The Cleveland Browns are going to have a decidedly different look when they take the field on Sunday to open the 2018 NFL season against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
General manager John Dorsey made sure of that.
Dorsey spent the offseason reshaping the Browns roster, culminating this past weekend in the roster cutdown, waiver claims and practice squad signings that have the Browns at the NFL-mandated 53 players on the roster.
Between trades, free agency and the draft, Dorsey turned over 59 percent of the roster from a team that finished 0-16 last season. In the process, he also kept the Browns as the second-youngest team in the NFL, according to Jimmy Kempski of phillyvoice.com. This will be the third consecutive year that the Browns are either the youngest or second-youngest team in the NFL.
Dorsey said that the moves are all part of the master plan, according to clevelandbrowns.com:
“As we sit here today, we have actually turned the roster over 59 percent from last year’s roster. That does not happen unless you have a plan. At the end of the day, I think that we are a better football team on both sides of the line of scrimmage. I think that our skill groups have a lot of young and upcoming guys. That is all that you can ask for.”
Browns fans can be excused if they are a bit puzzled by all this as they have been told for the past few years that the Browns are “too young to win” and that a team can’t build continuity with extensive roster turnover. But we’ve been assured those no longer matter, so need to fear.
All joking aside, it would be hard to argue that the Browns are not better right now than they were a year ago. The quarterback situation is strong, as is the running game. The defense is on the rise with a core of players entering their second, third and fourth years in the league. If things break right, the passing game should be fun to watch.
Which means that head coach Hue Jackson is finally out of excuses.
In his two years as head coach, Jackson as much (if not more) time undermining the previous front office than he did coaching the team. His weekly press conferences were filled with “woe is me” comments, he continually threw people under the bus, leaked stories to his media friends, mishandled the quarterback position in every conceivable way, did an end around to the owner in an attempt to make a ridiculous trade for quarterback A.J. McCarron, and did everything he could to distance himself from the 1-31 record the Browns have posted under his watch.
Those days are over, however, and now it is up to Jackson to show that he really is the right man for the job. The front office is new as is more than half the roster. The one constant from the past two seasons of misery is Jackson.
So when things start to go bad, and they will at some point this season, and people start looking for someone to blame, Jackson may not like where the finger is pointing this time.