Let’s get geared up for the season and look at the Browns unit by unit. The performance rating is as follows. A 10 means you are in the top 3 units in the league. A 5 means you would be between 15-17 as a unit and a 1 would therefore mean you are in the 30-32 range. So let the subjective rankings begin.
1. RB/FB 7 out of 10 vs. last year of 1.0 – Start off with my belief Trent Richardson is a beast. Then I factor in that he probably will not get strep throat. He can run with power and take it to the house if he breaks free. He can gash your perimeter, he can pick up blocks, and he can catch the ball. We can argue all we want about the value vs. where he was selected, but the bottom line he is a playmaker on a playmaker starved offense. Unfortunately, if that knee doesn’t hold up, depth becomes a huge issue. I am not a fan of Montario – he runs hard, but he is like the lucky but drunken sailor that despite all efforts - just can’t find the hole. Jackson is more of a 3rd down back that a healthy Richardson will make obsolete. I am assuming that favorite whipping boy Owen will be an adequate fullback.
2. Secondary – 6.5 out of 10 vs. last year of 8.0. The CBs are very solid, Haden will be in the Pro Bowl if not suspended. Sheldon will be the best 40 year old CB in the NFL. Really excited by the young CBs – I am sure there is a starting level CB in there somewhere – just don’t know who. Safety is an issue. TJ brings the wood – but his pass support is suspect. Making big plays is a problem for this group. Adams left with his 3 INTs – which while not a bunch – was as much or more than Haden, TJ, Young, and Sheldon Brown combined.
3. Offensive Line 5.5 out of 10 vs. last year of 4. How does a unit with an All Pro LT and a near Pro Bowler at C end up below average last year? Answer – Tony Pashos and young guards. Pashos is gone, while Schwartz may struggle, it is hard to imagine he will be worse than Pashos. Until I really see us run the ball like we did with Steinbach – Lavou and Pinkston are at best average at this point in their careers. Last year we did not run the ball well, or protect well so I have to believe all OL besides JT and Mack are suspect until proven otherwise.
4. Defensive Line 4.0 out of 10 vs. last year of 5.5. We actually have fewer question marks at DE since the return, but the Taylor injury hurts the interior. We were horrid against the run last year – and I have to throw some of that problem towards the DL. If Tuba gets dinged, this could get ugly – he joins JT, TR, DQ, and Mack as the 5 guys we can least afford to lose. I would keep him in bubble wrap during the week. This unit has upside if Sheard takes another nice leap this year and goes into the 11-12 sack range.
5. Linebackers – 3.0 out of 10 vs. last year of 5.5 First of all, hat tip DQ and Jauron – the LBs lacked speed and athleticism and they used their magic to turn it into a serviceable group. The job gets tougher this year as Gocong is gone, Kaluka is to LBs what Ray Ventrone is to strong safety. Maybe the rookies help – but as for now Fujita is washed, Gocong is gone and the rooks are prolly a year away.
6. QB – 2.5 out of 10 vs. last year of 2.0 – This means that Weeden is like the 23rd or 24th best starting QB, would have a QB rating in the mid to upper 70s, and be in the same breath as Mark Sanchez, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Tavarious Jackson, and a baby step behind of where Andy Dalton was last year. I see 2 problems ahead for Weeden. First, I think he will be persecuted by dropped balls and timing issues with the WRs. Secondly, he seems a bit skittish under pressure, and that will take an adjustment when the blitz schemes go from vanilla in preseason, to exotic in September. I am assuming that Colt will not make the final roster, but we will still have adequate depth with Seneca and Lewis.
7. Wide Receiver/TE – 1.5 out of 10 vs. last year of 1. I just see another rough one here. Heckert has accomplished 2 things. He has added desperately needed speed, and physical specimens. But when I see coordinated WCOs, they basically have quick, polished, precise route runners, which catch the ball and head up field in a heartbeat. I just don’t have the feel that Little and Gordon will be a great fit for the WCO. MoMass is at the point where if he bumps his head getting out of his car he will be headed to the DL for concussion issues. If anyone were to surprise and become decent – I might guess Benjamin before the others. Despite best efforts, I predict leading the league in drops again and confusion for Weeden as raw receivers are not where they are supposed to be. TE has bodies, and prospects, but as of now we do not have dangerous TEs that are real difference makers. Hope I am wrong – but I still see this group as a bottom 4 NFL group that really hurts Weeden’s development.
So what did I screw up? What is most overrated /underrated areas.