The Cleveland Browns are coming off another dismal season. The Browns finished a mere 3-13, which tied with the Titans for the worst record in the league. It was Cleveland’s 8th consecutive losing season and 13th straight without a playoff appearance.
What’s even more sad is the Browns have now finished last in the AFC North five years in a row. Last season’s poor showing resulted in another head coaching change. Replacing Mike Pettine will be Hue Jackson, who spent the last 4 years as an assistant with the Bengals.
It wasn’t just the head coach that was replaced. Cleveland brought in Paul DePodesta to be the new Chief Strategy Officer. DePodesta was previously analytics guy for the New York Mets. I’m not saying this can’t work, but this is a desperate move that will be heavily scrutinized.
The good news for Cleveland fans’ is the Cavaliers ended their championship drought. It certainly wasn’t going to be the Browns, at least not any time soon. Cleveland is in the midst of a major rebuilding project in 2016.
They will have a hard time escaping the basement of the North. Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and Baltimore all look like legit playoff contenders this season.
2016 Roster Changes
Top Draft Picks
|WR Corey Coleman, DE Emmanuel Ogbah, DE/DT Carl Nassib, OT Shon Coleman, QB Cody Kessler, DE/OLB Joe Schobert, WR Ricardo Louis, S Derrick Kindred, TE Seth DeValve|
|QB Robert Griffin, G Austin Pasztor, ILB Demario Davis, S Rahim Moore|
|QB Johnny Manziel, WR Travis Benjamin, WR Brian Hartline, OT Mitchell Schwartz, C Alex Mack, DT Randy Starks, ILB Karlos Dansby, ILB Craig Robertson, S Tashaun Gipson, S Donte Whitner, S Johnson Bademosi|
2016 Schedule & Odds
|Week||Opponent||Spread (Est.)||Win Chance|
|Estimated Wins: 4.22|
The inability to find a franchise quarterback has been the key problem in their miserable run. Many felt they had a chance to end that drought by using the No. 2 pick on Carson Wentz.
Instead, the Browns traded the selection to Philadelphia. Getting more draft picks is great, but it won’t mean anything without a legit signal caller. As it is, the team will likely turn to Robert Griffin III. Clearly, Jackson feels he can resurrect RGIII’s career, but he may be biting off more than he can chew.
If the experiment fails or RGIII gets injured, Cleveland is in big trouble. Josh McCown is second on the depth chart. After that it’s 2nd-year Connor Shaw and rookie Cody Kessler.
One intriguing piece to the offense is wide out Josh Gordon. He was recently reinstated on a conditional basis. He will have to serve a 4-game suspension and not fail another drug test to be factor in 2016. Cleveland appears willing to give him a chance and he would be a huge addition to the receiving corps.
Keep in mind that Gordon was a prolific receiver before getting suspended. He’s also reunited with RGIII from their days at Baylor. Speaking of Baylor, the Browns used their first round pick on the Bears Corey Coleman. With the loss of Travis Benjamin, Coleman was expected to be the No. 1 option before the Gordon news.
Cleveland could have quite a 1-2 punch if it all works out. The only problem is there’s not much behind these two outside of tight end Gary Barnidge. At least not players who have proven themselves.
Any kind of a threat passing will be huge for the Browns, as the running game doesn’t exactly look like a strength. That is unless Jackson can get more out of Isaiah Crowell. He led the team with 706 yards, but scored just 4 touchdowns and average a mere 3.8 yards/carry. The team also has Duke Johnson, but he’s more of a threat in the passing game.
There’s numerous question marks on the offensive line. Cleveland has to replace center Alex Mack and right tackle Mitchell Schwartz. Two of the better players at their respective positions. They do have one of the best left tackles in Joe Thomas. As well, as a talented left guard in Joel Bitonio.
They are counting on 2015 1st round pick Cam Erving to play well at center. A couple rookies could crack the starting lineup on the right side. Third round pick Shon Coleman may be forced into action at right tackle. Fellow rookie Spencer Drango will compete with holdover John Greco at right guard.
It’s not just the offense that is undergoing a lot of changes. Cleveland will have several new starters on the defensive side of the ball.
Two new starters will be needed on the defensive line. The Browns parted ways with Randy Starks and lost Desmond Bryant for the year to injury. That leaves 2nd-year nose tackle Danny Shelton as the only starter back. Shelton struggled in his rookie season and needs to take that big step in year two.
The two options back from last year are Xavier Cooper and John Hughes. They also used a third round pick on Penn State’s Carl Nassib. Regardless of who starts, all three will be in the rotation.
Cleveland also parted ways with inside linebackers Karlos Dansby and Craig Robertson. While Dansby is on the tail end of his career, he’s production will be tough to replace. Christian Kirksey will be promoted to a full-time starter. Joining him will be free agent pick Demario Davis. They also used a late round pick on Scooby Wright, who could surprise.
Paul Kruger was the Browns best pass rusher, despite only recording 2.5 sacks. Cleveland made a point to get better at getting after the quarterback. They used a 2nd round pick on Oklahoma State’s Emmanuel Ogbah. He will push former 1st round pick Barkevious Mingo, who has been a huge disappointment so far.
The Browns return their talented corner duo of Joe Haden and Tramon Williams. However, they need Haden to stay healthy. He played in just 5 game games and didn’t play well when he was on the field.
As for the two safety spots, they have to replace the talented Tashaun Gipson and Donte Whitner. Rahim Moore will likely take over at one of the open spots, but the other is up for grabs. This is a major are of concern for a team that was torched for 34 touchdowns passes last year.
Regular Season Win Total
to Win the AFC North
to Win Super Bowl
Odds Courtesy of 5Dimes
Based on what the Browns did this past offseason, it’s hard to believe they have any serious thoughts of being competitive in 2016. Many of Cleveland’s best players were let go and little was done to replace them. A complete roster makeover rarely ends up in a successful regular season.
How competitve the Browns will be, will come down to what RGIII provides them at quarterback. If Jackson can get him to play anywhere close to his rookie year, they will at least be competitive. That’s not something I can bank on when making my prediction.
Factor in a division that has 3 playoff contenders and it all adds up to a long season. I have the Browns finishing with the same record as last year at 3-13. It could be even worse than that.
AFC North Finish
Win Total Prediction
Browns 10-Year Recap