2006 Season Preview: #28 Cleveland Browns
What happened last year: Romeo Crennel's inaugural campaign with the Browns went exactly as most expected it would. Crennel managed to extract a hint of promise from the Browns, but, ultimately, even the beloved apprentice of Bill Belichick could not change the fact that his squad was stocked with shitty players. The most glaring weakness for the Browns was at the QB position, where rookie Charlie Frye from Akron took over the job that Trent Dilfer, a player who has made a career out of being just good enough not to be fired, could not finish. In the running department, Reuben Droughns ran for 1232 yards, but scored only two touchdowns, indicative of a team that scored fewer points than every other team in the NFL. First-round draft pick from Michigan, Braylon Edwards, caught 32 balls for 512 yards and three TDs in ten games before tearing his ACL in December, and 2004 first-rounder, TE Kellen Winslow, Jr., missed the entire season after he crashed his motorcycle while popping wheelies in a parking lot in May. Defensively, the Browns fielded the fourth best pass defense, although much of that ranking was due to the fact that teams preferred to run against the Browns' 30th ranked rush defense. The Browns scattered six wins throughout their season, which is respectable, but barely so, in the NFL. What has changed: The Browns were active early and often in the free agent market, beginning by signing perhaps the most coveted free agent of the off-season in center LeCharles Bentley from New Orleans. Under the file of shit that could only happen to the Browns, however, Bentley suffered a season-ending knee injury during the first 11-on-11 drill of Browns' training camp. On top of that, the expected replacement, Bob Hallen, conveniently decided to retire two weeks later. As of the date of this article, it appears the Browns are shit out of luck at the center position for 2006. Romeo Crennel also lured Willie McGinest to Cleveland from New England, which should help the Browns complete their conversion into a 3-4 defense. The Browns continued their spending spree by signing Cleveland-native Joe Jurevicius, one of the most trustworthy receivers in the NFL, and nose tackle Ted Washington from Oakland amongst their other veteran additions. The Browns used their first two picks in the draft on defense, taking OLB Kamerion Wimbley from Florida State with the 13th pick, and ILB D'Qwell Jackson from Maryland in the second round. With these two picks, and Edwards and Winslow presumably returning at full strength on offense, the Browns should have a pretty impressive influx of young talent on both sides of the ball.
What will happen this season: Speaking as a Steelers fan, the Browns don't scare me at all. Although they are a much more dangerous team under Romeo Crennel than they ever were under Butch Davis, this team is going to have to do better than Charlie Frye at QB to threaten in the AFC. The Browns scored the fewest points in 2005 and ranked last in red zone offense, and because one of the hardest things for a young quarterback to do is to score touchdowns, I don't see the Browns improving much in this regard. This is especially true with the question marks on the offensive line. The Browns will likely win another six games in 2006 and finish last in the AFC North. The good news for the Browns is that in a year they will be better than the Ravens.