(Editor’s note: This is the 14th in a series of NFL team previews by Covers.com senior analyst Stephen Nover. Today: Cleveland Browns)
I like the organization and coaching skills Romeo Crennel brings to Cleveland. I just don’t like the Browns’ talent base.
Or, to put it more accurately, lack of talent.
The Browns are the only team not to have one player in the Pro Bowl the past four years. LeCharles Bentley could have ended that streak, but the two-time Pro Bowl center is already lost for the season with a knee injury. That sure didn’t take long did it?
Catastrophic injuries are nothing new to the Browns, who lost both wide receiver Braylon Edwards to a knee injury and tight end Kellen Winslow Jr in a motorbike accident before last year`s season even began. Edwards is still sidelined and probably won’t be ready until October.
While I think Crennel will bring respectability back to Cleveland, it’s hard to generate any enthusiasm for the Browns this season. They averaged a league-low 14.5 points last year and the most they scored in a game was 26 points and that was in Week 2 against Green Bay.
I don’t see where the Browns look improved on offense this season. The team is counting on second-year quarterback Charlie Frye and running back Reuben Droughns.
Frye was sacked 22 times during his five starts last year. Droughns scored just two touchdowns and averaged less than four yards a carry his last six games. Bentley figured to be the centerpiece of a revamped offensive line. So much for that dream.
On the bright side, Butch Davis and Tim Couch have departed and no one talks up Lee Suggs anymore. Frye and Droughns are at least gamers.
To go with the NFL’s worst scoring production, the Browns also produced the league’s fewest sacks with 23 and owned the second-worst run defense.
So you can see why some sportsbooks have the Browns 100-1 to win the Super Bowl.
Jettisoning much of Davis’ garbage cargo, Crennel somehow got the Browns to 6-10 last year in his first season as head man. The Browns came close to doing even better losing half their games by a touchdown or less. Apparently that, and a number of free agent signings, have some believing the Browns can have a better record this year.
At Harrah’s in Las Vegas, for instance, the Browns are down to just 50-1 to win the Super Bowl after opening 200-1.
Bookmakers have some respect for Cleveland. They put the Browns’ over/under win total at 6 ½.
That’s a bit high. I don’t see the Browns reaching seven victories despite matchups against New Orleans, Oakland and Houston. Cleveland is just too bereft of talent. The Browns have to play their hardest each week to stay in games. Even against a terrible team, the Browns aren’t good enough to coast or turn in a sub-par effort.
So what if the Browns spent huge money on free agents. Bentley was the only impact signing. Nose tackle Ted Washington may be 365 pounds, but he’s also 38. Linebacker Willie McGinest is another veteran past his prime and wide receiver Joe Jurevicius has never been starting material.
The hope is McGinest and rookie No. 1 draft pick Kamerion Wimbley provide a long-needed pass rush from the linebacker spots.
About the only things to like about Cleveland’s defense right now are its cornerbacks, inside linebacker Andra Davis and newly-signed punter Dave Zastudil, who should be an upgrade on Kyle Richardson.
Since being resurrected as an expansion team in 1999, the Browns have had only one winning season against the spread. It’s going to take another year for Crennel to shovel out all the manure and clean the barn from the unlamented Davis era.