Cleveland Browns 2011: Ranking Each Starter
The Cleveland Browns have gotten off to a strong start this preseason. Colt McCoy and the offense have looked much better than expected, and the defense has been swarming opponents and causing turnovers. Although a week two loss brought the Browns back to 1-1, the starters looked great against an improved Lions team.
As the Browns regular season draws near and fans grow more and more excited, we take a look at every Browns starter and rank them.
26. Richmond McGee
When one of the Browns' most reliable players went down in Reggie Hodges, McGee was asked to step up and fill his shoes. We'll see what McGee is able to do—and thus far he's been good—but when the real games start, I doubt he'll be as good as Hodges.
25. Ryan Pointbrand
This guy is one of the best long snappers in the NFL. He's made numerous Pro-Bowls and is extremely reliable, but due to his position, he's low on this list.
24. Shawn Lauvao
Lauvao is a guy that the Browns can really evaluate this season. Last year's right guard situation was definitely not in good shape, but with Lauvao in the full time starting job, the Browns can see if they need to assess the situation again.
23. Owen Marecic
I can't stop gushing over Marecic.
A two way starter at Stanford, Marecic is the hardest working football player I've ever seen. As a rookie fullback, Marecic is impressing all of his coaches not just with his play, but with his work ethic and his ability to learn.
His skill set may not be there quite yet, but Marecic will make an impact and will work hard enough to climb this list for years to come.
22. Jabal Sheard
One of the Browns' second-round picks this year, Sheard will start at the right end position.
The Browns have had problems rushing the quarterback in seasons past, and Sheard, along with Jayme Mitchell, will have to answer the call if they want to continue to start for this Browns team.
It'll be interesting to see what Sheard can do in his rookie year, but don't expect huge numbers out of him right away.
21. Phil Taylor
When Shaun Rogers left the Browns were left with a gaping hole in the middle of their defensive line, and when they moved back in the 2011 NFL Draft, they filled that hole immediately with a giant of a man named Phil Taylor.
Taylor could be an absolute force for the Browns' D-line as he takes on blocks and clogs up holes, but we have yet to see what Taylor is really capable of.
As the season progresses, Taylor could definitely move up this list.
20. Usama Young
A Kent State grad, Young is excited to come back to his roots in Cleveland.
A backup for the Saints, Young will have to prove to Browns coaches that he is ready to start and play well consistently. Last season was a bit of a down year for Usama as he only played in 11 games and had 23 tackles, but with a new city and opportunity, Young could be a big signing for the Browns this season.
We will see what kind of impact Young can have, and if he can beat out Mike Adams for the free safety job.
19. Brian Robiskie
Let's face it, Robiskie is a hometown favorite. His father was a former Browns head coach, he played for the Ohio State Buckeyes in College, and he was even a ball boy for the Browns before he went to Ohio state. The kid is automatically looked favorably upon.
Robiskie has yet to live up to his potential, but he's still a young guy. Last season, Robiskie had 3 TDs last season and had 29 receptions for 310 yards. If he continues to make strides we could see more and more of him as the season goes on.
He made quite a few plays last season, and although he has struggled this preseason, Robiskie could be a decent receiver for years to come.
18. Mohammed Massaquoi
Massaquoi has been good for the Browns, but he has never been anything but good.
His 2 TDs and 483 yards receiving were anything less than spectacular last season, even though he missed some time after taking a huge hit from the "Hitman" himself, James Harrison. Massaquoi had a decent rookie season, but his Sophomore year took a bit of a dive.
The Browns need a big-time receiver who can make plays, and Massaquoi just doesn't fit that bill. He would be a great No. 2 receiver, but as a No. 1 he stays in the middle of the pack.
17. D'Qwell Jackson
The last two seasons have been taken away from Jackson thanks to injury, but two years ago Jackson was surprisingly one of the best players on the Browns defense.
As this season rolls around, Jackson is hungry and ready to pounce on any opportunity he's given. He wants to return to his old form and play at the level he was accustomed to at the time of his first injury.
Jackson needs time to adjust to the game again, but once he does, he could be rising on this list very quickly.
16. Chris Gocong
Somewhat unexpectedly, Gocong played pretty well for the Browns last season.
He started all 16 games for the Browns, and ended up with 75 tackles, a couple of pass deflections, and a forced fumble.
A productive 2011 for Gocong could bring a good Browns defense to an elite level.
15. Jayme Mitchell
Jayme Mitchell is an essential piece of the Browns defensive line, a piece they needed to sign this offseason.
Mitchell comes to Cleveland via Minnesota, where he posted little numbers just because of the Viking's depth on the defensive line. With his great wealth of knowledge working behind the likes of Ray Edwards and Jared Allen, Mitchell could surprise Browns fans this season.
Mitchell's experience at the defensive end position could help rookies Jabal Sheard and Phil Taylor on the line, as well.
14. Colt McCoy
McCoy's performance last season was decent for a rookie, especially against the teams McCoy started against.
With victories against the Saints and Patriots, who were supposed "Elite" teams as the season began, Colt showed last season that he has what it takes to be a good player at the next level. The question is whether McCoy can make the jump from good to elite.
If he continues to play the way he's playing this preseason- posting a QB rating of nearly 135- McCoy could very well be near the top of this list by seasons end.
13. Tony Pashos
Pashos really flies under the radar in Cleveland, and that wasn't helped by his season-ending injury last season.
Tony joined the Browns last season out of San Francisco and Jacksonville where he helped the Jaguars offensive line to protect the likes of Maurice Jones-Drew and Frank Gore. Pashos only started 3 games for the Browns last season, but was extremely instrumental to the success of Peyton Hillis in each of those 3 games.
