Well, it's that time of year where the draft is approaching, OTA's are on the horizon, and before long another season of Cleveland Browns football will be upon us. It's also the time of year where Browns fans are most positive about the team. The last two seasons left little to be admired during the regular season, but hopefully with the new front office in place and the trouble makers out of the locker room there will be continued growth for the franchise. There is still a lot to look forward to for the upcoming campaign.
Holmgren and Heckert are already helping improve this team. The additions of Fujita at linebacker and RT Pashos are solid moves in providing depth and character. Resigning Cribbs definitely did not hurt any Browns fan's feelings. Removing Anderson was the right thing to do, even from a solely financial reason. Both men are known to possess a keen eye for talent, so there are very high expectations going into the draft. I am also pleased that they did not fire Mangini. The slate was cleared last season, as the chaff was seperated from the wheat. There seems to be order in the front office in Cleveland--and a sense of patience and commitment. Time will tell, but the constant rebuilding in Cleveland may be over.
Player growth will be another element to track this offseason, as the players return for OTA's and training camp. The defense, obviously having some gaps, improved as the season progressed. Despite key injuries at linebacker and safety, players stepped up and played as a unit. There were backslides and blown coverages still, but winning the last four games of the year can largely be credited to the play of the defense. Making tackles at the point of contact had been the Achillies heal for this team, but with four games left that problem seemed to have been solved. Even Wright and McDonald were making tackles. The offense was stagnant most of the season, but there were still some players that stepped up there game. Jerome Harrison was finally given the chance to show what he has in the tank. It will be interesting to see how he handles an entire season, presumably as the number one back. Alex Mack seemed to get more comfortable as the season wore on, and it appears like he will be a solid anchor at center for years to come. Massaquoi still needs some grooming, but he also showed some flashes of great talent. There are a lot of high expectations for him going into year number two, but he will need some help at WR to create those mismatches and opportunities to get past the safeties. Jame Davis, after having his season cut short due to injury, was having a very good preseason. It will be interesting to see how he bounces back and contributes to the running game. Hopefully the Browns can springboard from their four-game winning streak at last season's end and continue that progression in to the regular season.
The Browns have a lot of holes yet to fill on both sides of the ball, but overall I am staying positive--at least, more positive than in the last few years. There's a level of comfort that comes with Holmgren and Heckert being in control. Mangini may have ruffled a lot of feathers last season, but most of his player personnel decisions have benefited the team. What hurt him the most was the QB competition and staying committed to Jamal Lewis for far too long. The Browns team that I see being constructed has intelligence, heart and talent. There is always room for improvement, and I think that we are in much better hands going into the 2010 season.