NFL 2012 Preseason Preview: The AFC North – Cleveland Browns

The Cleveland Browns enter the 2012 NFL season with a rookie quarterback, a rookie running back, a rookie WR, a rookie RT—and a rookie owner. If the Browns aren’t your team of origin, truck-stop magnate Jimmy Haslam has bought the Browns from Randy Lerner. Thank goodness.

 

After a decade of tight purse strings and general apathy, Haslam’s Tennessee uber-masculine energy is a breath of fresh air. Whether that wind blows out the current management and coaches won’t be known for a while.

 

2011 wrap-up:

  1. Pat Shurmur may have more NFL connections than anyone outside of the Ryan family, but he hasn’t had a lot of luck. His first season started with a lockout and his second with an ownership change. Nothing like trying to turn around a team under the threat of imminent unemployment. If Shurmur can pull this off, he will prove that he actually deserves a job he got courtesy of uncle Fritz and a long line of Andy Reid/Mike Holmgren ties.
  2. With an injured and discontented Peyton Hillis, a struggling QB and a WRing corps afflicted with a case of “the drops,” the Cleveland offense averaged 13 points per game. Ouch.
  3. A good young secondary (well, except for CB Sheldon Brown who is good but not young) and one of the best linebackers in the league (D’Qwell Jackson) helped the Browns to establish a very promising defense.

 

2012 offseason:

  1. The Browns pursued Heisman-winning QB Robert Griffin III—and didn’t get him. So they settled for the top rusher in the draft, Trent Richardson. Then they drafted 28-year-old rookie QB Brandon Weeden.
  2. Crazy as that may sound, the Cleveland draft picks from Richardson on down makes a lot of sense and directly addresses glaring team needs. They buttressed both lines and tried to put together some offensive talent.
  3. Weeden has landed the starting QB job, leaving last year’s QB Colt McCoy twisting in the wind. With four rookie starters, Shurmur will look like a genius if the Browns’ offense becomes credible in 2012.
  4. Then the injuries started. The team has lost starting DT Phil Taylor to injury and starting strongside linebacker Scott Fujita to a bounty-gate suspension. Then they lost Chris Gocong (Fujita’s replacement) to an Achilles injury. And Richardson just had arthroscopic surgery on his knee for the second time this year. Before a single snap has taken place.
  5. Oh and star cornerback Joe Haden just tested positive for a stimulant and will undoubtedly miss four games.

 

But aside from that, Mrs. Lincoln….

 

Storylines:

  1. New QB Brandon Weeden is 28 years old because he spent five years as a minor league pitcher. Has this given him maturity and leadership strengths or a tired arm?
  2. Will Richardson’s body hold up to the pounding of trying to carry an entire offense?
  3. Will Colt McCoy stay in town as a backup?
  4. Will there be wholesale front office changes once the league gives final approval to the ownership change?
  5. Will any WR in brown and orange catch a football?
  6. Will rookie linebacker James-Michael Johnson make the most of his shot in the starting lineup?
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