Cleveland Browns 2009 Preview

ChiCitySports .ComCorrespondent IJuly 3, 2009

CLEVELAND - DECEMBER 21:  Jamal Lewis #31 of the Cleveland Browns carries the ball during the game against the Cincinnatti Bengals on December 21, 2008 at Cleveland Browns Stadium in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
2008 Summary:
The Cleveland Browns entered the 2008 season with many believing they were about to make the leap from the pretenders to the contenders. They proved those same people wrong.

The quick fall back to reality for the Browns arose when incumbent starting quarterback Derek Anderson greatly regressed from his play in 2007, eventually leading to a quarterback controversy to bloom with backup Brady Quinn. And the rest of the Browns offense seemed to follow the route of Anderson. Jamal Lewis was a shell of his former self and Braylon Edwards seemingly killed as many drives with drops, as he would catch touchdowns on the year. Kellen Winslow would see his statistics take an enormous dive, as he would only account for 428 yards and three touchdowns in an injury riddled season after posting career highs in those categories just a year ago.

And really, that was the dichotomy of the Browns season in a nutshell. In 2007 the Browns finished 10-6 and were on the brink of a postseason berth, in 2008, the Browns would finish a terrible 4-12 with less than stellar seasons from almost every player that stepped up only nine months earlier.

This was not better shown in Cleveland, than on the defensive side of the football. With an offense unable to consistently sustain drives, the Romeo Crennel Browns had even more difficulty getting opposing offenses to stop sustaining drives. The Browns finished 27th in Total Defense in 2008—which actually was an improvement from their 30th overall ranking in 2007—but teams would convert 46% of their 3rd down plays against them (only Indianapolis and Kansas City fared worse with 47%)

With Crennel being a defensive minded coach, the struggles on that side of the ball would ultimately be his downfall as the Browns finished the season losing 8 of their final 9 games.

Crennel would soon be fired in favor of another former Patriots defensive coach, one Eric Mangini.

2009 Free Agency Additions:
CB Rod Hood, (Arizona)
LB Eric Barton, (New York Jets)
DE C.J. Mosley, (New York Jets)
OT John St. Clair, (Chicago)
OT Pork Chop Womack, (Seattle)
TE Robert Royal, (Buffalo)
CB Corey Ivy, (Baltimore)
S Hank Poteat, (New York Jets)
LB David Bowens, (New York Jets)
T George Foster, (Detroit)
LB Bo Ruud, (New England)
WR David Patten, (New Orleans)
WR Mike Furrey, (Detroit)
RB Noah Herron, (New York Jets)

2009 Trade Acquistions:
DE Kenyon Coleman (New York Jets)
QB Brett Ratliff (New York Jets)
S Abram Elam (New York Jets)

2009 Offseason Departures:
TE Kellen Winslow (Traded to Tampa Bay)
S Sean Jones (Philadelphia)
LB Andra Davis (Denver)
T Kevin Shaffer (Chicago)
G Seth McKinney (Buffalo)
CB Travis Daniels (Kansas City)
RB Jason Wright (Arizona)
TE Darnell Dinkins (New Orleans)
QB Bruce Gradkowski (Oakland)
RB Allen Patrick (NY Giants)
DE Antwan Peek (Cut)
QB Ken Dorsey (Cut)
CB Terry Cousin (Cut)

2009 NFL Draft:
1-21. Alex Mack, C, California
2-36. Brian Robiskie, WR, Ohio State
2-50. Mohamed Massaquoi, WR, Georgia
2-52. David Veikune, DE/OLB, Hawaii
4-104. Kaluka Maiava, LB, USC
6-177. Don Carey, CB, Norfolk State
6-191. Coye Francies, CB, San Jose State
6-195. James Davis, RB, Clemson

2009 Outlook:
The Browns will usher in a new coaching staff of sorts when former Jets head man Eric Mangini comes to Cleveland to take over for Romeo Crennel. With Mangini's arrival comes uncertainty at many positions—most notably quarterback. Mangini is expected to eventually name Brady Quinn as his starting quarterback, but will leave the competition unsettled all the way through preseason.

Whoever winds up winning the starting quarterback job will have a couple of young wide receivers to throw the ball to with the rookie tandem of Brian Robiskie and Mohamed Massaquoi. They of course will team with Braylon Edwards in an effort to revamp a wide receiving corps that saw Joe Jurevicius be released due to nagging injuries and Donte Stallworth commit vehicular homicide while intoxicated (allegedly). Tight end Robert Royal comes over to Cleveland after the Browns traded Kellen Winslow to Tampa Bay.

Should the Browns hope to rebound after a tumultuous 2008 campaign however, they will need to see immense improvement from their offensive and defensive lines. Joe Thomas may be the best left tackle in football now, but he did not much help a year ago. Cleveland's first round pick Alex Mack should start from day one and give the Browns the same presence they had hoped to get from free agent LaCharles Bentley some three years ago. The Browns lost tackle Kevin Shaffer to free agency but replaced him with two veteran back-up type players in John St. Clair and Floyd "Pork Chop" Womack. While those two players are not the most glamorous of signings, they should add depth to a unit that desperately needed that for the past couple of years.

Defensively, the Browns seemingly did little if anything to shore up a unit that has been nothing short of terrible the past two seasons. Mangini was able to bring over several former Jets with Eric Barton, CJ Mosley, and Abram Elam being the most notable. However, the Browns did little to shore up needs on their front seven and could very well struggle mightily on this side of the ball yet again.

2009 Schedule:
Sunday, September 13vs MINNESOTA VIKINGS
Sunday, September 20@ Denver Broncos
Sunday, September 27@ Baltimore Ravens
Sunday, October 4vs CINCINNATI BENGALS
Sunday, October 11@ Buffalo Bills
Sunday, October 18@ Pittsburgh Steelers
Sunday, October 25vs GREEN BAY PACKERS
Sunday, November 1@ Chicago Bears
Monday, November 16vs BALTIMORE RAVENS
Sunday, November 22@ Detroit Lions
Sunday, November 29@ Cincinnati Bengals
Sunday, December 6vs SAN DIEGO CHARGERS
Thursday, December 10vs PITTSBURGH STEELERS
Sunday, December 20@ Kansas City Chiefs
Sunday, December 27vs OAKLAND RAIDERS

2009 Prediction:

In an obvious rebuilding year as Eric Mangini begins to cut ties with several players from the Romeo Crennel era while replacing them with his own guys, the Browns will likely struggle—especially given the division they play in and the schedule they have drawn in 2009.

That said, the Browns do have some talent on offense—enough where they should be able to hang in quite a few games. The best case scenario for Cleveland appears to be seven or eight wins, but because of the turnover on the roster and the lack of adding true impact players to a defense that desperately needed that. The Browns will likely fall short of this scenario.

Final Prediction: 5-11, 3rd AFC North
Hassellbeck - VSN Writer


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