EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the eighth of 32 preseason previews in 32 days leading up to the NFL season opener Thursday, Sept 5.
Win total last 5 years: 23
LVH over/under wins (6)
Somebody had to lose in a division with Pittsburgh, defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore and rising Cincinnati. Meet the Browns.
Cleveland has never been to a Super Bowl, though they did come close several times against John Elway and the Broncos. And this is one of the NFL’s storied franchises going back to the days of Jim Brown, Otto Graham, Marion Motley and the legendary coach Paul Brown.
Unfortunately those were the old Browns. The new Browns were created after owner Art Modell moved the franchise from Cleveland to Baltimore. The hatred among Cleveland fans is still there even with the recent passing of Modell.
When Cleveland was winning championships in the 1950’s and 60’s it was the running game that defined success. Today the Browns finally have the player who could take this team to a higher level – Trent Richardson.
If Richardson gets the 300 carries and at least 1,200 yards, the Browns should exceed 5 wins, something they haven’t done in each of the last five years. They also have committed to Brandon Weeden at quarterback, who turns 30 in just his second NFL season.
Rod Chudzinski becomes the seventh head coach since the team was reborn in 1999. The much maligned Norv Turner is finally out of San Diego back in his role as offensive coordinator, where he is highly respected.
That means more down the field throws, which should make Josh Gordon one of the sleeper fantasy picks at wide receiver. The defense has been Cleveland’s strength so an improved offense could make this year’s Browns a team that could surprise.
Linebacker Barkevious Mingo from LSU was the top pick and a natural for Cleveland fans who are part of the Dawg Pound. Unfortunately Athlon Sports gave the Browns draft a D.
The early schedule is manageable – the first five games are Miami, Baltimore, Minnesota, Cincinnati, Buffalo. If the Browns can go 3-2, we have the makings of a story.
Friday: Dallas Cowboys.
Mark Mayer has over 35 years covering sports events and is the sports editor at GT. Reach him at [email protected].