Projected Record: 5-11
AFC North Rank: 4th
The Browns had another top ten pick this year. Although the Browns are still going to be bad this season, it looks like they are heading in the right direction. They attempted to improve their pass rushing ability on defense through free agency and the draft. During free agency, the Browns signed one of the biggest free agents on the market, Paul Kruger. Although Kruger had no success before last season, the Browns thought they could give big money to the 27 year old because of the success he experienced last season. During the postseason and regular season, Kruger racked up 13.5 sacks, including two in the Super Bowl. Along with adding Kruger to their linebacking corp, the Browns drafted pass rusher Barkevious Mingo. Although Mingo may be injured to start the season, Mingo should be a good pass rusher for the next few years. Mingo uses his speed and athleticism to get by blockers and sack the quarterback. Although Mingo plays the same position as stud rusher Jabaal Sheard, the Browns should find a way to play both pass rushers at one time. The Browns linebacking core should be the strength of the defense and may enable them to become a top fifteen defense in the NFL. If the Browns can cause more pressure on the quarterback, cornerback Joe Haden may be able to pick off more balls and record more turnovers.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Browns did not add much to their skill positions. The Browns have young players at every skill position and they hope that they will improve and make the next step at the NFL level. At the wide receiver position, the Browns have Greg Little and Josh Gordon. Although Gordon is suspended for the first two games, he will be factor when he returns for week three. Gordon has a lot of potential and showed his skills as a deep threat last season. The Browns best player on offense, besides Joe Thomas, is running back Trent Richardson. Trent is a stud and could breakout this season for the Browns.
The Browns look like the are going to miss the playoffs yet again. However, this year may be an improvement because they are showing more promise on offense. Brandon Weeden look like he became a better quarterback during the preseason. The Browns open the season with a game against the Miami Dolphins at home. This game is winnable for the Browns because they are pretty even in terms of talent. Both teams possess an average defense and second year quarterbacks that showed potential during their rookie campaign. However, the difference may reside with running back Trent Richardson. The Dolphins do not have an offensive player that has the skill of Trent Richardson. After a week one win against the Dolphins, the Browns go on the road and play two playoff teams, Ravens and Vikings, from last year. After two losses, the Browns play three straight home games. The Browns should be able to win two of the three games against the Bengals, Bills, and Lions. The Browns play three more tough games before the Bye and I do not expect them to win any of the games against the @Green Bay, @Chiefs, and Ravens. I expect that all three of the teams will make the playoffs this season.
Going into the Bye, the Browns season looks like it will be another lost hope. The Bye will at least stop the pain for Browns fans until the second half of the schedule. The back of the Browns schedule does not look like it will be easy to navigate either. Over the final seven games of the schedule, the Browns will at most only win only three games. However, I believe that they will only win two games against the Jaguars and Bears at home. The other games that the Browns may have a chance at winning is at home against the Steelers and on the road against the Jets in week 16. The Browns should finish the season around 5-11. Although they may win an extra game or two, they will definitely not finish at .500 or better.
Trent Richardson will be a major piece of the Browns offense this season. Last season, Richardson put together a good season, but his stats must improve if the Browns are going to have any offensive firepower. Last season, Richardson was very good at scoring touchdowns, 13, but he did not rush for many yards, 950. Richardson, third overall pick in last year’s draft, has the size, speed, and talent to rush for at least 1300 or 1400 yards every season while maintaining his touchdown numbers. If Richardson can become one of the top three running backs in the league, the Browns offense will dramatically improve. When Richardson succeeds, the defense must put more men in the box to stop him. The additional men in the box alleviates some of the pressure from Brandon Weeden because his passes will not have to be as accurate. Also the play action pass will work well because the defense must honor the run. Adrian Peterson showed last season that a running back can lead a team to the playoffs and Richardson must strive to become that quality of running back if the Browns are going to make the playoffs in the not to distant future.
On defense, Jabaal Sheard has the ability to convert the Browns from a top 20 defense to a top 15 or 12 defense in the National Football League. Over the last two seasons, Sheard has record 15.5 sacks for the Cleveland Browns. The former Big East defensive play of the year must improve and become a 10 or 15 sack man if the Browns are going to succeed. With the addition of Paul Kruger and Barkevious Mingo, the Browns could have a prolific pass rushing trio that would make every quarterback shiver. Improving the pass rushing ability, enhances every aspect of the defensive. When the quarterback is under pressure, he rushes passes and that can cause intercepts and other turnovers.
All pics and stats from espn.com