Nobody expects the Cleveland Browns to be a competitive team this season. Although that doesn’t mean they can’t win a few games in the process. Any success Cleveland will have is going to hinge on the following three factors.
1. Robert Griffin III
The QB is the lifeline of the offense Unfortunately, Cleveland has had a tough time finding consistent play from the position. If the Browns are going to win, Robert Griffin needs to play like he did during his rookie year in 2012. Passing for 3,200 yards and 20 touchdowns, he led the Washington Redskins to the playoffs, solidifying himself as one of the league’s best young players.
One thing Griffin needs to overcome is his long injury history. He hasn’t been the same QB since that 2012 setback. With a few solid games, not only can Griffin help the Browns capture some wins, but he can also silence the critics and gain some much needed confidence.
2. Offensive Line
What was once a great strength of the team, it’s now one of its biggest weaknesses. The Browns still feature All-Pro left tackle, Joe Thomas, but are now without the services of Pro Bowl lineman, Alex Mack, and Mitchell Schwartz. It’s not an easy feat to replace two great offensive linemen such as Mack and Schwartz, but Cleveland seems to have formed a somewhat adequate line in their absence.
The Browns are going to rely heavily on 2015 1st round pick, Cameron Erving, as he will fill the void at center. During his brief career, Erving has looked less than stellar, leading many to believe that he isn’t ready to handle the starting role. The jury is still out on Erving though, so it’s too early to call him a bust.
Elsewhere on the offensive line, Cleveland is extremely high on right tackle Auston Pasztor, who did an admirable job in limited action last season. Also returning is 2015 2nd round pick, Joel Bitonio, who only started in 10 games last season.
3. Defensive Backs
Much like the offensive lineman, the Browns secondary has seen a slew of changes. Donte Whitner, Tashuan Gipson, K’Waun Williams, Justin Gilbert and Pierre Desir all started at least one game for the team last season, and all are currently not on the team’s roster. Still on the team is former Pro-Bowl cornerback, Joe Haden, but he’s seen a severe decline in play over the last few seasons.
The Browns need to see Haden return to All-Pro form for any chance at fielding a formidable defensive back core. It’s unclear how Jordan Poyer and Jamar Taylor will fare as the teams starters at safety and cornerback, but there will be a definite adjustment period.
You can’t expect the Browns to get more than four wins this season. And while these three keys are pivotal for the team to remain competitive, the outlook doesn’t look good. It’s going to be a long rebuild for the Cleveland Browns
Follow Daniel James Gentile on twitter @dgentleman9298