The TSB Training Camp Previews moves on to the “Factory of Sadness” as an off-season chock full of fascinating stories, both good and bad, has set up a circus like atmosphere in Northeast Ohio before one game has even been played.
So lets take a look at the Cleveland Browns
2013 Record: 4-12 4th Place AFC North (Missed Playoffs For 11th Straight Year)
Passing Leader: Jason Campbell 2015 YDS 11 TD 8 INT
Rushing Leader: Willis McGahee 377 YDS 2 TD
Receiving Leader: Josh Gordon 87 REC 1646 YDS 9 TD
Leading Tackler: D’Qwell Jackson 141 Tackles/75 Solo
Sacks Leader: Jabaal Sheard 5.5/Barkevious Mingo 5.0
Int Leader: Tashaun Gipson 5 INT
FA losses: T.J. Ward S, Davone Bess WR, Jason Campbell QB, D’Qwell Jackson LB, Greg Little WR, Brandon Weeden QB,
FA signings: Donte Witner S, Andrew Hawkins WR, Ben Tate RB, Karlos Dansby LB, Miles Austin WR, Nate Burelson WR, Vince Young, QB
1st Round: Justin Gilbert, Cornerback, Oklahoma State
Johnny Manziel, Quarterback, Texas A&M
2nd Round: Joel Bitonio, Offensive Tackle, Nevada
3rd Round: Christian Kirksey, Linebacker, Iowa
Terrance West, Running Back, Towson
4th Round: Pierre Desir, Cornerback, Lindenwood
The 2013 Cleveland Browns had a new owner, new front office, new head coach and some pretty solid talent to build around. By the end of the season everything that was new, got old really fast, as it has nearly every year since their last playoff appearance all the way back to 2002.
The Browns were 4-5 after a win over the Baltimore Ravens heading into their week 10 bye and would proceed to lose their final seven games of the season to finish a dismal 4-12. Head Coach Rob Chudzinski, General Manager Mike Lombardi and CEO Joe Banner would all be fired or quit.
Individual talent did shine very brightly for the Browns as Josh Gordon put the league on notice that he was an elite wide receiver even without a good quarterback. Joe Haden continued to make strides as one of the best corners in the league. Jordan Cameron became a household name at tight end and Joe Thomas and Alex Mack are cornerstones of the offensive line.
Change came to Cleveland none the less this off-season as Assistant GM Ray Farmer was promoted to GM and former Jets and Bills defensive coordinator Mike Pettine became the newest Head Coach after a lengthy and at times embarrassing search.
One of the biggest stories for the Browns in the off-season came in the NFL Draft as they drafted Justin Gilbert, a cornerback, 8th overall and then traded up from 26th (the pick they got from the Colts in the Trent Richardson deal) to 22nd to draft the one and only Johnny Manziel aka Johnny Football to be next guy tabbed as the savior quarterback for Cleveland. Manziel has been in the news for almost everything but his football playing ability and has already become a lightning rod for controversy and criticism before taking his first snap in the NFL.
The other big story this off-season came when news broke that Josh Gordon had been suspended by the NFL for the season for failing a drug test. He is currently appealing the decision but his loss for the year if the ruling is upheld would be major. The Browns addressed the WR position in free agency but Andrew Hawkins, Miles Austin and Nate Burelson combined might not replace the production of Gordon.
Defensive standouts T.J. Ward (Denver) and D’Qwell Jackson (Indianapolis) left Cleveland as free agents, replaced by veterans Donte Whitner and Karlos Dansby. Ben Tate was brought in from Houston to be the #1 running back and Brian Hoyer will return from injury to be, for the moment, the starting QB. Center Alex Mack signed a contract with Jacksonville to be their center only to see the Browns match the deal and force him back north after saying he didn’t want to come back.
This season for the Browns is once again all about starting fresh. Their leading passer, rusher, receiver (for now) and tackler from last year are gone and the men that brought them to the team or coached them are gone too.
Mike Pettine needs time with this roster but with the right pieces to surround what is, in my opinion, a very solid roster of individual talent, the light at the end of tunnel can be seen for Browns fans.
If anything, this team wont be boring to watch this upcoming season and if Johnny Football lives up to the talent he showed in college, then the AFC North wont have the Browns as a doormat for too much longer.