Wednesday, August 20, 2014

2014 NFL PREVIEW - Cleveland Browns

CLEVELAND BROWNS                                            

2013 Record: 4-12-0

Key Additions: LB Karlos Dansby; S Donte Whitner; RB Ben Tate; WR Nate Burleson; WR Andrew Hawkins; WR Miles Austin; OL Paul McQuistan; TE Jim Dray; DB Isaiah Trufant.

Key Losses: LB D'Qwell Jackson; S T.J. Ward; QB Jason Campbell; QB Brandon Weeden; OL Oneil Cousins.

HEAD COACH: Mike Pettine

Offense: The Browns will be going with Brian Hoyer as the starting quarterback as training camp/pre-season winds down. Hoyer was 3-0 as a starter last year and passed for 615 yards with five touchdowns and three interceptions. Heralded first round draft choice rookie Johnny Manziel (Texas A & M) will be the backup for now.
The running game features Ben Tate (771 yards, 4.3 ypc average and four TD with Houston last year) as the starter with either Dion Lewis or rookie Terrance West (Towson University) as the backup.
The wide receiving corps is hopeful to have Josh Gordon, who led the NFL with 1,646 receving yards in 2013 to go along with his 87 receptions (18.9 ypc average) and nine touchdowns. Gordon is facing a season-long suspension for multiple offenses regarding illegal substance abuse.
The Browns also have Miles Austin (24 receptions for 244 yards with Dallas), Andrew Hawkins (12 catches for 199 yards with Cincinnati), Nate Burleson (39, 461 and one TD with Detroit) and tight end Jordan Cameron, who hauled in 80 receptions for 917 yards and seven touchdowns with the Browns last season.
The offensive line consists of tackles Joe Thomas and Mitchell Schwartz along with center Alex Mack while the guards are John Greco and either Paul McQuistan or rookie Joel Bitonio (Nevada).

STATS - The passing game was decent last year, averaging 253 yards per game (11th in NFL) while the running game lagged behind with an average of 86 yards per game, which was 27th overall. The Browns finished 17th in total offense, averaging 339 yards per game. They scored 19 points per game (27th) while giving up 49 QB sacks and turning the ball over 29 times.

Defense: Playing the 3-4 set, the Browns have Phil Taylor at nose tackle with Desmond Bryant and Ahtyba Rubin playing the ends. The linebackers are Paul Kruger and Jabaal Sheard (5.5 QB sacks to lead the team) on the outside with Karlos Dansby (6.5 sacks with Arizona) and either Christian Kirksey or Craig Robertson on the inside.
The secondary is solid with Joe Haden (four interceptions) at one corner spot and the team's top draft pick Justin Gilbert (Oklahoma State) at the other corner. The safeties are Donte Whitner and Tashaun Gipson, who tied for the AFC lead last year with five interceptions.

STATS - Cleveland finished ninth in total defense in 2013, giving up 332 yards per game, but they were 23rd overall in scoring defense, allowing over 25 points per game. The pass defense was good, ranking eighth overall (221 yards allowed) and the run defense finished 18th in the league, giving up 111 yards per game. The Browns registered 40 QB sacks and 21 takeaways, getting 14 interceptions and seven fumble recoveries.

OUTLOOK: The Browns started out decent last year, but then faded fast as they lost their final seven games that paved the way for new Head Coach Mike Pettine coming along for the 2014 season.
The offense has a lot of questions with top receiver Josh Gordon facing a season-long suspension this year. Brian Hoyer will be the starting QB and Ben Tate, who had some decent seasons in Houston, takes over as the number-one running back.
The defense lost some starters from last year to free agency, but the Browns added in some top name veterans to fill the gaps left in those spots. Karlos Dansby (linebacker), Donte Whitner (safety) and rookie Justin Gilbert (cornerback) will be counted on to help the defense remain a top flight unit once again in 2014.
Playing in the AFC North isn't easy and Cleveland has been the division door mat for many years. If they want to make a move toward the top, the offense must improve and the team needs to convert chances when they have them into points on the scoreboard. The Browns had four one-score losses last season, so they appear to be on the cusp of better things.
With so many question looming this season, a 5-11 record seems to be on the horizon as the Browns look to turn the corner and show improvement for the future.

Week 1- at Pittsburgh
Week 2- vs. New Orleans
Week 3- vs. Baltimore
Week 4- BYE WEEK
Week 5- at Tennessee
Week 6- vs. Pittsburgh
Week 7- at Jacksonville
Week 8- vs. Oakland
Week 9- vs. Tampa Bay
Week 10- at Cincinnati
Week 11- vs. Houston
Week 12- at Atlanta
Week 13- at Buffalo
Week 14- vs. Indianapolis
Week 15- vs. Cincinnati
Week 16- at Carolina
Week 17- at Baltimore

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