Once Pashos was out, John St. Clair could not fill his shoes, and the Browns line struggled because of it.
12. Phil Dawson
It's Philly D. What more needs to be said.
Dawson has kicked for the Browns since they rejoined the NFL in 1999, and has been one of the most accurate kickers in the NFL. His 83.2 career field goal percentage ranks very high among NFL kickers.
Browns fans are thrilled Dawson rejoined the team as he's been one of the most reliable guys for the Browns year after year.
11. Sheldon Brown
Sheldon Brown came to Cleveland from Philadelphia last season and immediately impacted the young Browns secondary.
Starting all 16 games last season, Brown ended the year with over 63 combined tackles and 2 interceptions. Brown's impact on the field is just as big as his impact as a leader in the locker room, as he has taught the young guys in the secondary a lot about the new systems that have been implemented.
Although Brown has struggled a bit this preseason, his presence at the cornerback position and ability to help the young guys such as Ward and Haden are invaluable.
10. T.J. Ward
This big hitting safety really helped the Browns defensive backfield last season.
Ward started all 16 games as a rookie and posted huge numbers: 123 combined tackles, 10 pass deflections, 2 interceptions, and 1 forced fumble. Ward will benefit from Usama Young's presence in the backfield as he can get more experience and learn from a "winner" like Young.
Although he can get chippy at times, Ward's aggressive play led to many big hits and turnovers last year.
9. Eric Steinbach
Starting all 16 games last season, Steinbach was definitely a huge part of Peyton Hillis' success. He and Joe Thomas anchor the left side of the line that often created huge holes for Hillis and the run game. Steinbach is still a great player but not at the elite level he once was at.
He gets a great deal of help from Joe Thomas and is a key part to a great offensive line.
8. Josh Cribbs
Two years ago, Cribbs would have definitely topped this list. However, last season special teams and defenses held Cribbs in check a bit and brought down his playmaking ability.
He didn't score a single touchdown on a kick or punt return last year, but did score a touchdown as a receiver and was an effective rusher as well. This could be a sign that Cribbs is more focused on his role in the offense, rather than special teams, but either way, Cribbs is worried about making plays.
This season Cribbs won't be much of a kick returner—thanks to the rule change—but should be able to return to form as the No.1 punt returner on the team, and become a big threat as a wide receiver.
7. Ahtyba Rubin
It could have been big Shaun Rogers or even the revamped linebacking corps, but Rubin had a breakout 2010 season.
WIth 82 combined tackles, 2 sacks, and even an interception, Rubin finally showed the Browns what he was able to do, given the opportunity.
This season, with a new scheme and another huge nose tackle in the middle, Rubin will be out to prove himself all over again, and have another stellar season.
6. Benjamin Watson
Watson was incredibly valuable to the Browns last season. When Colt McCoy was inserted into the Browns starting lineup, McCoy instantly connected with Watson who was an incredibly reliable tight end.
Watson finished the 2010 season with 68 receptions for 763 yards and 3 TD's, which qualified him as the Browns leading receiver.
With an improved Colt McCoy, Watson will be able to replicate his numbers from last year and continue to act as one of the NFL's best tight ends.
5. Scott Fujita
Fujita may be a more valuable asset as a leader and veteran than an actual physical presence, but either way he is invaluable to a young Browns team. It was Fujita who got his hands on Dick Jauron's new playbook this offseason, and Fujita is the guy who everyone else can go to.
He finished last season with 51 combined tackles, two forced fumbles, and an interception, in 9 games for the Browns, before his season-ending injury.
Hopefully a full 2011 season could give Browns fans a complete view of what Fujita has to offer.
4. Joe Haden
Joe Haden was expected by some to be a bust. His 40 time at the Combine was laughable, and understandably experts doubted his ability.
His 64 tackles, 18 pass deflections, 6 interceptions, and forced fumble lead the Browns defensive backs and put him in the category of some of the best young corners in the NFL. He was even in running to win the Defensive Rookie of the Year award. His 2011 season could be even better than his 2010 campaign, which would move him right up this list.
Not only has he proved his haters wrong, but he has become one of the favorites on the Browns roster. On and off the field this guy is an ambassador for Cleveland.
3. Peyton Hillis
Last season for Hillis was one to remember. Running over all kinds of defenses, and into the hearts of football fans all over America, Hillis took the NFL by storm.
His 270 carries for 1,177 yards and 61 receptions for 477 yards, including 13 total touchdowns made Peyton Hillis one of the most successful running backs of the 2010 NFL season. His numbers not only propelled him to the respect he finally deserves, but Hillis was voted by Americans to be on the cover of the Madden 12 video game, a huge honor, as this is the first time the Madden Cover was voted on by the public.
If his numbers from last season can carry over to the 2011 campaign, Hillis could easily grab the No. 1 spot on this list.
2. Alex Mack
After his first Pro Bowl last season, Mack has taken many by surprise.
Out of Cal Berkeley, Mack has dominated defensive tackles across the NFL and has made a name for himself around the league. He's started 32 out of his first 32 games and has been a model of consistency for one of the best offensive lines in the NFL.
Mack has been one of the most pleasant surprises for the Browns, and I don't expect his production to decline anytime soon.
1. Joe Thomas
Freshly signed to a new 7-year 84 million dollar offer, the Browns locked up their best player for quite some years to come.
Ranked the 43rd best player in the NFL, Thomas has been as good as advertised when the Browns took him with the 3rd pick in the 2007 NFL draft.
Thomas has started every game in his career, sometimes playing hurt or under the weather, and has been extremely productive in each and every one.
Thomas is the best player on the Browns and arguably the best Left Tackle in the NFL.