The State of the 2014 Cleveland Browns

Cleveland Browns

Image courtesy of rantsports.com.

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Ron, the lead editor of FantasyFootballOverdose.Com – great source of football news and rumors. You can follow @NFLRankings via Twitter or via Google+ for more updates.

It’s been awhile since the Cleveland Browns were one of the more interesting teams in the NFL but that all changed on the May 8th draft. Since that date the ‘future of the franchise’ has been seen partying in Vegas with Pats TE Rob Gronkowski and drinking champagne from a blow-up swan a second time. Most recently Manziel was partying on a Monday night in L.A., taking a ‘selfie’ with Floyd Mayweather, Tyrese Gibson and Justin Bieber. It’s going to be interesting for Cleveland in 2014, but they will have you believe they’re much more than the Johnny Rockstar Show.

QB No-Battle

It’s been since the Tebow era that a reported backup QB has received this much of the NFL media limelight as Manziel is now. The truth is the Browns have already backed Brian Hoyer as their man and are reportedly even trying to sign him to a contract extension, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. The 28-year-old Hoyer saw the most extended action of his career in 2013, throwing for 5 TD’s in 2 Cleveland wins before tearing an ACL against Buffalo on October 3rd last year.

Overcoming the Loss of Josh Gordon

Wide receiver Josh Gordon came out of nowhere last year to post 87 catches with 9 TD’s and an NFL leading 1,646 yards… in just 14 games. In weeks 12 and 13 Gordon posted 14 catches for 237 yards and 10 grabs for 261 yards respectively. If Browns fans want to see a repeat they’ll need a little help from the league office as Gordon is facing a possible year-long suspension for another failed drug test. Gordon is still in the appeals process but if he’s unsuccessful Hoyer’s weaponry includes free agent signee Miles Austin as well as Nate Burleson and Andrew Hawkins so far.

The New Guys

Cleveland signed former Texan Ben Tate in the offseason to a very team-friendly 2-year $6.2 million deal. This will be Tate’s first chance to shine as the main rock-handler in the backfield and show that he can stay healthy over the course of an entire season. The signing of Austin, Burleson and Hawkins means the team could have an entirely new set of starters on opening day 2014 at the main skill positions on offense. Defensively, long time Browns D’Qwell Jackson and T.J. Ward have moved on to be replaced by Karlos Dansby and Donte Whitner, each hoping for just a few more productive years in the league.

Coaching Staff’s Opportunity

The Browns were the last team with a head coaching vacancy to make their hire in the offseason but they insist that former Bills DC Mike Pettine was their man the whole time. He brought along Jim O’Neill to run the defense (formerly Buffalo’s linebacker coach) while Kyle Shanahan escapes Washington and will now coordinate the offense. Pettine studied under Rex Ryan and brings that same shape-shifting defensive mentality to the Dawg Pound, where that side of the ball may have to carry the team early on.

Scheduling Woes

According to last year’s win percentages, the Browns have the 7th easiest schedule in the league. Unfortunately by the time they get to the meat of that lineup they may be already waving the white (terrible) towel. Mike Pettine has to get his new head coaching legs by playing division rival Pittsburgh twice in the first 5 weeks in addition to games against Baltimore and New Orleans with a bye coming excruciatingly early in week 4. From there on out they only have 3 games against 2013 playoff teams but by then it may be too late. Perhaps the best approach for the Browns in 2014 is to take it as a redshirt year and bide time until Josh Gordon returns in 2015, finish with a poor record and secure another high draft pick, and keep Johnny Football out of jail for a year while learning the NFL game.

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