With a tumultuous offseason that saw the Browns dismiss their Head Coach, Cleveland is entering reset mode one year after they started anew. If that showed anything about this ruthless new regime it’s that nobody is safe and winning is the only thing that matters now, and in the long run.
The good news is that they have some key components in place that will assist them in achieving their goals. The bad? That they are severely lacking at some of the most crucial spots, including those two positions that touch the ball more than any other. Let’s see how the starters stack up.
– Player markers are colored per class on a six-step ‘Poor’ to ‘High Quality’ scale based on their overall performance and the league’s elite are marked separately in blue.
– Colored outlines suggest a potential change in class.
– Underlined players will be 30+ years old for the 2014 season.
– Red player names suggest injury risks.
– Click on the image to enlarge.
– Did Brian Hoyer look good in his 155-snap cameo this year? He sure did. But his +1.9 grade highlights he didn’t blow us away for his play, as much as Jason Campbell and Brandon Weeden had us smacking our heads on the table. The jury is very much out on what type of player he’ll be.
– Alex Mack is set to hit the open market and it leaves the team with no obvious center candidate on the roster. We’ve plugged solid left guard John Greco into that spot for now but the team will surely address the position via the draft or free agency.
– One of the more interesting grades is that of D’Qwell Jackson who we’ve put down as a below average starter. Chiefly that comes from his grades over the past two years where he has earned a -20.2 collective for his efforts. The interesting thing? Well when the team used more 4-3 looks he was far better, with a +8.0 grade in 2011. With Mike Pettine a man who uses more of a hybrid scheme he could easily be put in a better situation, with bigger bodies keeping blockers off him. That would likely involve Phil Taylor seeing more than 555 snaps and the team employing, as Pettine does, a transitional nickel defense that leaves some of the bigger bodies on the field instead of going pass rush crazy.
– Another player to watch is Desmond Bryant who failed to have the same impact in Cleveland as he did in Oakland in 2012. Go back over the defenses Pettine has coached and you’ll see he’s got every ounce of talent (and then some) out of his defensive line.
2014 Cap Situation
They’re looking good with over $45m in cap room already thanks to the money they let ride from last year. Of course with T.J. Ward and Alex Mack about to hit the open market they might figure to eat into some of that before the free agency frenzy begins. One thing is clear and it’s that owner Jimmy Haslem is not scared to spend.
Is D’Qwell Jackson worth the $9.4m (per www.overthecap.com) cap hit that comes with him? The answer is no but can the team afford to lose not only a leader but a player at a position where they are incredibly thin on talent and experience. Nope. More realistic names start with Jason Campbell, where the team can save $3m on a guy who a) will likely be no better than No. 3 on the depth chart, and b) if you’re playing him you’re season is already likely over. A bigger question mark is Ahtyba Rubin for whom the team might want to claw back just under $7m of cap room. If there’s an area the team is deep it’s on the defensive line where there is only so much playing time to go around with Rubin, Bryant, Taylor and impressive role players like John Hughes, Billy Winn and Ishmaa’ily Kitchen.
Opportunities from the Roster
Speaking of those three they’re in need of more playing time. Hughes scored a hugely impressive +16.3 grade on 402 snaps, while Winn (+7.1) and Kitchen (+0.8) handled themselves well. Pettine isn’t a huge proponent of rotation so you’d expect his three big guys to handle most of the load. There are also some holes in the defensive secondary where Julian Posey (89 snaps in 2013) might emerge as a contender for playing time in place of either Leon McFadden or Buster Skrine who both left a bad taste in the mouth last year. Lastly we expect someone to unseat the disappointing Craig Robertson with in house candidates now Darius Eubanks (88 snaps in 2013) and Tank Carder the first men up, though it wouldn’t be a surprise if they made a splash in the draft of free agency here.
Projected lineups by team:
Follow Khaled on Twitter: @PFF_Khaled