As I read previews and preseason predictions one thing is for certain (if you believe the media)- the Browns are terrible. The last thing I read was an article that was focussed more on fantasy than real football, but none the less the quote was “There is not one draftable Brown- this is a terrible football team.”
I found an article that said the Browns had “real secondary issues, particularly cornerback”. Was this guy looking at an old depth chart or something? Honestly, I expect cornerback to be a position of strength for this team. In fact, I think that is how I will do my preview, by position. We’ll start with my favorite side of the ball- the defense. (After the jump.)
Let’s start on the line. The middle we be manned by Ted Washington and Shaun Smith. Washington is not the player he once was, but hopefully Smith can rotate in enough that Washington is effective. I’m sure the front office would be thrilled if Smith can step in and take over the bulk of the playing time. Nose tackle is not a position easily graded, especially without benefit of game film.
The ends should be Orpheus Roye, Simon Fraser, Robaire Smith, Antwan Peek and Orein Harris. Perhaps one of the rookies will step up and join the rotation. Even so, the line remains a concern. Roye is a year older, Fraser lacks the speed and strength to be more more than average; Peek and and Smith are cast-offs from Houston and Tennessee respectively. Unless one of the rookies turns out to be a diamond in the rough this group will again be the root of the problems on defense. Grade- C-
The linebackers will again have to make up for the weakness’ of the front 3. Fortunately this group should be up to the task. Kamerion Wimbley will be the anchor of this defense for years. Having demonstrated his ability to rush the passer in this league, Kamerion will need to step up his game against the run if the Browns are to improve. I believe he will. Playing next to Wimbley will be D’Qwell Jackson. Jackson has the biggest room for improvement of any of the Browns defenders. There is enough raw talent for Jackson to become a star as well, but he will have to find himeself in the right position more often than he was last year. If he can work within the defensive scheme, he should blossom, and possibly lead the team in tackles.
Andra Davis will again man the left-inside backer spot. I have said for years now that if Davis would get more aggressive and meet running backs in the hole instead of waiting for them to get to him he would be a Pro-Bowl player. Sometimes that means being able to shed a block and get into position. Davis just hasn’t been able to do this on a consistent basis. Still, he is an above average linebacker, and makes the team better. Willie McGinest is back for another year at outside backer. The one thing the front office hasn’t been able to do is find an adequate replacement for McGinest to mentor. Peek could play here, as could Stewart. If McGinist can play at close to the same level he did in New England, then this linebacking corps is top 5 or 6. If not, well then closer to 15 or 16. Grade- B+
At the safety positions, this team has been turned over to Sean Jones and Brodney Pool. Both are second round picks from consecutive drafts; and the team has been waiting for them to make an impact. No time like the present. Jones played well last year, and should make more progress after playing in the system for the first time all season. Pool concerns me a bit more. The Browns brought in Mike Adams to back-up Pool, though Adams may win the starting spot away from Brodney when it is all said and done. Grade- B-
Aside from the linebackers, the cornerbacks are probably the strength of the team. That is my opinion anyway. Injuries have created quite a depth of players at this position. Bodden starts, that is for certain, and he may well be among the best 4 or 5 cover guys playing today. I believe, based on what I am reading about Eric Wright, that he will eventually start alongside Bodden, but probably not until after our brutal opening month of games. Wright could be the star of this draft, but I hope not- we need the guys drafted ahead of him to carry the franchise forward, but that’s another day’s post. Gary Baxter has every opportunity to start and put his injury behind him. If Baxter is able to come back from injury, we are absolutely stacked, with Kenny Wright and Daven Holly as back-ups. Bodden, E. Wright, Baxter, K. Wright, and Holly? Yeah, I’ll take that group. Grade- A-
Overall the defense should be improved, both against the run and the pass. Grade- B