The Cleveland Browns improved in 2012, but could not put together a winning season. Coach Pat Shurmur often talked about a team that needed to learn how to win. The team’s performances after their three-game winning streak left some confused as to the merits of such a repetitive statement.
During the 2013 offseason, the Browns have added players to the defensive side of the ball that will fill substantial roles. Their free-agent acquisitions have skill sets that can be seen on tape, and are players that should fit coach Ray Horton‘s defense. President Joe Banner has similar experience in adding bulk talent to a team from his time with the Philadelphia Eagles. Aside from acquiring players that were not a good fit, there was a lack of chemistry from such a drastic influx of players, and coaching staff changes. Banner and general manager Michael Lombardi are hopefully making sure that they add players that Horton can work with in his defense. Between the additions and remaining players from the 2012 team, the defense has the talent but will they come together as a unit?
Because they have signed players with specific skills, they have an idea of where each player will fit in and it will be up to an experienced coaching staff to make sure that everyone stays on the same page throughout training camp. Dee Milliner is a player whose role would be to step in opposite Joe Haden and start. This is a tall responsibility in the NFL, but I am sure he is up to the challenge. With his role clear from the start, Milliner can learn the defense and play football. Because of the need at the cornerback position, they would make very clear what is expected of him and let him fulfill that role.
When Norv Turner joined the Browns, he took over an offense that has a lot going for it already. The potential for this unit to reach high levels of play comes from familiarity and skill. They should let this receiving corps grow together to create some trust and fluidity with quarterback Brandon Weeden. The offensive line is solid, but could use the addition of an interior lineman to push Jason Pinkston and Shawn Lauvao to compete for the other spot. If the team chooses to draft Chance Warmack, our depth improves because he pushes one of the incumbent starters to the bench.
In addition, there is something positive to be said about team chemistry as he would block for Trent Richardson, with whom he played at Alabama. The running back core may see a fourth back added for depth, so essentially if Jordan Cameron can take hold of the starting tight end position, this group should know each other well enough from 2012 to learn coach Turner’s offense and grow as a cohesive unit. Brandon Weeden can start making those timing throws and the receivers will be able to focus on beating defensive backs and catching the ball. Adding Warmack could be a talented, safe addition that keeps some momentum building for the offense.
Because the front office was determined to add talent in free-agency, the approach to the draft was put in a position to be flexible. The front office did not want to reach for need in the draft and now they can go many different ways. They will be glad if Milliner and Warmack are there to draft, but will field trade offers. While not having a second round pick is a big deal, they used it on Josh Gordon. If he played college football in 2012, he might have been a guy that we are talking about taking in either round anyway.
The focus should shift to the third round pick. This is a valuable pick and will require a lot of work because the Browns will undoubtedly be able to pick a solid player in the first round, who fits what the coordinators need. If Lombardi and company do not come up with a trade that adds picks to the 2013 draft, a lot of focus will be on their third round selection, and rightfully so.
If a team needs to learn how to win, does it come from chemistry amongst players coached by a quality staff that puts everyone in the appropriate position to win? This is one of many questions that the 2013 Browns team will answer.