Browns 2013 preview: The year of indifference.
The Cleveland Browns had five wins last year. They’ve had four wins or five wins in each of the last five seasons. The recent Browns teams have been pursuing mediocrity in vain. Average would be a step in the right direction for 2013. Trending upward would be something to be excited for. Fill some holes, get some luck, and who knows, maybe playoffs. It’s happened before.
But instead ennui has set in. The offseason preceding the 2013 Browns season saw another new regime and another spewing of horseshit from another group of carpetbaggers. To wit:
- The Browns were active in free agency signing one big name, two big contracts to bolster the strongest part of the 2012 team, the front seven. At the close of free agency, the Browns had the most cap space available but rather than spend it, Berea spewed horseshit about not wanting older players, not wanting too many new players, not liking available free agents, and wanting to build through the draft.
- The Browns draft saw them bypass an opportunity to swap their #6 pick for #16 and #47 in order to draft a player to bolster –even more– the strongest part of the team, the front seven. Horseshit spewing ensued with bromides including “can’t have too many pass rushers.” Even more bold, by trading out of rounds four and five, the Browns insinuated that they’re smarter than the league in general and, in particular, smarter than 2x SB Champ GM, Kevin Colbert (Steelers) and last year’s Executive of the Year, Ryan Grigson (Colts). After all, those two fools actually wanted to draft players at our slots.
- The draft shenanigans included horeshit about not wanting too many young players on the team since it was already young. But that too is now revealed as yet still more horsehit because here we are today at the waiver deadline… and yep, they got younger. From Grossi:
The cumulative effect of the transactions was that the NFL’s second-youngest roster – as of Saturday night – was made younger and less experienced.Less than 24 hours after the “final” roster cut, the following players were sent packing: Running back Brandon Jackson (27 years old), tight end Kellen Davis (27), linebacker L.J. Fort (23), offensive lineman Caylin Hauptmann (22), offensive lineman Jarrod Shaw (25) and fullback Brad Smelley (24).They were replaced by: Tight end MarQuies Gray (23), running back Dennis Johnson (23), offensive lineman Patrick Lewis (22), linebacker Brandon Magee (22), tight end Keavon Milton (23) and running back Bobby Rainey (25).
- And finally there’s the never-ending crowing about renovating offices and painting the Successories catalogue on your walls as though this is somehow something your fans care the slightest about.
There’s really no way to look at this off-season and derive that even the modest goal of “average” is a Berea goal for the ’13 Browns.
For me, and for other fans, it’s become something of a chore to muster optimism that this could be the year. Berea ain’t trying to win this year; why should I try to get fired up? So I’ve tuned out this Browns team and the Browns regime. They want to punt this year, fine. They want to talk in circles, fine. I’ll go watch the games and root for them like I always do. But the continued insults to my fandom’s intelligence has left callouses and I’m more indifferent to the opening of this Browns season than any I can remember.
The structure of the preview is this:
- Talent acquisition review (comparing depth chart now to end of last season).
- Positional review (
state of each position, assessment of Browns’ execution of their GAP/SWOT analyses).(Scratch the SWOT analyses. Indiff.)
- Coaching changing.
- Outstanding/unresolved issues (turds).
1. Talent acquisition
After previously stressing the importance of building the Browns through the draft, Banner and Lombardi circumvented the actual selecting of players – a move that is either next-level genius or one that reeks of sheer contempt for this year’s process. Instead of literally building roster depth through the draft, Banner and Lombardi decided on a vague strategy of building assets.
That’s Kolonich summing up the Browns’ talent acquisition season. He’s entirely on the money as he tends to be. Viewing the Browns talent acquiring as an ‘asset building’ exercise and not the ‘adding talented players to improve soft spots in lineup’ process that we’re accustomed to takes some getting used to. But one look at the depth charts from end of last season to today reveals that addressing needs was not even on the Browns’ radar this offseason.
Looks like a net wash. I’ll grant that Paul Kruger is better than Kaluka Maiava; I think Sheldon Brown is better than Buster Skrine.
If you factor in the truly bizarre placekicker situation where the Browns lost the greatest kicker in their history, perhaps in the NFL’s history (not hyperbole)… if you include Dawson, then the opening day starting lineup is actually poorer than the one closing 2012.
2. Positional review.
QB: No change.
Brandon Weeden figures to be better playing out of a shotgun and in his second year. He shows signed of staring down his primary receiver just like last year. Jason Campbell is better than Colt McCoy. But this analysis don’t care about backups and won’t speak about third stringers. Because why? Because we’re indifferent.
RB: No change.
Trent Richardson figures to be better playing without broken ribs. But he still halts his own momentum, still runs soft. Sorry, that’s just what I see. I’m seeing 5’8″/212 Dennis Johnson as the #2 RB on Ourlads’ Browns depth chart. Don’t know him, Texans cut him. Bobby Rainey is #3; I know him from WKU, Ravens cut him. Nothing exciting here; no notable improvement.
WR: No change.
Little and Gordon figure to be better with a year of experience. Davon Bess is a better #3/#4 WR over Josh Cribbs. Travis Benjamin figures to be better and will possibly do more than end-arounds this year.
TE (need): Jordan Cameron for Ben Watson.
Cameron should be more of a seam threat than Watson given his greater height and hops. He’s reportedly a liability as a blocker though and has never started before.
O-line (need): No change.
The o-line was thin at guard coming into the off-season with Jason Pinkston’s health a question and Ryan Miller unprecedentedly bad in the final game. A seventh round pick was used on a guard. Pinkston and Lauvao were injured in camp. The thin 2012 o-line is actually thinner.
D-line: Desmond Bryant in, Frostee Rucker out. No change.
