Thursday, February 28, 2013

The 2013 Cleveland Browns Offense

    How good are the Browns on offense?    Browns fans are intensely loyal and don’t want to see any of the current players go.  Historically, the Browns and their fans have regarded their team as loaded with young talent and moving in a positive direction.  Then the season starts and they wind up going 4-12. 
    Last year's draft was a case in point.  The Browns had stockpiled draft picks, and went in with 13 picks (and later added Josh Gordon in the supplemental draft, costing them a number two pick in 2013), including two number ones, two number twos, a number three and three number fours.  Normally teams get about four starters a year from the draft.  The Browns had twice as many picks, but came away with only four starters.
       They came away with some successes.  Mitchell Schwartz played at a high level at right tackle, and Gordon turned out to be the third best rookie wideout in the league.   They wound up with the third best rookie running back.  The Browns traded the number four overall pick plus three more draft picks to take Trent Richardson, who is a pretty good player able to run, block and catch the ball.  The Browns were supposed to have a run-first, West Coast Offense last year, but finished 24th in the run, which is pathetic considering the huge investment that they made in Richardson.  Maybe he'll get better if he overcomes some of the injuries he had in 2012.  
      In Brandon Weeden, the Browns got a quarterback who will be 30 in 2013.  Weeden has a big arm but not that many trustworthy guys to throw the ball to, and below average pass protection.  He was the fifth best rookie quarterback in the draft behind RG3, Luck, Tannehill  and Wilson, and overall he was the 29th best quarterback in the NFL rankings.  He'll probably cut down on his intercerptions in 2013, and if he has some other receivers he should improve. 

     Josh Gordon, who was suspended for failing drug tests in college had a very good year a wide receiver.  If his pot smoking is truly behind him, he may have a good career in the NFL.

     That's it for the starters.  They also wound up with some decent prospects, including Travis Benjamin who is a good kick returner who can also be used as an extra wide receiver.  Coach Rob Chudzinski  and OC Norv Turner may switch him to the slot in 2013.  But overall, the 2012 draft was a disaster, and the Browns just did not add much to a bad team.
       Joe Thomas, Pro Bowler at left tackle and Alex Mack at center are the only other Browns starters on offense who are secure for 2013.  
       The Browns will probably let tight end Ben Watson go.  At age 32, he is still a good pass catcher.  The Browns still have young Jordan Cameron, who doesn't catch many passes and also doesn't block well. The Browns liked him because he's tall and looks good on paper.
       Behind Josh Gordon, the Browns have Greg Little, who has led the NFL in dropped passes over the past two years and averaged about 40 yards per game in receiving yards.  Is he a bright young talent?  I don't think so. Slot receiver options include Jordon Norwood, who was on the IR last year, and Josh Cooper, picked up as an undrafted free agent after playing with Weeden at Oklahoma State.  Maybe Travis Benjamin might wind up in the slot.  The Browns have wanted to use their speed guys on the outside, but the shorter quicker receivers are probably best suited for the slot.  It's not certain whether the Browns will keep Cribbs, however.  Shurmur seemed content to let him return kicks and evidently didn't like him as a wide receiver.  Keep in mind, however, that the Browns were supposed to have a West Coast Offense which does not feature a slot receiver, and instead has a fullback.

      At guard, neither Jason Pinkston on the left side nor Shawn Lauvao on the right have been very impressive as the Browns gave up a higher than average number of sacks, mostly from the two guards, and they didn’t help the running game much either.  
      Both Chudzinski as well as offensive coordinator Norv Turner have used a true fullback in their offenses in Carolina and San Diego, respectively.  But current incumbent  Owen Marecic didn't block well and hasn't caught as many passes as they had hoped for.  Brad Smelley didn't do much better but did catch a pass for 3 yards last year.  Maybe that's considered promising for the Browns.

       Historically, the Browns have regarded themselves as being loaded with talent and moving in the right direction.  The Village Elliot thinks that on offense they have only four guys that are entrenched at their psoitions (Thomas, Schwartz, Mack and Gordon), or five if you count Weeden.  Hence they are looking for help at tight end, fullback, wide receiver 2, slot receiver, left guard and right guard.  

     Is this a young team on the rise?  Not based on what they did in 2012, with their pathetic drafting.  In 2013, remember that the Browns will have only six picks, since they already gave up their number two pick for Josh Gordon.    However, the Browns have a lot of money under the salary cap, and my guess is that Mr. Haslam will spend some serious bucks to improve the team. They really could add half a dozen quality players via free agency. 
     One of the characteristics of a bad team, however, is that they often fixate on upgrading the quarterback position.  It wouldn't shock me if the Browns acquire another quarterback and neglect some of their other needs.