It plays like a broken record at the beginning of each new season. We Browns fans hear the same thing. Not enough talent. No quarterback. No play makers. Too tough of a division. Can’t stop the run. Still a couple years away. I’ve heard them all 1,000 times.
With less than two weeks until the Browns open training camp, here’s my thoughts on this year’s Browns team.
Coaching - Yes I said it. Eric Mangini and his entire staff are back and that should count for something. This is the same staff that found a way to finish the 2009 season with a four-game winning streak after starting 1-11. Any other team would have quit. I have never seen a Browns team play with as much heart and togetherness in those last four games.
Special teams - Coach Brad Seely does a great job. From the kicking game, to the coverage team, to the best return man in the game. When it comes to special teams, Cleveland takes a back seat to no one.
Offensive line - In left tackle Joe Thomas, left guard Eric Steinbach, and center Alex Mack, you’d have a hard time finding a better combination on one team. On the right side, Cleveland has enough capable players to ignite some strong competition in camp. Whoever emerges as the starters on that side, the Browns will have quality depth.
Running Backs - Starting with Jerome Harrison. Last year he proved that he can be a quality back. This year he will have plenty of help and competition for carries. Rookie Montario Hardesty, James Davis, Chris Jennings, and Peyton Hillis all have talent. Along with Josh Cribbs in the Wildcat, the Browns have a surplus of good ball carriers.
Secondary - With the addition of cornerbacks Sheldon Brown and rookie Joe Haden joining last year’s starters, Eric Wright and Brandon McDonald, this has become position of strength. Coye Francies could wind up being a factor as well. Sure they have to jell as a unit, but the talent is there.
At the safety position the Browns return Abe Elam and Mike Adams. They will be joined by rookies, TJ Ward and Larry Asante, two big hitters. Talent and depth best describe Cleveland’s secondary this year.
Line Backers - The deepest position on the team. The competition between Matt Roth, Jason Trusnik, D’Qwell Jackson, Scott Fujita, Marcus Benard, Chris Gocong, and David Bowens should be fun to watch in camp. Second year players Kaluka Maiava and David Veikune will also make it interesting.
Tight Ends - Ben Watson and Evan Moore both are excellent receivers and should play a big role in the Browns ball control offense.
Wide Receiver - The biggest negative with this group is inexperience. Mohamed Massaquoi, Brian Robiskie, Chansi Stuckey, Cribbs, Jake Allen, and rookies Carlton Mitchell and Johnathan Haggerty are all young. Who will step up and be the starters? The talent is there. Veteran Bobby Engram was signed just in case.
Defensive line - Suspensions could be ahead for both Shaun Rogers and Robaire Smith as the result of being arrested in separate incidents involving loaded hand guns. How many games will they miss and who will take their place in the lineup are questions that will need to be answered.
Cleveland’s defensive line has some age and inexperience. As it looks, Ahtyba Rubin will get a good chance to start at nose tackle. Rogers could see time at both end and NT, while Smith looks like the other starter at end. Kenyon Coleman, CJ Mosley, and Brian Schaefering figure to be the backups. Schaefering has looked promising but is inexperienced.
Quarterback - In Jake Delhomme, the Browns have a veteran leader to run the offense. At least that’s what Mike Holmgren was hoping when he signed him.
In Seneca Wallace, the Browns have the best backup they’ve had in years. If Delhomme still has some good football left in him, then the QB position should be alright. If not, then Wallace will surely get his chance.
Either way Cleveland should be better than last year. How much better will determine how much of a run the Browns can make this year. Rookie Colt McCoy will most likely be a spectator this year.