Allowing Myself To Think (Some) Good Thoughts About The Browns

It took a second viewing of Thursday night’s blowout victory against the Green Bay Packers for it to sink in, but there were plenty of things to take away in a cautiously optimistic fashion. While I’m on the record (or soon will be) that I don’t think the Browns will be making any drastic moves northward in the standings that will result in making the playoffs or anything like that, I do think the collective processes of drafting good, young players with star potential, developing the current young core further, along with the change in ownership should give the organization and its fans some collective momentum going forward. Here’s a few thoughts as we creep closer to the regular season.

  • We’ve seen it many times how NFL teams have been able to rebuild almost overnight and rise up from a 5-11 or 6-10 record and make the playoffs the very next year.1 We saw the Browns drop six games by 7 points or less last season (three by three points or less). That was with a green and all-around pathetic offense.
  • Now, I think the Browns have a chance to be a threat with a legitimate running game. We haven’t even seen our best running back yet, and that will go a long way in determining whether my statement above will come to fruition. But, I’ve been impressed with what we’ve seen from both Montario Hardesty and Brandon Jackson thus far. Both have shown an ability to run between the tackles and get some tough yards. Given the injury histories of the three guys at the top of the depth chart, I also hope the Browns will hold onto either Chris Ogbonnaya or rookie Adonis Thomas.
  • It also appears that the Browns have a confident QB who can stand in the pocket and deliver strikes. Now, I’d be lying if I didn’t express my concerns about his screen pass game and his early tendencies to throw 50/50 or worse balls instead of throwing it away. However, with Weeden under center, I feel that the Browns can finally stretch the field a bit without it just being lip service. Between Greg Little (who I think is poised for a big second year), Travis Benjamin (who has shown great speed and looks more durable than I envisioned), Josh Gordon, and Jordan Cameron (who has made some huge strides from all accounts, including those from fellow WFNY writers), there should some semblance of a vertical attack. The threat of it alone should open up the running game and maybe some more Josh Cribbs touches.
  • Perhaps more than anything, I’ve been surprised with how some of the young linebackers have stepped up. James-Michael Johnson, Craig Robertson, and L.J. Fort have all made some plays and had their name praised in camp. That’s still going to be a huge area of concern all season, as I think Scott Fujita is close to being washed up in terms of a starter and the team will be without Gocong the entire season. It’s nice to see that some of the rookies have stepped up and made some big plays.
  • With the uncertainty of Joe Haden’s start of the season, the defensive backfield is going to have plenty of opportunities. Sheldon Brown has actually made some plays this preseason, and I’ve been impressed with seventh rounder Trevin Wade. Between Skrine, Wade, Hagg, and Patterson, I think there’s a lot of room to grow in the secondary.

For now, us Browns fans have to measure progress in yardage, the ability to make big plays, and competing in games end to end, not so much with wins. If nothing else, I hope this season results in Browns fans being able to clearly see the strides being made instead of having to dig so deep2

(Photo: WFNY)

  1. That is, outside of the coaching/front office carousel that has been the Browns for over a decade now. []
  2. As we are having to do with the Tribe right now. []

  • Ezzie Goldish

    Can we add in the offensive line? Hardesty looked like he had plenty of room to get through that first hole at the least, and Weeden didn’t look too pressured most of the time. (Note that I only watched parts, not the whole thing, but from what I saw, anyway.) If this O-line can get Trent to that second level consistently and keep Weeden from being rushed, perhaps this offense can actually accomplish a lot this year.

  • Kirk

    Ezzie, I completely agree with you. The only reason I neglected to add the O-line was because that it is one of the known commodities on this team and I think people overall feel pretty good about it due to having two Pro Bowlers and all starters being on the right side of 30.

  • Warburton MacKinnon

    Wow, you are,gaurdedly,opptomistc.. I wish I could be. So far have not yet seen why people think Weeden is a good QB,nor why anyone could refer to him as a franchise player,but I haven’t seen him much…problem is I do think I have seen all our coaches have to offer at least offensively. Which of course brings me to the Defense, I will give Hayden a pass on the 1st play by the GB offense,but he was beat by a 3rd string GB player on the 3rd play(yeah Jordy plays a bit but isn’t a first string player,he will generally see the field in 3 or 4 wide sets…where he is an option but is supposed to be a decoy so others can get the ball) our best DB against one of their lesser recievers. The pass was bad,yet, Hayden was turned around and out of possition to play the ball,then he was outmuscled for the thing..the ball hit Hayden in the chest,but he lost the battle and gave up a TD. If that is what GB does when it ain’t trying,I am gaurdedly pessimistic. Then there have been two players taken off the field for sorenesss,one practiced the next day,the other just got back to one may have had an injury the other was what we refered to as a heat casualty in the Marines. He wasn’t hydrated enough,you don’t leave a game when you are sore,and definitely don’t get carted off in Wades case because you are sore..he is(could be wrong here) a 7th rounder or undrafted. This is poor coaching,hydration and preventing dehydration or heat stroke I thought is something coaches teach players(both players that left games are rookies in this instance)…my DI’s taught me,so did my highschool football coach. Don’t know the process in college,but I think it would have been at least spoken about. If a player needs to be carried off the field because he is sore,that is bad caoching…oh and the player might just be close to dead…if you are down via dehydration or heatstroke ya kinda need IVs in your arm,been there almost died once cause I didn’t listen…woke up to docs bringing out the defibrillation
    machine and my Company comander looking at me,after they went through 6 bags of saline being pumped in my veins. Thing is espescially now profesional football is much more regulated than any of my training was,oh and there are cameras around. So yeah I don’t have a lot of promise in my mind about this year.

