Thursday, January 3, 2013

Boomer Report: Browns (again) await the "rebuilding" process

CEO Joe Banner & team owner Jimmy Haslam III are the next,
dynamic duo in charge of (finally) turning the Browns
into yearly contenders.
 Since their return to the league in 1999, the Browns have had five Head Coaches (not including an interim for 5 games in '04), once again are in search for lucky #6 to take the helm, and become the Head Coach that finally turns the Orange & Brown into yearly contenders.

New team owner Jimmy Haslam III has put together sort of a "dream team" front office that includes his right hand man, CEO Joe Banner. Others recently acquired to help out around the office, Alec Scheiner (team president), along with a soon-to-be named general manager. These guys will have their work cut out for them, as they try and turn the Browns into contenders. Since 1999, the Browns have only had two winning seasons (2002, 2007) which included one playoff appearance (2002). Ownership was officially Haslam's back in October, and since then he has said he wants to "stop" the losing that has surrounded this franchise ever since the team's return to the NFL 14 years ago. My faith is all in with Jimmy, as like other Browns fans around the country, we are tired of watching the Browns continue to fail year in, year out. HERE WE GO BROWNS HERE WE GO!

Expectations were low, entering the 2012 campaign, following the team's 4-12 2011 season, as the Browns would rely on a number of 1st and/or 2nd year players to help 'em win football games. Unlike, a year ago (NFL Lockout), the Browns had a full training camp to get ready for the season, as they leaned on a pair of 1st round draft picks to guide the team in rookie's Brandon Weeden (QB) & Trent Richardson (RB). Once again, the season got off to another frustrating beginning, watching the Browns start out 0-5 on the season, with three of those games decided by 7 points or less. Following the poor start, the Browns won their next two out of four games, with the two losses being a four-point loss to the Indianapolis Colts & a 10-point home loss to the Ravens (a game in which PK Phil Dawson kicked FIVE field goal's). Following the team's bye week, the Browns lost a heart-breaker in overtime down in Jerry's World to the Cowboys, dropping their season record to 2-8. Following the Cowboys loss, the Browns rallied to run off three-straight W's against the Steelers, Raiders (on the road), and the Kansas City Chiefs. At 5-8, the Browns had a chance at picking up another win or two, but unfortunately lost their last three games of the season to the Redskins (by 17), Broncos (by 22, on the road) and Steelers (by 14, on the road) finishing the season, at 5-11. Once again, the Browns were dealt with another frustrating season, as they played in 11 games decided by 10 points or less, winning just four of those games. The Browns still struggle finding ways to make "winning plays". Here's to hoping that the new Head Coach, whomever it is, and general manager can come in and get this team to buy into what they are selling and maybe have a successful 2013 season next fall.

Position-by-Position breakdown:

Quarterback: Just like the Head Coach position, the Browns have spent the majority of their return back in the NFL, shuffling though QB after QB, one failed 1st round draft pick after another. Now, they have to decide if Brandon Weeden is the one. Weeden, struggled big-time during his rookie season, and I feel like they need to bring in a veteran QB to push him come training camp in August, and give him someone he can learn from, geesh the kids 29 years old. Here's hoping his sophomore season is a lot better then his rookie one.

RB's: Trent Richardon, another rookie the Browns relied on to help the team score points, had his up's and down's this past season. While he fell short of reaching the 1,000-yard rushing mark on the season (finished with 950 rushing yards) he did score a total of 12 touchdowns, setting a couple franchise rookie records in the process. Battling injuries all season long, T-Rich at times, showed why the Browns drafted him with last spring's 3rd overall pick and why he will be a franchise back for years to come. The Browns need to make sure they have the depth at this position needed to help T-Rich and spell him for a break or two when needed so he can stay healthy. In year two, big things will be expected out of Richardson, on the ground & catching passes out of the backfield.

WR/TE's: I thought I saw some improvement from this unit as the year went on. Still, close to the top, if not at it this season in the NFL with dropballs, the guys out wide provided some quality play at times during the season. Rookie Josh Gordon, was a big surprise finishing the season with 805 rec. yards with 5 TD's. If Gordon can keep working on his craft, he can become the #1 that the Browns have been searching years for to be the go-to guy out wide. Bouncing back from a lackluster rookie season, second-year WR Greg Little was most improved catching 53 passes for 647 yards and four TD's. The TE's that the Browns have are solid, and I think the Browns still need to go out and get another guy, that can help open up the field for himself and/or Gordon & Little.

O-Line: Once again, Pro Bowler Joe Thomas anchored a unit that provided some decent pass blocking, but absolutely sucked blocking in the running game. Vet's like Thomas, center Alex Mack and rookie Mitchell Schwartz provide the Browns with a solid T-C-T combo for years to come (hopefully), while the Browns need to focus on locking down a couple offensive guards to solidify the o-line and can open up some holes in the rushing game.

D-Line: Arguably, the best unit on this Browns team, accounted for 24 sacks this season and played a number of guys including a couple rookies that were a surprise, following their questionable draft selection back in April. The Browns ranked 19th in the NFL in rushing/per game, allowing just short of 100 yards a game. I really like this unit, but still with improvement and added depth can be a lot better then they were at times this season, and thats scary.

LB's: D'Qwell Jackson the heart & soul of the defense, if not the whole team lead the team once again in total tackles this season with 118, including 3.5 sacks and two INT's (one returned for a touchdown). Like most of the other positions on this team, youth & inexperience highlighted this position. It's important that this unit improves over the off-season into summer practices, as they still struggle at times getting to the quarterback and covering receivers in open space. A high draft picked should be used to fill this position.

DB's: SUCK! Drafting at this position is a must come April.

K/P/Returners: Phil Dawson, what more can you say about this guy, that hasn't already been said. A pro bowl season in 2012, kicked 29 of 31 FG's, including 6 40+ yard FG's & 7 50+ yard FG's (did not miss an attempt from those two distances). Making all 29 of his PAT's, he was outstanding with his kickoff's, as a number of them carried all the way out of the back of the endzone. Reggie Hodges, averaged 41 yards on his 90 punts this season with 29 of those punts inside the 20 yard line, with just four touchbacks. Moving forward, I think the Browns have to find a way to keep Dawson around for a few more season's, while I wouldn't mind if they found someone else, besides Hodges to punt. In the return game, fan-favorite Joshua Cribbs, had the returning (kick/punt) responsiblies this season, gaining over 1,600 yards in return yardage. However, he was unable to break one for a score and too many times he was coming out of the back of the endzone on kickoff's, failing to reach the 20-yard line. Rookie Travis Benjamin, returned the lone punt return for touchdown this season for the Browns, racing 93-yards down the sideline, in a game against the KC Chiefs. I like Benjamin being the full-time returner in 2013, as Cribbs is probably done playing for the Cleveland Browns.

So, there you go recapping the 2012 Cleveland Browns season, and addressing what I saw from each depth chart position. I am looking forward to seeing, who the Browns name as their new GM & Head Coach in the near future. In 2013, the Browns, could surprise some people around the league, and dare I say make the playoffs (haha, most likely, lets shoot for an 8-8 season), like Kevin Garnett, "ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE!"