By Dan Williams @Dan_Wi11iams on August 27, 2014
The 2014 offseason for the Cleveland Browns had its highs and lows, from a seemingly incomplete coaching search all the way to learning the team will be without key players. The regular season could be bleak for the Browns as they try to rebuild the once proud franchise. With that, here are five signs that the Cleveland Browns could be doomed in 2014.
Injuries have kept both Justin Gilbert and Buster Skrine sidelined for a significant amount of time while they battled for the starting CB role along with Joe Haden. Gilbert has played in two games so far, playing decent in his first overall NFL game but then looking like a rookie against the St. Louis Rams in Week 3. Skrine suited up for Cleveland's first game against Detroit but suffered a thumb injury and may be questionable for Week 1.
From the time Johnny Manziel was drafted by the Browns, speculation on whether he could win the starting QB position away from Brian Hoyer ran rampant. Manziel closed the gap throughout the preseason, and while he was more than likely behind Hoyer all the way, he didn't play any better or any worse than the veteran. The two QBs played evenly, which allowed Mike Pettine to name Hoyer the starter — a move that may have been helped by his 2013 play.
When looking at the teams that belong to the AFC North, along with Cleveland, you see the likes of the Pittsburgh Steelers (3 Super Bowls since '05, 2 wins), Baltimore Ravens (2012 Super Bowl winner) and Cincinnati Bengals (won the division last season and made the playoffs 3 years in a row). The division is full of imposing defenses, which have mostly dominated the Browns' futile offenses meaning big on-field changes will need to occur in 2014.
If there was any glimmer of hope that Browns Pro Bowl WR Josh Gordon would suit up for Cleveland this season, that was dashed with Gordon's suspension being upheld. Now without their top receiving target, who will the Browns trust to move the chains in the passing game along with TE Jordan Cameron? Gordon's presence alone drew concerns for opposing defenses and the newly signed Andrew Hawkins was thought to benefit while in the slot.
Heading into the preseason, there were concerns about the Browns' ability to adjust to offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan's offense. So far, the concerns are warranted as starting QB Brian Hoyer has only led one touchdown-scoring drive through three preseason games. The running game has looked good, but the timing between Hoyer and his receivers is still off. Cleveland will need to show improvement in the last game leading into Week 1.
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