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