Thursday, August 23, 2012

2012 NFL PREVIEW - Cleveland Browns


2011 Record: 4-12-0 (4th in AFC North) 

HEAD COACH: Pat Shurmur

Key Additions: DE Frostee Rucker; DE Juqua Parker

Key Losses:  RB Peyton Hillis; DB Mike Adams; OL Artis Hicks; OL Tony Pashos; DE Jayme Mitchell

Offense: The Browns are going with a pair of rookies this season at quarterback and running back with Brandon Weeden  being named the starting QB while Trent Richardson, the number-three overall pick in the 2012 Draft from Alabama, will be the starting halfback.
Weeden played at Oklahoma State and put up some eye-popping numbers during his collegiate playing days. Backing up Weeden will be Colt McCoy (2,733 yards passing in 2011 with 14 TD passes and 11 interceptions) and veteran Seneca Wallace.
Richardson has battled some nagging injuries in camp and will lead the ground game this year after Peyton Hillis left for Kansas City via free agency. Richardson combines power and speed and helped propel the Crimson Tide to the National Championship last year.
Behind Richardson is Montario Hardesty (266 yards rushing), Chris Ogbannaya (334 yards and one TD)  and Brandon Jackson, who was injured last year. The fullback is Owen Marecic.
The wide receivers include holdover Mohamed Massaquoi (31 catches for 384 yards and two TD) and Greg Little, who made 61 receptions for 709 yards and two touchdowns.
Also available for Cleveland is Jordan Norwood (23, 268, one TD), Josh Cribbs (41, 518 and four touchdowns) and rookie Travis Benjamin (Miami, FL). The tight end is Benjamin Watson, who made 37 catches for 410 yards and a pair of touchdowns. 
Cribbs also had a big year retuning kicks as he placed in the top five in the AFC in both kickoff and punt returns, including a punt return for a touchdown.
The offensive line is anchored by All-Pro tackle Joe Thomas, along with rookie tackle Mitchell Schwartz. The center is Alex Mack and the guards are Jason Pinkston and Shawn Lauvao. In reserve are Ryan Miller (rookie from Colorado), John Greco and Oniel Cousins.
The Browns were 29th in offense last year, averaging 289 yards per game. The passing game was 24th, getting 193 yards a game while the running attack was a dismal 31st in the NFL, gaining just 96 yards per game.

Defense: Running the 4-3 defense in 2012, the Browns will have Jabaal Sheard (8 1/2 quarterback sacks) and free agent Frostee Rucker at the ends with Phillip Taylor (four sacks) and Ahtyba Rubin (five sacks) at tackle. John Hughes, another rookie for the Browns, is in reserve up front as well as free agent Juqua Parker. Also in the fold is Brian Schaefering, Marcus Benard, Brian Sanford and Scott Paxson.
The linebackers include middle man D'Qwell Jackson along with outside linebackers Scott Fujita, who is facing a three-game suspension to start the regular season, and  Kaluka Maiava, who is filling the void left by Chris Gocong, who is injured and out for the season.
Emmanuel Acho, James-Michael Johnson, Benjamin Jacobs, Quinton Spears and Brian Smith are ready to step up in 2012 at linebacker.
The safeties are T.J. Ward and Eric Hagg with Joe Haden and Sheldon Brown at the corners.
Usama Young, Dimitri Patterson, Buster Skrine, James Dockery and Ray Ventrone will make contributions as well for this unit, which helped the Browns finish number-two in the NFL against the pass last season, allowing just 185 passing yards per game. Last season's interception leader, Mike Adams left for free agency; so someone will have to step up this year to improve on the nine interceptions the team made a year ago.
The run defense was 30th overall, giving up 147 yards a game. The Browns were tenth in total defense, giving up 332 yards per game while getting 32 quarterback sacks.

OUTLOOK: The Browns played well defensively a year ago and Head Coach Pat Shurmur knows the offense must get in gear and help the team try to achieve it's first winning season since 2007.
There are questions with the offense as the two rookies taking over at quarterback and halfback will undoubtedly have some growing pains as they adjust to the NFL.
Veterans Massaqoui, Cribbs, Watson and Little will have to provide the spark along with the new blood as the team makes the adjustments necessary to get a consistent offense. The line play will be critical for a rookie back as well as improving in pass protection for the other rookie. The Browns gave up 39 QB sacks last year.
The run defense has to be better, where the AFC North division rivals Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers and their solid running games are waiting.
If the new guys on offense can adjust quickly (as Cincinnati enjoyed from two key rookies in 2011) and the run defense gets better, the Browns should be an improved team. But that will not come easy.
Figure on a repeat 4-12 record this season for the Browns as they go forward and build for the future with a good foundation.

Week 1- vs. Philadelphia
Week 2- at Cincinnati
Week 3- vs. Buffalo
Week 4- at Baltimore
Week 5- at NY Giants
Week 6- vs. Cincinnati
Week 7- at Indianapolis
Week 8- vs. San Diego
Week 9- vs. Baltimore
Week 10- BYE
Week 11- at Dallas
Week 12- vs. Pittsburgh
Week 13- at Oakland
Week 14- vs. Kansas City
Week 15- vs. Washington
Week 16- at Denver
Week 17- at Pittsburgh

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