With a new owner, a new CEO, new players, and a new direction, the table is set and the eyes in the sky are finally watching. The NFL is a business and the time is now for the players to make a case for themselves. At a depressing 2-7, the odds of finishing 8-8 or 9-7 are slim to none. The time is now to set up 2013.
One thing that is for sure is the Cleveland Browns have found their future in Trent Richardson. There is no reason why Richardson should not become the face of the franchise for years to come. After missing much of training camp and all of the exhibition games, all Richardson has done in his rookie season is scored six touchdowns and ran for 575 yards. TRich also says he has not been 100% and his best football is yet to come.
The jury is still out on 29 year old quarterback Brandon Weeden. Displaying his rocket arm is great, but his decision making is questionable at times. Weeden’s pocket presence and internal clock must get better to compete in this league. BW3 has thrown nine touchdowns but is only second behind Tony Romo of the Dallas Cowboys with twelve interceptions. Has Cleveland found their franchise QB to lead them to the promise land? The answer is still up in the air.
Once Josh Gordon‘s maturity level from a football stand point rises, look out. Gordon has the size, speed, and hands to be NFL all-pro, he just needs some guidance. A key piece to competing next year, Gordon could use a veteran receiver to show him the ropes. No. 13 is the first prototypical threat receiver the Browns have had since Braylon Edwards. Though it looked suspect at the time, using a second round pick on the supplemental draft for Gordon was a great move.
To win in the NFL, a team must have a shut down corner. Most teams have their go-to wide receiver so there must be a corner to match up. Cleveland has it in Joe Haden. The star defensive back will only get better and is a huge piece of the puzzle to helping Browns fans’ dreams come true.
It’s hard to believe that Joe Thomas‘ career is half over. A franchise left tackle typically lasts from ten to twelve years. Thomas is now in year six and the time is now if he is going to get a much deserved ring on his finger. The beastly lineman is the anchor of the offensive line and has protected more than a handful of quarterbacks’ blind side. Thomas is a piece of the puzzle, but it has to be soon. Mitchell Schwartz has proved he belongs on this team.
A slew of young and competitive line backers are on the roster. The odds of just one of them panning out in the long run have got to be good. Moving forward, look for James-Michael Johnson and Craig Robertson to plead their case for being a part of this soon-to-be playoff team. All we can do is hope that D’Qwell Jackson is on the team when the Browns make their run. His situation is very much like Thomas’.
Watching this season, it’s clear the Browns could use a player like Jason Pierre-Paul or JJ Watt on their defensive line. The Browns are missing that piece that gets to the quarterback consistently. Cleveland has a good defensive line but not great. Do defenses still win championships? In today’s NFL, maybe not, but a team must be able to at least contain the run. The Browns have not been able to do that in all the years they have been back in the NFL.
Poor Phil Dawson. If anyone deserves to be a Super Bowl champion, it’s Dawson. Unfortunately, it’s probably not going to happen. In the near future, it may be best to draft another “Phil Dawson” and start all over at the place kicker position. When the Browns do go to the playoffs, will Dawson be on this team? Probably not.
For the next seven games, it’s all on players that were not mentioned to become a piece of this future special team. Players like Greg Little, Jordan Cameron, Phil Taylor, Jabaal Sheard, Kaluka Maiava, Dmitri Patterson, TJ Ward, and Mohamed Massaquoi must prove they belong on this team. Jimmy Haslam and Joe Banner are no non sense guys and are going to put a hungry competitive team on the field each and every year. A new coach is going to come in and not build team, he’s going to expect to win. The days of conservative and calm coaching are soon to be over. For these players as well as others, it does not matter what they did in the past, it matters what can they do for this team now and if they belong here in the future.
It may not be a complete overhaul of the organization, but an overhaul is coming. For the Cleveland faithful, the “there’s always next year” mentality just may be something to look forward to.
Ryan Ruiz – Cleveland Browns Writer
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