  • MalefactorClean50
  • The_Real_Shamrock

    If the last two sentences had been upfront I’d be more understanding but no no no no Kool-Aid drinking after just two preseason games there doesn’t need to be a repeat of the Cleveland Indians season!

    This is still a bad football team with plenty of holes that features rookies at QB, RB, RT and WR on offense with a terrificly tough schedule. The defense has even less stars then the offense now and has already been besieged by injuries and possibly a suspension by one of the key components.

    This team will need another draft hopefully like the last one along with some free agent moves before I personally feel like there is light at the end of the tunnel. Unfortunately I don’t think the new ownership will bring in people who will completely agree to the track the team finds itself on which means there will be more change ahead. Now if those people can come in and continue the build with a much more aggressive style then great but they might just as well need to tear down some parts too. Time will tell.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    If Jordy Nelson were on this football team he’d be the #1 hands down it just so happens he finds himself on a team with probably three or four other #1s. That being said I kind of liked seeing GB go right at everyone’s fan favorite Joe Adderall Haden right off the bat. It’s easy to understand why Haden is so highly regarded on this team it’s because he’s head and shoulders better then anyone else particularly on defense. The problem is that doesn’t make him the best in the league. Fans need to learn some perspective when discussing their players verse the rest of the league.
    Now as far as Weeden goes people need to realize this guy isn’t some savior. He’s going to need plenty of time possibly an entire season to learn which makes his drafting somewhat of a puzzlement for me. Personally I would have preferred another year of McCoy while adding Richardson, a better RT and a top WR either via FA or in the draft. You could have added someone on defense with the pick you saved by not drafting a QB or WR (if you signed a FA) and a year from now had better long term options at QB via the draft. I don’t forsee the football team winning anymore then maybe 6 games so why they were in such a rush to try another QB is beyond me. But what’s done is done.

  • Harv 21

    It’s foolish to believe much in preseason, given the frequency of false positives when opposition is not playing full-speed, full playbook or full roster. I think I see Weeden’s calmness and arm, and Benjamin’s speed, but that’s about all I trust so far.

    Re the LBs, not sure what James Michael Johnson us at all.

    It’s always nice to be optimistic in camp. I try to be, because it keeps me sane during the annual summer Tribe flameout. But let’s remember that a year ago, on this site, Haden’s first name had apparently been changed to “Future Pro Bowler Joe” by every writer, the same kind of treatment we’ve given Carlos Santana and Kipnis in our desperation. So far Haden’s a good corner but a little inconsistent and with bad hands. He is as good as how he’s played, not how we hope he play or how he periodically plays. Is anyone on this site old enough to remember what a real impact player looked like out of the rookie chute, like Ozzie and Chip Banks and Clay Matthews and Kevin Mack? We’ll see it pretty quick, folks, but not in preseason, where Ben Gay looks just like Kevin Mack. Let’s make the players and the FOs earn our adoration. I honestly don’t care about this season’s Browns record, but I’m waiting to players catching my eye when it counts, against teams going all out.

    Sorry for the rant, Kirk. I know your Browns stories have to be about what you see now. Still, judgments so early make me nuts.

  • Kirk

    It is indeed foolish to put too much stock in the preseason, Harv. That’s why I remain cautiously optimistic and only am thinking “some” good thoughts. I basically said above I don’t expect this team to win many more games, but looking to analyze with the information we have at this point is not a fruitless endeavor, in my opinion. It just takes perspective and patience.

    The notion that there is a unanimous opinion on this site in regards to Haden and his presumed Pro Bowl worthiness couldn’t be any further from the truth. The front office has plenty to prove from where I’m standing, and they are far from having my adoration at this point.

    No hard feelings about the rant, because I think you understand we can only evaluate what we’ve seen and why I replied to your comment. Soon, we thankfully won’t have to worry about this discussion when the games count.

  • Harv 21

    re Haden, I think you misunderstood. People differ now about him, I was emphasizing the unanimous predictions of last summer when people just assumed he’d be shut down. Last year’s Cleveland golden boys were Haden, Masterson, Kipnis, Santana. In baseball, where finding weaknesses and making adjustments are everything, I want to see the player perform for two seasons at a given level to know what he is. In football – maybe with the exception of QBs and pass rushers – one full season of a player being successful tells an awful lot, especially because physical dominance means more in football. Haden was good for a rookie. That didn’t imply that he’d be a pro bowler.