The front four from last year was the strength of the team both in terms of the starters and also the backups. The front three (now) still is. Would have been with Desmond Bryant or Frostee Rucker. The 5yr/34M FA signing of Bryant is as “meh” as it gets. Wasn’t a need but,ok., I guess. I’m indifferent I suppose.
Linebackers: Paul Kruger in, Kaluka Maiava out. Improved.
It’s fine that Kruger is here to be a pass rusher and stuff. It’s noteable that the Ravens made no attempt to re-sign him. It’s unclear who the Browns bid against to get him. But ok, he had nine sacks in his five starts last year. Is that worth 5yr/40.5M? I dunno, but Banner’s the cap guru or so we’ve been told. The greater need was at ILB and we’ll hope for the best with Craig Robertson. No ILBs were drafted or signed in FA in spite of the vacancy created by Horton’s new offense. Just because undrafted FAs from UNT have never crushed it in their first year doesn’t mean it can’t happen this year I guess.
Net net: we have a highly suspect interior o-line and the smallest/youngest d-backfield in the league. Our superstar RB has not shown the ‘flashes’ to merit being featured in NFLN Fantasy Football ads. Our QB has not shown improvement and based on his recent quotes, is either too laissez-faire about any problems or not cognizant of them or both:
Fortunately, I don’t think there’s any reason to push the panic button like a lot of people want to. That’s just, again, people being creatures of habit. You lose a game and everyone wants to … The attitude in here has been great all day, so it’s not in this room. We’re excited. We saw the mistakes, but they’re all fixable.
If you can see I’m staring down receivers from up there or wherever they are – you have to look where you’re throwing. You have to be smart on certain routes and move safeties and do all those things. But I have to look where I’m throwing. I’m not that good yet.
There are too many unfixed problems for me to avert my eyes from them. Yeah sure, pass rush and vertical passing game are cool things to have. Show it to me on the field.
3. Coaching review.
Chudzinski figures to be better than Shurmur. Norv Turner figures to be better than Shurmur. Ray Horton is kinda jamming his gambling blitzing leave-zones-open defense down everyone’s throats and Andrew Luck did what a good QB does when you cheat. So the coaching is better but of course the coaching is better because that coaching would have been mind-blowingly horrendous last year were it not that Romeo Crennell happened within our collective memories.
4. Things to keep an eye, aka Turds-in-the-punchbowl.
Leaked stories about Alex Mack.
If you read the sites I read, you’ve seen whispers that Alex Mack ‘isn’t physical enough’ and that the front offense ‘wants him to earn’ his contract. It was news to me; all I’ve ever heard is how good Mack is. So Berea is leaking that Mack is soft. I guess pissing off this year’s best UFA Center could be an effective negotiating tactic… who am I to argue with the guy who thinks himself smarter than Colbert/Grigson? But yet it still doesn’t make sense to me: what makes Berea think Mack will just sign with them once he becomes a UFA? We’ve been fed the horseshit about hoarding cap to ‘sign our guys.’ If Mack was one of their guys, he’d be signed. So… as flagged here months ago… the Alex-Mack-walks-away-and-inevitably-signs-with-the-Ravens scenario continues to look more likely.
Why we need a strong safety in the box?
Another chestnut I keep reading is how Horton will be able to use TJ Ward in the box more. That seems like a good idea; conventional knowledge holds that TJ Ward is a better run defender and a good tackler (though he really isn’t) than he is in coverage. But wait a sec… 48.3% of the Browns salary spend is on the front seven. After throwing that much dough at the front seven, why is it a good thing to have a safety cheating into the box in run support? Isn’t the idea that the front seven’s QB pressure will make life easier for the thin secondary? If the d-backfield is already thin, why you want any of them cheating up? What am I missing here?
Actually thinner at guard than at start of camp.
Guard was a know problem last year. Guard was ignored in free agency. Guard netted a 7th round pick of a D2 player in the draft. Now that developmental project from Chadron is your opening day starter. This is not good planning. We saw what Weeden does when pressured and he saw a lot of pressure up the middle in pre-season. Which leads us all to.
John Greco: Fairley’s ragdoll.
Right after John Greco signs for 5yr/7.2M Nick Fairley clowned him all game in the Great Lakes Classic. It was a Fairley ragdolling that cause Greco to roll up Jason Pinkston’s ankle setting back his come back by another couple months. Greco looked solid all last year. His being owned by Fairley and again in the Colts game are flags to look out for.
No rookie starters for a 5-11 team committed to building through the draft?
Plainly and simply, teams that build through the draft… those teams draft players that play. If you’re 5-11, one would think that a drafted rookie could break into the lineup, no? We’ve reviewed the Rams’ draft with three drafted rookies starting for them. We’ve reviewed the Bengals with five fourth-or-fifth round picks starting for them (Boling, Charles, Peko, Atkins, Iloka). The Browns build-through-draft initiative is off to a slow start is you’re being kind; is just more horseshit if you’re being honest.
31st last in cap space.
No need in bludgeoning this any more. I’ve been after them since before FA started and been consistently perplexed ever since. Nothing has changed on Banner’s inexplicable cap hoard except that more fans are noticing.
I’ve been saying six win, I guess I’ll stay with six wins. Coaching change alone should yield improvement.
I’ll tell ya Brownies, straight-up: you gotta show me something on the field to change my mind. The view from here after free agency and the draft was that the Browns are punting the 2013 season. I eagerly look forward to some demonstration that I’m way off-base in that assessment.
What’s left for this year?
If I were you, I’d make the most out of this season by joining the greatest Reality Football Game that ever was or will be, the Qarth of football pools: The 2013 Cheddar Bay Pickstravaganza.