John returns with his state of the Browns evaluation, and this time it’s surprisingly optimistic.
Hey everyone . . . So, last time you heard from me I was entertaining the idea of calling for Romeo Crennel’s head. OK, I admit I was a bit hasty; mostly because I was writing out of frustration after watching my beloved Browns give away a game to the Steelers. I have had some time to settle and have to admit that this team has made significant improvement this season.
At the beginning of the season, my hope was that the Browns would win 8 games. Well, Sunday’s win over the Jets was number 8, and with 3 games to play the Browns are staring at a likely playoff berth: they hold the second Wild Card spot with destiny in their hands (a good position to be in). There is even an outside (way outside) shot at the North Division Champion spot as Pittsburgh continues to struggle. When all is said and done, I believe the Browns have a really solid shot at winning 10 games.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I haven’t made a complete 180. This team still has mammoth room for improvement in coaching and playing. They still struggle with costly penalties (169 for 1248 the league average is 150 for 1178). Their secondary is woefully inadequate: they gave up 24 receptions for 286 yards including 13 for 167 to Cotchery and Coles, the walking wounded. I also feel the offensive play calling is still relatively one dimensional: I would like to see the Browns run the ball at least 35 times per game; they had 26 against the Jets (I don’t include Anderson’s 3 scrambles). When you see the Browns struggle late in games, as they did against the Jets, I believe that these shortcomings are the cause.
Now, for the positives. I am really encouraged by the progress of the young players: Braylon Edwards, Derek Anderson, Kellen Winslow, Joe Thomas, Eric Wright, Kameron Wimbley, and Brandon McDonald.
Offensively, the O-line is the best I can ever remember, anchored by Joe Thomas who has more than earned his 3rd overall pick in my mind. Edwards has matured a lot this season and is even garnering pro bowl mention with some commentators. Winslow has improved, but I think if he would just work harder in preparation, he would astound instead of impress. And what can be said about Derek Anderson? He has become the offensive leader that this team has desperately needed since their return in ’99. And what about Brady Quinn? I keep hoping for a solid lead in a game so that Crennel will feel comfortable with giving Quinn some reps.
Defensively, it’s not all bleak, I see improvement and great potential in the Browns young players. Rookie Eric Wright was easily the best DB for the Browns before his injury, and I really like what I am seeing in Brandon McDonald, Wright’s replacement. And Kameron Wimbley continues to turn heads and will become among the class in the league among outside linebackers.
Of course Joshua Cribbs adds pure adrenaline to the positives for the Browns as a special teams master.
As far as management goes, I am excited about what Savage is doing for the team. This years draft has seen 2 legitimate starting Cornerbacks and a starting (dare I say potential pro bowl) offensive tackle. And that’s even before you look at Brady Quinn. The next couple of drafts will be telling as we seek to fill the shoes of ageing veterans like Andra Davis, Willie McGinest, Jamal Lewis, and Joe Jurevicius.
Let me wrap this up by saying sorry about my irrational rant questioning the coaching. Not to say I am completely convinced, but the jury is still out and the future is promising. I hope to see evidence of coaching in discipline and further improvement on defense. I want to see the continued maturation of young players and a better work ethic from Winslow. I look forward to a bright future. Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year to all.