The Cleveland Browns are now in their bye week of 2012 NFL season. With a team full of rookies and second year players, the Browns have mustered two wins in nine games. While there have been positives, the end result is negative. Let’s give some grades by position for the offense.
Quarterback: Once again, Cleveland entered the season with a new quarterback. Picked in the first round of 2012 NFL Draft, Brandon Weeden has started all nine games this year. Weeden has been both great and shaky at times. The rookie quarterback has 2,088 yards passing and has thrown 9 touchdowns. The downside is Weeden’s 12 interceptions and slow moving pocket presence. However, he is on pace for 4,000 yards passing and can only get better the rest of the way. The next seven games are crucial in developing the rocket armed Weeden. Grade: B-
Running back: There was a reason the Browns moved up one spot to grab Trent Richardson with the third pick overall; he’s that good. Despite missing all of the pre-season games, Richardson has picked up the pace of the NFL quickly. The rookie back leads the team in touchdowns with 6 and will get 1,000 yards this season. Richardson has 575 yards and as long as he stays healthy, he will easily eclipse the mark. Montario Hardesty, who was off the map for the first handful of games has spot filled respectively. On third down, Cleveland goes to Chris Ogbonnaya out of the backfield for his hands and speed on the perimeter. Ogbonnaya has done a nice job. And if anybody has any clue where Brandon Jackson is, please tell me. Grade: A-
Fullback: This may be one of the worse positions the Browns have. At this point, Owen Marecic is a draft bust. Marecic has dropped every pass thrown to him and his blocking is suspect. A tight end for most of his career, Alex Smith is now the starter. The smart thing to do would be to sign Brad Smelley off the taxi squad, but pure stubbornness will not let that happen. Grade: D
Tight end: Combined, the Browns TE’s have caught 41 passes and scored 1 touchdown. This is counting Smith’s 8 receptions who has been thrust in to starting full back as previously mentioned. Cleveland needs to use Jordan Cameron more as he is a star in the making. But, do to Pat Shurmur‘s inept play calling, Cameron is rarely used. Grade: C
Tackle: After early issues, both the all-pro Joe Thomas and the rookie Mitchell Schwartz have done a fine job protecting Weeden on the edges. Thomas has suffered a few rare holding calls and false starts. Schwartz looks to be the right tackle of Cleveland’s future. Grade: B
Guard: This is sad actually. For some unknown explanation, second year man Jason Pinkston has a threatening blood clot in his lung. Ohio native John Greco is now the starter at left guard. Third year man, Shawn Lauvao plays hard at right guard and has helped open some nice holes for Richardson. Guard pulling plays have been effective. Grade: C+
Center: Alex Mack is a stud and proves it every game. There has not been one mishandled exchange from him and Weeden. Every play, Mack is seen barking out calls and blocking schemes. The 2009 first round draft pick continues to be amongst the NFL’s best young centers. Grade: A
Wide Receiver: Saving the most interesting for last, the Browns’ receivers have had a season of highs and lows so far. The most surprising is second round supplemental draft pick Josh Gordon. Also known as Flash, Gordon has molded in to a potential number one option with 4 touchdowns. Gordon has put together a nice season for not playing live football in a year. His numbers are telling, only 19 receptions but they equal 417 yards and a 21.9 average yards per catch. The most disappointing is Greg Little and his stone hands. Many experts picked Little to have a pro bowl type year. Little does have 2 touchdowns and 301 yards, but half of his drops have come at crucial points in the games. Arguably, Little has cost the Browns at least one “W”. The rest of the corps have been mediocre at best. Together, Travis Benjamin, Josh Cooper, Mohamed Massaquoi, Josh Cribbs, and Jordan Norwood (now on IR) have combined for 44 receptions and just 1 touchdown. Though they are young, they need to step up in the next seven games. Grade: C+
At 2-7, the schedule is deceiving in the second half. The combined opponents’ record is 20-29 and only two teams have winning records at this point, the Pittsburgh Steelers and Denver Broncos. The Browns can take a giant step forward if they can pull 4 to 5 more wins out of the last seven remaining games. Only time will tell.
Ryan Ruiz – Cleveland Browns Writer
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