Earlier this week, we looked at the QB’s of the AFC North and who has a chance of having a great statistical season. So far, Ben Roethlisberger is leading that poll, and surprisingly Brandon Weeden is a far away second with Flacco taking third and Andy Dalton bringing up the rear. Given the forum this blog takes place in, I’m not surprised that Ben is leading, but is Brandon Weeden really poised to have a better season than Flacco or Dalton according to our voters? This surprising result got me thinking and led me to the question – How good are the Browns and how well will they do in the division?
Last season, the Browns had an atrocious offense ranking near last in every category, but they were better on defense. They were 2nd only to the Steelers (ranked 1st) against the pass and were 5th in points. However, they were 30th against the run by allowing an average of 147.4 yards/game… ouch.
Peyton Hillis, who made the cover of Madden, was cursed with a very luke warm season – one that was very different from his 1,100+ yard season the year prior. He’s made his way over to the Chiefs, and the Browns will look to Montario Hardesty, Brandon Jackson and rookie Trent Richardson from the ‘Bama to step up and lead the running game for the Browns. Richardson will more than likely fill that role immediately. His stellar play his final two years on the Tide got him drafted 3rd by the Browns, and they will be on their knees hoping he will be the answer for a running game that ranked 28th in rushing yards/game.
We already know of Brandon Weeden and the drama bound to happen at camp between current QB Colt McCoy and the rookie. McCoy wasn’t the answer for the Browns for the last two seasons. Will Weeden be ready to even compete for the starting job? My guess is yes given how poorly things have gone the way for the Browns. Oh right, and the guy is 29. If you aren’t going to have your 1st round pick investment, who happens to be a year shy of 30, taking the snaps, then why are you even trying to manage a football team?
The Browns defense looks to be good again this season. They made good late round picks this year in DL Billy Winn out of Boise State and LB James-Michael Johnson out of Nevada. LB Scott Fujita is suspended for the first three games of the season due to his ‘role’ in Bountygate, which may not be much of a concern against the Eagles, Bengals and Bills. Jabaal Sheard will be looking to emerge again this season as the teams sack leader. He had one hell of a rookie season, and at 255lbs, Sheard is quick off the snap even though he is undersized for a DE.
Their schedule is very similar to the rest of the AFC North. And, while playing the Colts used to be a worrisome thing, the Horseshoes might be still finding their stride with rookie Andrew Luck and the rest of the almost entirely new offense by the time the Browns roll into town.
So, I can’t believe I’m saying this but…. the Browns actually have a chance to make a run at the North. Gulp. That was harder to say than you think. The Steelers and Ravens, who usually duke it out for the top spot, have the potential of falling hard and early this season. Their schedules are front loaded with some tough games, and the Steelers have an early bye that could cost them late in the season. If the Browns can stay consistent and make it to say 9-7, then they have a shot of at least tying for the division. It’s doubtful that things will play out that way (come on you Brownie Homers, you didn’t think I’d really commit myself to that level of disillusion?!), but there is always the off handed chance that the offense gets behind a rookie QB and an already good defense gets even better with their run stopping capabilities.
So where WILL the Browns end up in 2012?