The Browns have the makings of a solid, albeit unspectacular offensive team this season, especially considering the O-Line, addition of a Veteran QB and the emergence late last season of Jerome Harrison and the running game.
Wiley old veteran Jake Delhomme is the opening day starter, and should bring some stability to a position that had much flux surrounding it last season with the now jettisoned Brady Quinn and Derek Anderson.
Delhomme should be able to provide them with a consistent passing offense, and allow them to use the running game in compliment to the passing game, instead of in place of it.
Last season, the passing game was terrible, and part of that was Quinn/Anderson, and part was offensive coordinator Brian Daboll's play calling.
The playcalling must get better in this regard, and must be more consistent to allow Delhomme to be effective.
For this first time in a long time, Cleveland actually looks to have a solid running game, even with the loss of 2nd round reach Montario Hardesty.
Jerome Harrison was highly effective down the stretch last season, and the argument could be made that in the final 4 weeks of the season, he was the best RB in the NFL.
Behind Harrison is bulldozing RB/FB Peyton Hillis and C.J. Spiller's favorite NFL'er, James Davis.
I was critical of Hillis' acquisition, but, he's proven to more valuable to Cleveland than he was to Josh McDaniels in Denver, and appears to have worked on his deficiencies at blitz pickup and blocking assignments. Perhaps the trade was a wake up call, if so, that's good news for the Browns.
Davis is a dynamic playmaking RB, and my feeling is that if given the chance, this guy could be very special. He's bigger than Spiller, and equally as fast, and has ability to run inside and outside.
Bulldozing the way for all the RB's, will be the iron headed, hard nosed FB Lawrence Vickers, who may be the best FB in the NFL.
This is a strong group, and should have a decent amount of success this season.
Cleveland's WR group is a point of concern for me.
Lacking is the experience and leadership of a veteran wideout who's played that game, and that is sometimes undervalued. But, history doesn't lie. Having a veteran WR helps greatly.
The depth chart lists Mohamed Massaquoi as the #1 and for OSU standout Brian Robiskie as the #2. behind them are Josh Cribbs, Chansi Stuckey and Carlton Mitchell.
The emergence of Robiskie this preseason as Cleveland's possession WR is HUGE. Cleveland was lacking this player to compliment Massaquoi last year, and seeing Robo mature into this spot could be a key for them.
Massaquoi is poised for a breakout season with a reliable veteran at QB. In reality, I think 950-1100 yards and 5-8 TD's is possible for him this season. Especially with Delhomme, who tends to lock onto his #1 WR.
This is an underrated and undervalued group. The acquisition of Benjamin Watson was a great get for the Browns. His rare combination of smarts, size and speed make him invaluable to Delhomme and Cleveland.
Add to that the emergence of Trent Edwards' favorite target at Stanford, Evan Moore, and you have a dynamic TE duo that could force matchup problems with opposing D's, especially in 2 TE sets.
I think Watson will be the primary TE, but, Moore will be involved too. As long as Watson stays present and doesn't disappear as he did many times in New England, this group should flourish.
The left side of the Cleveland O-Line is probably one of the Top 5 in all of football.
The Browns line was #9 in rushing and #9 in passing, and the 10th ranked penalized team.
Perhaps this is a surprise in many people’s eyes, but a lot of the quality here, was masked last season by deficiencies at the other key positions.
The right side still looks like it needs work but there is extreme talent in the younger players. The addition of Pashos and Lauvao in place of St. Clair and Womack immediately make them better, not much, but better.
Special mention should be made of Alex Mack, who was unacceptably overlooked as even a nominee for Offensive Rookie of the Year despite being in the top five at his position.
Joe Thomas is the anchor here at the LT spot, and is possibly the best in the NFL right now. Frankly, the only thing more staggering than the lack of appreciation in some quarters for Thomas (only 18 of 50 Associated Press voters thought him in the top two tackles — hang your heads in shame, gentlemen!) is the fact that some still see LG Eric Steinbach as a quality player and not the liability he’s become over the last few years.
If he improves, look out.
This is a team on the rise, and a team that should take some opponents by surprise. They have the ability to open holes and pass protect well.
The offenses biggest handicap, in my mind, is still going to be the playcalling and offensive scheme implementation of Brian Daboll.
Last season, he was among the worst in all of the NFL, and if there's any sign of a struggle here, Cleveland should be ready to move to Haskell to replace him.
If Cleveland can be consistent, and balance the passing attack with the rushing attack, then they can be a team that's in the upper half of the league. But, Daboll's success and ability to mix things up is going to be key.