2016 NFL Season Preview- Cleveland Browns
Whatever foundation the Browns built on in 2014 turned to rubble the following year.
Quarterback Josh McCown was 1-7 as a starter and dealt with numerous injuries throughout the season. Johnny Manziel was a big disappointment on and off the field causing the team to see that he wasn't in their future plans. Running back Isaiah Crowell took control of the starting job and looks to continue that momentum going into next season. The wide receiver corps was a mess. Travis Benjamin led the team with five touchdown catches and was the team's primary return specialist but four of his touchdowns came in the first five games. Brian Hartline caught everything thrown his was before a broken collarbone ended his season. Dwayne Bowe was a colossal disappointment finishing with only five receptions after signing a two year, $9 million guaranteed contract. The offensive line was a big problem as they allowed 53 sacks.
The defense severely underachieved. Desmond Bryant led the team with six sacks and Randy Starks was the most consistent defensive lineman. Karlos Dansby led the team with 108 tackles and three interceptions but the defense still ranked as won of the league's worst run defenses. Paul Kruger regressed from having 11 sacks in 2014 to just 2.5 in 2015. The secondary that was thought to be the strength of this team ended up being one of their weakest links. Cornerback Joe Haden missed 10 games due to two concussions and the unit never got in sync. Donte Whitner and Tramon Williams are on the wrong side of 30 and their play showed. Justin Gilbert has still been a disappointment and was a healthy scratch for much of the year.
Kicker Travis Coons only missed four kicks on the hear and they were all blocks. Punter Andy Lee showed why he is one of the best in the league, hitting 25 punts inside the 20.
The Browns had three pro bowlers in tight end Gary Barnidge, offensive tackle Joe Thomas, and center Alex Mack. Barnidge was the biggest surprise of the season finishing with 79 receptions for over 1,000 yards and nine touchdowns. Thomas showed why he is one of the best left tackles in the game and Mack returned to pro bowl form after missing much of last year with a broken leg.
The rookie class showed a mix of disappointment and optimism. Nose tackle Danny Shelton wasn't as big a factor against the run as Cleveland had hoped but did play better in December. Offensive lineman Cameron Erving was over powered all year playing right tackle and both guard spots. Outside linebacker Nate Orchard took time to find his place but showed a lot of promise in December. Running back Duke Johnson has the speed and elusiveness to counter Isaiah Crowell's power running and proved to be a great receiver out of the backfield.
Browns 2015 Rankings
Opponent Passing Yards
Opponent Rushing Yards
NFL Rank- 21st
NFL Rank- 22nd
NFL Rank- 22nd
NFL Rank- 30th
NFL Rank- 25th
NFL Rank- 27th
After finishing the year 3-13, head coach Mike Pettine and general manager Ray Farmer were fired. The team then hired Cincinnati Bengal offensive coordinator Hue Jackson to be the next head coach. Cleveland also hired former New York Mets executive Paul DePodesta to be their chief strategy officer and Sashi Brown as the team's vice president of football operations.
After offensive coordinator John DeFilippo was fired, the Browns hired former Indianapolis Colts offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton to fill the position. As defensive coordinator Jim O'Neil was fired, he was replaced by Ray Horton who served as the team's defensive coordinator in 2013.
On April 1, wide receiver Josh Gordon applied for reinstatement following an indefinite suspension by the NFL due to repeated violations of the league's substance abuse policy, causing him to miss the entire 2015 season. On April 11, it was revealed that Gordon had failed another drug test, and the next day, the league announced that Gordon's appeal had been denied. He won't be eligible to reapply until August 1.
Notable Additions- QB Robert Griffin III, G Alvin Bailey, LB Justin Tuggle, SS Rahim Moore
Notable Departures- QB Johnny Manziel, WR Travis Benjamin, WR Brian Hartline, WR Dwayne Bowe, C Alex Mack, T Mitchell Schwartz, LB Karlos Dansby, LB Craig Robertson, FS Tashaun Gibson, SS Donte Whitner
Gary Barnidge Highlights
2016 NFL Draft
Holding the second overall pick in the draft, the Browns had to address some of their holes in the roster. Most notably at quarterback, wide receiver, and cornerback.
Johnny Manziel has partied his way out of Cleveland, Josh McCown will be 36 when the season starts, and RGIII has failed to recapture the magic of his rookie season. Adding a quarterback to groom into a caliber starter would be ideal.
Cleveland ranked last in red zone efficiency last season and with Travis Benjamin now in San Diego, adding at least one playmaker is a priority.
The Browns have a lot of depth in the secondary, but they need an able and willing cornerback to play opposite Joe Haden.
Prior to the draft, Cleveland traded their second overall to Philadelphia for the eighth overall pick so that the Eagles could draft North Dakota State quarterback Carson Wentz. On draft day, the Browns traded the eighth overall pick to Tennessee for the 15th overall pick so that the Titans could draft Michigan State offensive tackle Jack Conklin. With the 15th pick, Cleveland selected Baylor wide receiver Corey Coleman. Coleman was a dominant playmaker in college and was given the Biletnikoff award as the nation's top receiver, but also has the biggest bust potential of any receiver due to him being undersized and playing in a college system that caters to wide receivers.
In addition to Coleman, Cleveland added a bundle of talent in later rounds including Oklahoma State defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah, Penn State defensive end Carl Nassib, Auburn offensive tackle Shon Coleman, USC quarterback Cody Kessler, Baylor guard Spencer Drango, and Arizona linebacker Scooby Wright. Ogbah is a gifted, hard-working athlete with the potential for greatness but is still learning a lot of aspects about the position. Nassib was college football's sack leader last season, but only played one year as a starter. Coleman was viewed as the best run blocking tackle in the draft, but due to his battle with cancer, he still has to regain some bulk and muscle. Kessler was a productive and experienced pro style quarterback at USC, but he is very undersized for a quarterback. Drango is quick off the snap and has great awareness but his game needs technical refinement. Wright is a relentless linebacker who will always be around the ball, but he doesn't have the ideal linebacker body type and he played in a defensive scheme in college that funneled plays towards him.
Corey Coleman Highlights
What to Expect
With the Cavaliers delivering Cleveland's first championship in 52 years and the Indians being favorites to win the World Series, fans aren't putting a lot of pressure on the Browns to be a playoff contender. And frankly they shouldn't expect much improvement from 2015.
More than likely, RGIII will be the team's starting quarterback to start the year. Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson have the potential to be a good running back tandem. The wide receiver corps is still an enigma as I don't see Corey Coleman being a consistent threat on the outside. The offensive line is just as a mystery. I expect the team to move Cameron Erving to center and have Shown Coleman play right tackle but how they will mold as a unit is another story.
From a defensive standpoint, the Browns made some questionable decisions in their draft. I don't see Emmanuel Ogbah and Carl Nassib as good fits in Ray Horton's 3-4 scheme and Scooby Wright might not even make the team with his frame. Danny Shelton needs to be a productive run stopper in his second season or he could be looking for work else where. The team didn't really do anything to improve their secondary and now they're down their two starting safeties from 2015.
In short, There has been much joy in Cleveland over the last month and there might be more celebration come October, but it won't be over the Browns and they might be the only team in the AFC North not to make the playoffs.
Best record they can hope for- 5-11