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NFL Cleveland Browns

As The Cleveland Browns Start 0-2, There May Still Be Hope

Brad Mills – USA TODAY Sports

So… the Cleveland Browns remain winless two games into the season.

Browns fans got nothing for their three hours today. The team lost to the Baltimore Ravens, couldn’t get into the end zone, and looked identical to last week’s team, not a sign of progress in sight. With just 16 points in two games, they now head to Minneapolis next week to play the Minnesota Vikings, a team that has scored 54. With 14 games to go, Browns fans feel like the season is already lost. Probably because it is.

But rather than be a Negative Nelly, I’m here with a message of hope! Sure, I could rant about how the offensive line couldn’t block, the wide receivers couldn’t get open nor catch passes (I’m looking at you, Greg Little), and Brandon Weeden looks like yet another mediocre Browns quarterback.

But you can get that noise anywhere: Every sports talk show, every Browns blog,  every Browns article in the news. I’m here to offer something different. I’m here, Browns fans, to present a silver lining. Stick with me on this.

No, the silver lining isn’t Billy Cundiff, who has managed to convert all three field goal attempts, including one today from 51 yards. Hey, he’s got more points (10) than the rest of the team (6). Browns fans were upset when the team’s final cuts left the roster without a placekicker. A fan base that screams about lack of touchdowns was worried about field goals. Only in Cleveland. But so far, Cundiff has done well.

No, the silver lining is this. The Browns are good in one area: The defensive front seven. Cornerbacks not named Joe Haden can’t cover, and the offense has all of the problems I mentioned earlier. But the front seven is good. No, that’s not a moral victory, a “Hey, we suck, but we are good at stopping the run” take. It’s this:

The Browns brass really only focused on one area this offseason: The defensive front seven. Free agents and their top draft pick all went to that area of the team. And you know what? It seems like the brass did a good job. Baltimore’s Ray Rice found enemy jerseys almost every time he approached the offensive line. The same last week when the Miami Dolphins – who rushed for over 100 yards today against the Indianapolis Colts – were held to less than one yard per carry.

To me this is a sign  - not proof, but just a sign – that the guys making the personnel decisions know how to evaluate talent. They focused on the front seven, and in my mind they did a very good job. They signed good players and they’ve done a good job.

I don’t know exactly why Joe Banner and Mike Lombardi didn’t look at other positions, having the money to do so. Then they traded away two of this year’s draft picks for next year’s draft. Maybe that’ll work out next year, but it doesn’t make this year any fun. I mean, good for the guys with their three-year plan, but it does nothing for the fans who live game to game. “We’re going to be good in three years” is not bragging rights for fans. Especially when you’re on your third three-year plan in the last five years, all without one  hint of success.

One offseason does not mean that the current plan will be anymore successful than the others, but looking at 2013 I can give credit for what was accomplished. I’m not saying this as homer drivel. They may come out and draft Tommy Vardell and JaMarcus Russell in 2014. (Sorry, ML. Low blow.) And nobody in September wants to talk about the 2014 NFL draft.

But for an 0-2 team that has managed one touchdown in eight quarters, looking for any glimmer of hope doesn’t leave one with a lot to choose from. There are not a lot of bright spots on this team right now, so I’m doing my best to keep your spirits up while we wait for next April to arrive.

So how am I doing? Feel better? Hello? Sorry. That’s the best I’ve got.