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2014 NFL Season predictions: Cleveland Browns

There is new found optimism in Cleveland and it’s not just cause the Kings back. With the 22nd pick the Browns chose QB Johnny Manziel aka Johnny Football to lead this organization back to prominence (more on that later). So far he has at least breathed some life back into the fanbase. After a 4-12 season the Cleveland Browns cleaned house, bringing in ex Jets/Bills defensive coordinator Mike Pettine as head coach. Pettine walks into a situation where the cupboard is not completely empty. The defense finished ranked 9th overall last season and made some additions, so they can possibly be even better this year with Pettine’s aggressive style. Where the questions will come is on the Offensive side of the ball where they struggled behind a revolving door at QB despite an all world season from Josh Gordon. New offensive Coordinator Kyle Shanahan comes over from Washington to try to jump start this group.

Right now Brian Hoyer is penciled (lightly) in as the starting QB. Hoyer is a journeyman QB who played well last year before an injury in week 5. Johnny Manziel is looked at as the future/savior at the position. His jersey has been selling like an MVP but there are some questions if his game and rock star persona can translate playing against the big boys. He is going to have to learn how to play from the pocket and allow his teammates to make plays. QBs who leave the pocket too much don’t last too long in the NFL. A big plus is that whoever is playing QB will be playing behind one of the better offensive lines in the league, led by All Pro LT Joe Thomas and center Alex Mack who was retained despite a contract offer from Jacksonville, which Cleveland matched. A young QBs best friend is a running game, which the Browns addressed on free agency signing former Texan RB Ben Tate. Tate performed admirably filling in for Arian Foster. Draft pick Terrence West is a player to watch as well. The receiving core is headlined by 2 players who had breakout seasons. Breakout would be an understatement, WR Josh Gordon had 87 catches for 1646 yds and 9 Tds despite missing the first 2 games. TE Jordan Cameron had 80 for 917 yds with 7 Tds. But in true Browns fashion Gordon is waiting on a suspension which could be anywhere from 4 to 16 games. The hope is that former Cowboy Miles Austin and ex Bengal Andrew Hawkins can step in.

Defensively the Browns look to dominate teams by playing a lot of man coverage and sending pressure as Pettine has had success doing in his previous stops. CB Joe Haden has proven himself to be one of the best man to man corners in the NFL. Cornerback Justin Gilbert, who was actually Cleveland’s first pick in the draft steps into complement Haden, they could be one of the best tandems for years to come. Safety Donte Whitner (Hitner) was signed to deter teams from throwing the ball down the middle of the field. Whitner is a big time hitter, who should also provide some leadership to the secondary. The unsung star of this D is NT Phil Taylor, who is a run stuffer that commands a double team. The Browns are solid all all across their 3-4 front which was bolstered by the signing of ILB Karlos Dansby. What could make this defense even better is the expected improvement of last years 1st rd pick Berkevious Mingo, an athletic pass rusher who had 4.5 sacks last year but more is expected this season.

The AFC North is a tough division, but the Browns D looks ready to play at a high level, Offensively they look to be a year or 2 away if Johnny is the answer. One thing for sure, it will be exciting.

Prediction – Cleveland Browns 5-11

This article was written by Justin Walters of Sports Ruckus. Make sure you follow him on twitter @SportsRuckus


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