Cleveland Browns: 5 Young Players Ready for a Breakout Season in 2011
The Cleveland Browns are one of those teams stuck in the "almost there" category. It seems that each and every year, analysts and fans alike tend to believe the Browns are close but may be a few years and a few important pieces away from being a contender.
However, in nearly every season, there is a surprise team that comes to fruition before it is expected.
Could this be that year for the Browns?
While it seems unlikely, especially in the AFC North, one of the toughest divisions in all of football, along with a new coaching staff and completely different offensive and defensive schemes, the Browns have a plethora of young talent waiting to break out.
If certain young players come into their own and play up to their potential, the Cleveland Browns could possibly make an impact on the AFC North this upcoming season.
Here are five young players ready for a breakout season for the Cleveland Browns in 2011.
5. Brian Robiskie
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Brian Robiskie has not lived up to expectations in his two seasons with the Browns.
Robiskie was believed to be an NFL-ready wide receiving prospect when he was drafted by the Browns in the second round of the 2009 NFL draft. He was praised by many as a good route runner with good hands, and it was believed he would make an immediate impact on a depleted Browns receiving corps.
However, Robiskie has had little impact. After a nearly nonexistent rookie season, the wide receiver out of Ohio State racked up just 310 yards on 29 catches with three touchdowns in his sophomore campaign.
While his productivity has been minimal, Robiskie could benefit greatly from new head coach Pat Shumur's West Coast offense. As a possession receiver, Robiskie could see himself becoming the target of more mid-yardage passes from Colt McCoy.
His impact could be felt immediately next season, as he is one of the veteran receivers with whom McCoy will feel most comfortable in the new offensive scheme.
4. Ahtyba Rubin
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Ahtyba Rubin is another player who could greatly benefit from a new coaching staff, as well as a new supporting cast.
Rubin was a force in 2010, compiling 82 tackles and two sacks after taking over the starting nose tackle slot from the oft-injured Shaun Rogers. At 330 pounds, Rubin can take the attention off the rest of the defensive line with his strength and power up the middle.
While Rubin showed signs of greatness in 2010, he is primed for a breakout season in 2011.
New defensive coordinator Dick Jauron's 4-3 scheme will allow Rubin to be paired up with 2011 first-round draft pick Phil Taylor, another defensive tackle weighing in at 355 pounds. With the attention being split between the two oversized men, Rubin will be able to use his strength and size to wear down opposing offensive lines and get into the backfield.
Expect a stellar year from Ahtyba Rubin that makes him a household name among AFC North fans.
3. Mohamed Massaquoi
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Mohamed Massaquoi is another wide receiver who could see his production increase for the Cleveland Browns in 2011.
It seems as if Massaquoi has been on the cusp of breaking out over the past two seasons. The wideout from Georgia had 483 yards on 36 catches and two touchdowns last season.
While his lack of production could be a product of questions at quarterback and general dysfunction on the offensive side of the ball, Massaquoi appears to have the skill set to become a No. 1 wide receiver for the Browns.
Just as the new West Coast offense will benefit Robiskie, Massaquoi will be able to use his speed to open up opposing defenses. If Massaquoi can improve his ball-catching, he will be the main target down the field for Colt McCoy next season.
2. Montario Hardesty
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Montario Hardesty's knee injury in the preseason last year confirmed what many teams feared when considering him as a draft choice: He is quite injury prone.
However, injuries cannot be taken into account when evaluating a player's breakout potential, as injuries are generally impossible to predict.
If Hardesty is able to stay healthy, he will join last year's breakout sensation Peyton Hillis in a strong Cleveland backfield.
As the wide receivers on this list will benefit from a new offense, Hardesty will likely benefit as well. In most cases, a power back like Hillis is not the best fit for a West Coast offense. While he will certainly get a fair share of touches, Hardesty could immediately step in and pick up a nice workload next season.
In addition, by splitting carries with Hillis, Hardesty will be able to remain fresher and hopefully avoid any serious injuries. This running back tandem could prove to be a force for the Cleveland Browns looking into the future.
1. Colt McCoy
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Colt McCoy, in just his second season, will become the face of the Cleveland Browns organization.
After stepping in following injuries to veteran quarterbacks Jake Delhomme and Seneca Wallace, McCoy was a pleasant surprise for Browns fans in a year in which he was not supposed to see the field.
While his numbers were not spectacular, he led the Browns to back-to-back victories over the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints, as well as the New England Patriots, who finished the regular season with a 14-2 record.
As any young quarterback will, McCoy experienced ups and downs in his first season as a starter. However, his upside has Browns fans excited for the future.
There is perhaps nobody on the Browns roster who will benefit more from a West Coast offense than Colt McCoy. While he does not have the strongest of arms, McCoy's impeccable accuracy will be on display in this new offensive scheme. McCoy will be able to showcase his accuracy on a majority of short- to mid-range throws, which is certainly his forte.
If the Browns are able to protect the quarterback and the running game remains a force, Colt McCoy could make a name for himself around the league in 2011.