Saturday, August 15, 2015

2015 NFL PREVIEW - Cleveland Browns

CLEVELAND BROWNS                                            

2014 Record: 7-9-0 (4th in AFC North)

HEAD COACH: Mike Pettine

New Players in 2015 - QB Josh McCown; WR Dwayne Bowe; WR Brian Hartline; TE Rob Housler; DB Tramon Williams; DL Randy Starks.

OFFENSIVE RANK in 2014 - 23rd in NFL (324.6 ypg)

DEFENSIVE RANK in 2014 - 23rd in NFL (366.1 ypg)

Offense:  Josh McCown comes over to play quarterback for the Browns this season after a sub par season with Tampa Bay, where he thew for 2,206 yards with just eleven touchdowns and 14 interceptions. Johnny Manziel will be the backup after seeing limited action in his rookie season.
The running game has a good tandem with Terrance West (673 rush yards, 3.9 ypc and four TD) and Isaiah Crowell, who gained 607 yards (4.1 ypc) and scored eight touchdowns.
The receivers will be led by Andrew Hawkins (63 receptions for 824 yards and two scores) and Dwayne Bowe (60 catches for 754 yards with Kansas City) while Brian Hartline, another free agent, is a third option after making 39 catches for 474 yards and two touchdowns with Miami last year. Taylor Gabriel (36, 621, one TD) gives the team a deep threat.
The tight end will likely be Rob Housler, who was signed after Jordan Cameron left to go with Miami this season. Housler had only nine receptions last season with Arizona.
The O-Line is decent, as All-Pro Joe Thomas and Mitchell Schwartz play the tackle positions. The center is Alex Mack and the guards are John Greco and Joel Bitonio.

Defense:  The Browns will have Desmond Bryant (five QB sacks) and Randy Starks playing the end spots while the nose tackle will probably be rookie Danny Shelton (Washington), the team's top draft choice this year.
If Shelton isn't quite ready, then Phil Taylor is capable of doing the job. Xavier Cooper, another rookie (Washington State) may also see time up front at the tackle spot.
The linebackers are Barkevious Mingo and Paul Kruger (eleven QB sacks) on the outside while the inside spots go to 12-year veteran Karlos Dansby (three sacks) and Craig Robertson (two INT). Rookie Nate Orchard (Utah), Armonty Bryant, Tank Carder and Chris Kirksey will rotate in when needed to.
In the secondary, the Browns will see Joe Haden (three interceptions) and Tramon Williams at the corners while AFC interception leader Tashaun Gipson (six picks) and Donte Whitner play the safety positions.

OUTLOOK FOR 2015 -  The Browns will be looking to build off last year's 7-9 finish, which was better than anticipated. However, the Browns fell apart down the stretch, losing their final five games to finish last in the AFC North once again.
Head Coach Mike Pettine knows his defense can keep the team competitive, but the run defense was the worst in the NFL a year ago, giving up 142 yards per game and that must improve. The pass defense was good, picking off 21 passes (second in NFL) while finishing eight overall.
The offense will have yet another field general calling the plays this season as Josh McCown gets the chance to show he is better than the effort he had with Tampa Bay in 2014. McCown has been around the block and knows how to handle the duties. The running game is solid with West and Crowell pounding away and two new wide receivers should help bolster the passing attack.
The team needs to score more, as they averaged just over 18 points per game while allowing 21 points. The key for the Browns to improve will be winning more close games after playing in eight games decided by one score a year ago.
The AFC North is a tough division, as shown a year ago when three of the four teams made the AFC playoffs.
The Browns will likely be looking up at all three division foes once again this season as they face a hard schedule and will be counting on a new QB and new receivers to mesh quickly to avoid a slow start.
That may be asking too much for the young Browns, so a 5-11 record looks to be in order this season as they will attempt to surprise their opponents and possibly move up in the standings.

Week 1 - at New York Jets
Week 2 - vs. Tennessee Titans
Week 3 - vs. Oakland Raiders
Week 4 - at San Diego Chargers
Week 5 - at Baltimore Ravens
Week 6 - vs. Denver Broncos
Week 7 - at St. Louis Rams
Week 8 - vs. Arizona Cardinals
Week 9 - at Cincinnati Bengals
Week 10 - at Pittsburgh Steelers
Week 11 - BYE WEEK
Week 12 - vs. Baltimore Ravens
Week 13 - vs. Cincinnati Bengals
Week 14 - vs. San Francisco 49ers
Week 15 - at Seattle Seahawks
Week 16 - at Kansas City Chiefs
Week 17 - vs. Pittsburgh Steelers

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