"In a Blizzard!!!"
Considering the weather outside, I think it's appropriate enough to remember one of Dawson's many miraculous kicks this season, particularly in the latter part of the season.
Things have really quieted down in free agency after the signing of Stallworth (although the Browns did fork over quite a bit of money to Shaun Rogers). In the past several days, I've read numerous columns from people at ESPN, Sports Illustrated, and Yahoo Sports, most of which have stated that the Browns were not only big winners in free agency, but could now even be in the hunt for the Super Bowl.
Back things up a bit.
Before free agency, things looked very gloomy for us because all of the "big-time defensive linemen" were either being franchised or re-signed by their teams. Then, after a couple of surprising trades, we upgraded better than anyone could've imagined with Rogers and Corey Williams. We didn't upgrade to the point where we are going to be as dominant as the New York Giants' defensive line was, but we should be at the point now where Mel Tucker can actually look around and think, "I've got something to work with."
But still, something is missing on the defensive side of the ball: depth. For the past two-three seasons, I've claimed that the Browns' linebackers haven't been able to live up to their potential because the defensive line was extraordinarily weak. I think Kamerion Wimbley
will take a step forward this season, but this could be the year in which we determine who our core middle linebackers will be. If Andra Davis
continues to make tackles only five-seven yards down the field, you can't imagine him staying here much longer. If D'Qwell Jackson
is nothing more than average, then we'll still be lacking something when teams try to attack the middle. Remember, Rogers will only be able to do so much. Whatever he can't do, our linebackers will need to do. Most of us were convinced last season that Willie McGinest
was done, and Antwan Peek
seemed to be nursing an injury every week. That potentially leaves two vulnerable middle linebackers and a gap at the outside linebacker position.
Injuries were the downfall Gary Baxter's career with the Browns.
In the secondary, we're trying to skate on thin ice again. Last year, Leigh Bodden
was injured often again, Eric Wright
had a little stretch with the injury bug, and our safeties were darn-near pitiful to start off the year. Luckily, Brandon McDonald
turned out to be a gem during his limited action, and Sean Jones
and Brodney Pool
improved upon their play towards the end of the season.In the NFL, you have to expect injuries to happen. After seeing Gary Baxter's
career go up in flames here in Cleveland because of it, and all of Bodden's struggles, I think it'd be a little overconfident to assume that we're "okay" in the secondary right now.Wright was solid last season. McDonald was solid in limited action last season. What if one of them goes down? Baxter isn't even under contract with us right now, and even if he was, he'd probably be placed at safety. Daven Holly
is an "okay" nickel back.Last year, the offensive line was so successful not only because of the additions that were made, but because of our depth across the board. We felt guys like Ryan Tucker
and Kelly Butler
could've started for us -- and yet we cut Butler. When Seth McKinney
went down, we didn't miss a beat when Tucker came in.If Corey Williams
goes down, who is ready to fill his shoes? The same question can be asked at the linebacker position and in the secondary.As Dawgs By Nature reader Bernie19Kosar pointed out
, the draft is deep enough at linebacker to where we can find some solutions at that position. However, you'd have to imagine that we'll be committed to the starters from last year all of this year.The remaining options on the free agent market are thinning. And, while I couldn't be more ecstatic about the 100% necessary moves we made on the defensive line, I can't jump the gun so quickly and assume that our defense will suddenly be as good as people are billing it to be. Maybe in its current state it has strong potential. But, with an injury or two, our secondary will be as vulnerable as our defensive line was last season. And that...that spells trouble on the horizon.