The Sunday Five: Cleveland Browns Have Improved at A Lot of Positions

This guy is a beast. - David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

In today's edition of "The Sunday Five," we take a look at which positions the Cleveland Browns have improved upon since 2011, which members made the Official DBN Fantasy Football playoffs, the chances of Brad Smelley playing this week, Washington's goal-to-go offense, and more.

Bullet_mediumI happened to be reading the December 11, 2011 edition of The Sunday Five, and I came across the following blurb that I had written:

How many positions can the Browns seriously improve in just one year? Amidst the lockout (pre- and post-lockout), the positions Cleveland were able to improve included defensive tackle, defensive end, and nickel back. Let's assume Cleveland can improve three more positions next season. At the top of the list has to be wide receiver -- if we want a quarterback to succeed, whether that is McCoy or someone else, they need to have a top target they can depend on. The other two positions I would go right now are right tackle and a linebacker.

The Browns ended up fulfilling two of my needs in a major way. When you look at how quickly Josh Gordon has grown, he is becoming more than I could have asked for out of a rookie receiver. At right tackle, Mitchell Schwartz has been as stable as they come as far as I'm concerned. We didn't get a stud linebacker, but Craig Robertson has filled in admirably as a nickel linebacker, and James-Michael Johnson has started a lot of games. Beyond those wishes I had at this time last season, Cleveland has also improved at quarterback, running back, defensive end, and defensive tackle. Right now, Cleveland only has one more win than they did a year ago, but they are on their way to being a serious playoff contender next year.

Bullet_mediumThe playoffs for the Official Dawgs By Nature Fantasy Football League started this week! Sadly, my late-season surge fell just shy of the playoffs, as I finished in 5th place. The four teams/members in the playoffs, and who are squaring off against each other this week, include:

(1) The Licensed Optimist vs. DaveDawg09 (4)
(2) Les Fleurs Du Mal vs. Dawg Nuts (3)

May the best team win! I hope to have recap posts up after the semi-finals round, followed by a preview+recap of the DBN Fantasy Football Championship.

Bullet_mediumLast week, I talked about the need for the Browns to improve their goal-to-go defense. The Browns faced one goal-to-go situation against the Chiefs; facing a 1st-and-goal from the 4 on their second drive, Cleveland's defense held tough. Kansas City even came away with zero points after missing the field goal. The stop improved Cleveland's goal-to-go defense from 31st in the league to 30th. Baby steps, I suppose. The Redskins are ranked 3rd in the league on offense in goal-to-go situations, scoring touchdowns 82.61% of the time. That is something you can definitely chalk up to Robert Griffin III. That's another reason I'm more confident in the Browns' chances this week with Kirk Cousins under center; even if Washington drives the ball down there, I think Cleveland can limit them to field goals.

Bullet_mediumIf you have time this morning, go and read Brad Childress' news conference from Thursday. There are a lot of interesting nuggets in there about our young offensive players, including why Montario Hardesty is running for bigger gains than Trent Richardson. Also, Dick Jauron was asked about the struggles Cleveland's defense had against the zone-scheme that the Texans ran last year:

(On the challenges of facing a zone running game like last year against Houston)- "Let’s hope it doesn’t go that way. That was not a good day for us, but it is a zone-scheme. We’ve just got to be disciplined, and everybody’s got to fight to stay where they are supposed to stay and on their feet and be aggressive at the same time. As I said, their talent level and their scheme together pose huge problems for everybody including us."

In that game, Arian Foster had 19 carries for 124 yards and 1 touchdown, and Ben Tate had 12 carries for 115 yards and 1 touchdown. Yikes. I don't anticipate the Browns having the same level of difficulty against the run this week, but if anything saves Washington without RG III, it'll be their ground game.

Bullet_mediumI got my projected inactives correct last week for the second time this season. Something has to change this week, though, because the Browns waived defensive lineman Ronnie Cameron and promoted fullback Brad Smelley to the practice squad. As a side note, Cameron subsequently signed on to the Eagles' practice squad, and the Browns signed DL Kendrick Adams to their practice squad.

With that said, here are my projected inactives against Washington: RB Brandon Jackson, RB Chris Ogbonnaya, FB Owen Marecic, WR Josh Cooper, OL Jarrod Shaw, CB Trevin Wade, and S Eric Hagg. The change would be having Ogbonnaya on the inactive list, but here is my reasoning. Ogbonnaya's role as a third-down back is no more, it seems, since he hasn't had reps there in weeks. He doesn't even see many reps on special teams; for example, last week, he only took two snaps on special teams. A guy like Smelley, on the other hand, would probably be much more preferred on special teams, and I think Cleveland could even use him in the offense this week. Why else would you bring the guy up? The other option that could happen is for Ogbonnaya to stay active and for Kitchen to be inactive.

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