently.
Cornerback Joe Haden, Cleveland's first-round draft pick in 2010, was met with mixed reviews after being selected seventh overall.
Supporters praised his hands, ability to locate balls in the air, and closing burst, while detractors questioned his speed, vulnerability to inside moves, and even whether his listed height was legitimate.
While Haden's flaws can't be ignored, he appears to have far more upside than downside. Scouts agree that he excels in defending against the run, an area where the Browns have had significant trouble in the recent past.
If he can improve his reactions in man coverage and make good on his college reputation as a playmaker, in spite of less-than-ideal speed and height, he could become a key component of the Browns much-improved secondary right right from the beginning of his NFL career.
2010 rookie running back Montario Hardesty was a bit of a gamble as a second-round pick, given his injury history. A torn ACL, an ankle injury, and a lower leg stress fracture limited him to just one full season of college ball in Tennessee.
But while on paper his limited track record and durability issues give cause for concern, watching him on the field produces an entirely different reaction.
Hardesty won't impress anyone with his speed, but that's about where the flaws in his skill set end. He has excellent instincts and field vision, strong agility and balance, and his competitiveness and work-ethic indicate a character makeup that's off-the-charts.
Hardesty could explode onto the scene in 2010, and take some of the pressure off of go-to running back Jerome Harrison—as long as he can stay healthy.
A well-established special teams darling already, Mike Adams has been in the league since 2004, and a member of the Browns since 2007.
Still, Adams spends more and more time in the defensive backfield every year, and will likely spend a lot of time at slot corner in nickel packages this season.
He did a nice job at safety in 2009, and while he will likely be supplanted from the free safety spot by rookie T.J. Ward this season, he's poised to have a breakout year on defense as a cornerback, to complement his already-stellar reputation on special teams.
Guard Shawn Lauvao, a third-round 2010 draft pick out of Arizona State, has the potential to provide much-needed improvement to the Browns offensive line.
Lauvao's skills were often underestimated at a college level because he was mostly playing left tackle. But as a guard, he projects far better potential.
He's a smart player and an exceptionally dominant blocker. He should do well holding off power tackles, and display breakout talent, while providing a huge boost to the Cleveland offensive line.
It's not just the players that have potential to break out.
Eric Mangini's tenure with the Browns, and as an NFL head coach in general, has reached a tipping point. This is the season where Mangini will either establish himself as a formidable NFL coach, or saddle himself with a reputation as a guy who isn't truly capable of captaining the ship.
Mangini is far from a sure bet for a breakout year. In fact, he's a much shakier candidate for the distinction than most of the players on this list.
Still, Mangini has shown flashes of potential in the past, and for the first time in his career, he has a group of players with great promise on the field and an innovative, talented group of strategists in the front office.
If Mangini can truly create a successful product with the resources he has at hand, then like many of his players, he may well see his breakout season in 2010.