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Overview of Madden Teams - Cleveland Browns
The Cleveland Browns have been longtime floor mats in the NFL, being marked off on opposing teams' schedules as an easy win, but have they started to turn the corner recently as a franchise? According to their roster in madden 15, that answer is an astounding "yes". This is a solid team, who can compete against almost anybody else. There are obviously a few holes to fill (the Browns aren't elite quite yet), but this is a team on the rise.
Quarterback - In the real world, there are loads of question marks around the character issues and work ethic of recent first round pick, Johnny Manziel. While he left Texas A&M with the potential to be a game changing passer in the pros, his constant partying and inability to impress during the few weeks he did play were not good signs. Luckily, in madden you don't have to worry about late night parties and other negative press about him. He has the looks of a classic madden quarterback. Manziel has the mobility (82 speed, 93 agility), a solid arm (89 throw power), and enough accuracy (85 short, 73 medium, 72 deep) to be worthy enough to start in this game. His dual threat ability is a constant threat to opposing defenses, and the read option can be deadly. However, make sure you slide or get out of bounds when you run with him, as quarterbacks of his stature aren't able to withstand too much punishment. Brian Hoyer is a good backup option, as he has been around long enough to know how this league works. His 79 short accuracy and 77 medium accuracy are enough to get things done when he is asked to step in.
Running Backs - This roster lacks that one runner to stand out above the rest, as the top two backs both have pros and cons to their game. Rookie Terrance West isn't a burner by any means (87 speed, 86 agility), but he has enough speed to get by. His best quality is arguably his 82 carrying, which is decent - although not outstanding. The other running back is fellow rookie, Isaiah Crowell. Crowell is faster than West (90 speed, 92 agility), and can truck the opposition a lot better (86 trucking, compared to 67). Where Crowell's game falters, however, is in his ability to hang on to the football (70 carry), which is a very risky proposition every time he gets the ball. I recommend starting West, but using a rotation in the backfield. Veteran Shaun Draughn and 25 year old rookie Glenn Winston can also contribute to this game plan. With Jim Dray at fullback, you have a man who can plow through and help clear holes for these runners (73 run blocking).
Wide Receivers - Josh Gordon is not unlike Manziel, in that their off-field shenanigans doesn't reflect back in this video game. That's a very good thing for users of the Cleveland Browns, as Gordon is one of the top up and coming wide receivers in the league. He has good speed (92), very good hands (93 in both catching and catch in traffic), good route running (89), and can beat the press (93). He will command double teams early and often, which will open up opportunities for second option, Miles Austin. He has good size (6'2", 215 pounds), decent speed (88), good hands (86 catch, 81 catch in traffic), as well as decent route running (80). They both set up nicely for Andrew Hawkins coming out of the slot, with his 94 speed. Hawkins' 88 catch and 85 route running are also great to take advantage of. With speedster Travis Benjamin, and young, soft-handed receivers in Taylor Gabriel and Rodney Smith, this is a solid and deep group of wide outs.
Tight Ends - If tight ends are a quarterbacks' best friend, then Manziel and Jordan Cameron could become "BFF's". He has good speed (84) and very good hands, with an 87 catching and 83 catch in traffic ratings. Cameron should be used early and often (especially with Manziel as the quarterback), as he is very reliable, even in jump ball situations (93 jump). Behind him is Gary Barnidge, who has decent hands (73 catch, 79 catch in traffic), and good run blocking (82).
Offensive Line - Whoever lines up behind center will be well protected, as this is a great line, and is one of the best in the league. With Joe Thomas (97 overall, 29 years old) and decent starter Mitchell Schwartz (75, 25) on the edges, great rookie Joel Bitonio (87, 22) and John Greco (82, 29) at the guard positions, and of course, Alex Mack (92, 28) at center, there is a great chance of your starting quarterback leaving the field at the end of the game with a clean jersey. If a new right tackle can be drafted or signed, this is a top 5 offensive line (although they are beginning to age) in the NFL.
Defensive Line - From the edges, there isn't a single elite pass rusher, but rather a chance to have a good rotation at the defensive end spots. John Hughes, Desmond Bryant, Billy Winn and Phil Taylor (converted from defensive tackle) can all be effective, and keep each other fresh. Up the middle, however, there isn't a great amount of talent. 28 year old Ahtyba Rubin is decent, but he needs help. Aforementioned lineman Phil Taylor can still play the interior, as the other three on the outside can do a fine job. Even with Taylor, it is a good idea to acquire another defensive tackle (and a couple defensive ends too, while you're at it) during the offseason.
Linebackers - The linebacking group is a very good mixture of youth and veteran leadership. On the left side, Paul Kruger (88, 28) is a very reliable tackler (85 tackle and hit power), and his pursuit of the ball carrier is very good as well (87). 23 year old Barkevious Mingo (79 overall) has the potential to become the best linebacker on this team, as speed isn't an issue (87 speed, 84 agility). He can tackle decently (78 tackle and hit power), but can most definitely improve, and he has solid pursuit (84). Mingo can also stand to improve his zone coverage skills (62), as he will most certainly need them in the NFL. Backing up both men on the outside is 25 year old Jabaal Sheard (83 overall). He is talented enough to start, and it may be wise to play Mingo on the right side strictly on pass-rushing downs, as Sheard is a much more reliable tackler (89 tackle, 77 hit power), has better pursuit (89), and is slightly better in zone coverage (65). Manning the middle is the true veteran leadership in Karlos Dansby (91, 32). He may not have his athleticism anymore (79 speed, 76 agility), but he more than makes up for that with his mind (95 awareness), tackling (93 tackle, 85 hit power), pursuit (93), and zone coverage (84) ratings. While he may sound like a great linebacker who can do it all alone, the Browns have a few young guys (Craig Robertson and 22 year old Chris Kirksey) who may be able to start at this position in the future.
Cornerbacks - Joe Haden is an elite corner (93, 25), who can play either coverage very well (95 man, 90 zone). Rookie Justin Gilbert is a great compliment to line up across from him with his 86 man, 84 zone coverages, and 94 speed. 23 year old rookie K'Waun Williams is the team's best option for the slot position (82 man, 80 zone). Buster Skrine, Isaiah Trufant, and rookie Pierre Desir provide great depth and a mix of youth and experience to this position.
Safety - 24 year old Tashaun Gipson (90 overall) is a great piece to this secondary. He is a great ball-hawking safety, with good speed (85), great hands (82 catch), solid tackling (76 tackling, 72 hit power), and elite zone coverage for a free safety (94). Gipson is a no brainer to start, and would be the wise choice to start on the majority of teams in this league. Veteran Donte Whiter (aka "Donte Hitner") is a great foil for Gipson at strong safety (91, 29). His 88 speed gets him to where he needs to go quickly, and he has the ability to knock a player out cold (82 tackle, 89 hit power), as well as play very good zone coverage (84). Jim Leonard is a good veteran backup, with nine years of NFL experience.
Summary - This is a roster who can compete with (and beat) any team in the game - there is no doubt in my mind. If the holes can be filled (starting running back, right tackle, a good defensive end or two, defensive tackle, and a better nickel back), then this is (don't kill me for saying this) a madden super bowl contender. These guys are just that talented - and are definitely NFL doormats no longer.