  • david

    i cant imagine this being a good year, at all, BUT I think next year and 2014 have the chance to be really great years. There is reason to believe that in 2014 Phil Taylor, Jabaal Sheard, Joe Haden, Dqwell Jackson, Billy Winn, Rubin, and TJ Ward will all be pretty good football players, or better. For the offense, Weeden, Richardson, Little, Gordon, Thomas, Schwartz, Mack, Cameron, and Hardesty all have a shot as well. That leaves two drafts to shore up the other weaknesses, but its a young group that can all grow up together. I don’t see why it couldnt happen

  • Bric

    Coaching is vital, and I mean assistant coaching.
    Dick Jauron has been fantastic with this group, and you see it with low-round draft choices quickly becoming competent, NFL players.
    Brad Childress may able to do the same thing with a young offense.
    This team is in better condition to have continued success since at least the return to the NFL.
    Holmgren is a disagreeable old guy, but he has done a brilliant job in attracting outstanding professionals to the coaching staff, and in appointing Heckert.
    I’m an old guy with as much enthusiasm for what is going on as I have had in a long time.
    That doesn’t mean I think the Browns will have a winning record or win it all.
    But it does mean I think that with incredible luck, incredible health, and incredible development and maturation of the youngest players, they could do it all.
    That’s the first time I have felt this way in well over ten years.

  • 5KMD

    Well since the Pro Bowl is all about noteriety, Haden may very well be a future Pro Bowler before he is a future All Pro which is more indicative on his actual play.
    But I know what you mean, just picking nits on the uselessness of the Pro Bowl and its seven alternates at each position.

  • 5KMD

    I stopped reading after he called Jordy Nelson a third string player.

  • 5KMD

    I really believe the Browns will be leading or within 7 points at halftime for most of the games this year. Just not sure they have the depth yet to hang on in the second half.
    One more draft, no more injuries please.

  • Likewise.

  • Hopwin

    Mmmm Kool-Aid. Lost six games by 7 points or less you say? I suppose you forgot how ineffectual our offense looked in those games and just how much our defense gave up rushing yards (Time of Possession). Those games were all one-sided blowouts (except the Seattle game which was gifted to the Browns by a phantom hold call and the Jaguar game which was just awful on both sides). We lost by 7 points or less because Colt would lead scoring drives in garbage time.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    Browns defense had the most rushing attempts against it in 2011 than any other team in the league, which is why I hate the rushing yards stat. It doesn’t mean what everyone seems to think it means. Looking at rush yards per attempt, the Browns weren’t that bad last year.

    I will say that I agree that our offense was completely putrid and that’s a better indication. You make a good point about the garbage-time drives of Colt McCoy. I would say the defense was much better than you’re giving credit for, though. Allowing the 5th least amount of points is nothing to sneeze at… it just shows you how bad our offense really was.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    I hear what Kirk is saying here… basically that there are tools in place this season where the Browns could actually exceed expectations. It doesn’t mean they will, but there are certainly reasons for optimism. I would agree with that. For the first time you can at least visualize how this Browns team could make the playoffs if everything went right. I don’t think it will happen, but I can visualize a dimension where this team mimics the 2011 Bengals.

  • mgbode

    yeah, our defense wasn’t as good as some of the numbers, but it wasn’t terrible either. need to get some better ‘efficiency’ stats, but here are a few important ones:

    (all defensive stats what we gave up)

    5th in pts/game
    9th in yards/play

    5th in yards per pass play
    9th in QB rating

    19th in yards per run play

  • Hopwin

    The stats you listed above are derivative. If you don’t pass the ball then you don’t score points because you aren’t running out the clock and QB rating would be low.
    If we focus on running and gameplanning against the Browns:
    31st in opponent rushing attempts per game
    32nd in opponent rush % attempts per game (51.59% of the time they elected to run the ball against us)
    24th in points allowed in the first qaurter per game; 11th for the 2nd quarter; 8th for 3rd quarter and 3rd for 4th quarter = We get behind FAST
    This is supported by the following:
    22nd in opponents time of possession
    Teams got ahead of us and Martyballed the clock away all last season. The exceptionally poor stats in run defense cast dispersion on any subsequent evaluations of our passing defense.

  • mgbode

    I agree to some degree that our offensive ineptness allowed conservative gameplans and even stated it wasn’t quite as good as some of the numbers.

    however, the fact that teams ran the ball a ton on us spoke more to the fact they were not worried about us scoring than our defenses ability to stop the run. GB, NE, and NO were all worse per attempt at stopping the run. But, teams couldn’t just run the ball down their throats like they did us because they feared their offenses.

    our pass defense by every measure was good last year. likely not elite (see the QBs we faced), but it was good.

  • Hopwin

    Untested != Good