CLEVELAND BROWNS FACTS AND STATS
2015: Fourth in AFC North.
DIVISIONAL RECORD: 1-5
Total offense: 372.3 (8th)
Rushing: 100.6 (19th)
Passing: 271.7 (7th)
Total defense: 420.3 (32nd)
Rushing: 121.4: (24th)
Passing: 298.9 (32nd)
COACH: Hue Jackson
1st season with Browns
2nd season as NFL head coach
--The Browns have been through rebuilds before, but with Hue Jackson in charge it feels different. Lest we forget, he pushed the Oakland Raiders to their best record (2011, 8-8) since that 2002 Super Bowl team, but was fired anyway. In Cleveland, he won't make a quick turn-around from 3-13 to 13-3, but Jackson has the Browns headed in the right direction. Must mention it will be interesting to see how quarterback Robert Griffin III holds up, emotionally and physically..
2016 UNIT-BY-UNIT ANALYSIS
By TSX reporter covering team:
Griffin improved greatly since the start of OTAs. As he became more familiar with his receivers and they became more familiar with him, his accuracy improved. He showed a good touch on deep passes in preseason. He will run when necessary and he knows when to slide. McCown, 37, is capable of starting if Griffin is injured, but McCown is not a long-term answer. He is 2-17 as a starter the last two seasons. Kessler is a raw rookie. He is not close to being ready for a regular season NFL game.
Crowell is going to get the biggest workload between the tackles, as he did last year when he led the Browns in rushing with 707 yards. Duke Johnson is a better receiver, but he also will take handoffs from RG3 because the Browns don't want him to be one dimensional. One of the missions of Hue Jackson is for the running backs to be more decisive when they hit a hole. Atkinson was claimed on waivers on Sunday, so the Browns still have to figure where he fits. Malcolm Johnson is a bullish blocker. He won't be asked to do much else in this offense.
TIGHT ENDS: Starter -- Gary Barnidge. Backups -- Randall Telfer, Seth DeValve
Barnidge might have difficulty topping last season when he caught 79 passes for 1,043 yards and nine touchdowns, but he is playing for a coach that loves to use the tight end. Telfer, a 2015 sixth-round draft choice, missed his entire rookie season with a foot injury. He could serve as a blocker in short-yardage situations. DeValve missed the early portion of training camp with a hamstring injury, but the coaches like his versatility because he can split out as a wide receiver or line up tight to the tackle.
WIDE RECEIVERS: Starters -- Terrelle Pryor, Andrew Hawkins. Backups -- Corey Coleman, Rashard Higgins, Ricardo Louis, Jordan Payton, Josh Gordon (suspended four games)
Coleman will eventually be a starter, but a hamstring injury slowed his development. Pryor is a deep threat every time he is on the field, but to be a complete player he'll have to learn to catch the ball over the middle in traffic. Hawkins is looking for a bounce-back year. He missed eight games in 2015 with a concussion and caught only 27 passes after catching 63 the year before. Jackson prefers big receivers; he can't wait for Gordon to return from his four-game suspension. Higgins and Louis, both rookies can make the tough catch over the middle. Payton can catch the long ball; he averaged 14.1 yards a catch as a senior at UCLA.
The left side of the offensive line is manned by Thomas, a perennial Pro Bowl player, and Bitonio, who would get Pro Bowl mention if he played on a better team. Things get dicey after that. Erving played center only five games at Florida State and is getting on-the-job training. He misfired on snaps and missed blocks in preseason. Greco is solid at right guard but he'll have to cover for Pasztor. Coleman and Drango are capable backups. Bailey began camp as the starting right tackle but was switched to guard.
DEFENSIVE LINEMEN: Starters -- DLE John Hughes, DRE Xavier Cooper, NT Danny Shelton. Backups -- DE Stephen Paea, NT Jamie Meder, DE Carl Nassib, DE Tyrone Holmes, DE Armonty Bryant (suspended four games)
The Browns are technically a 3-4 defense, but they will often be in a four-man line with Meder and Shelton inside. The line isn't going to produce many sacks, but Cooper does have a quick first step and Nassib could be the best pass rusher of the bunch. Paea, signed on Friday after being waived by the Redskins, hasn't played a game with the Browns. He'll get a crash course in the run defense. Shelton is a key player for the entire defense. The 2015 first-round pick was pushed around in preseason even by backup centers.
LINEBACKERS: Starters -- WLB Nate Orchard, SLB Emmanuel Ogbah, MLB Chris Kirksey, ILB Demario Davis. Backups -- ILB Tank Carder, ILB Scooby Wright, ILB Dominique Alexander, OLB Joe Schobert, OLB Corey Lemonier.
The entire starting group of linebackers is different than the one that lined up for the season opener a year ago. The hope is Orchard and Ogbah can generate more pressure on the quarterback than predecessors Paul Kruger and Barkevious Mingo. Neither is with the team anymore. Horton is counting on Davis and Kirksey to be active near the line of scrimmage on running plays. The backups are short on experience; Wright, Alexander and Schobert are rookies and Carder, though in his fourth year, is primarily a special teams player.
DEFENSIVE BACKS: Starters -- LCB Joe Haden, RCB Tramon Williams, SS Ibraheim Campbell, FS Jordan Poyer. Backups -- CB Jamar Taylor, CB Briean Boddy-Calhoun, CB Marcus Burley, CB Tracy Howard, SS Derrick Kindred, SS Don Jones
Haden is determined to bounce back from a sub-par year in which he missed 11 games with injuries. Williams will start the season at right cornerback but is being pressed by Taylor, who is expected to begin as the nickel back. Poyer and Campbell replace Tashaun Gipson and Donte Whitner as the starting safeties. As with every other segment of the team, the Browns are young behind the starters; Howard, Kindred and Boddy-Calhoun are rookies. Boddy-Calhoun is a Sunday waiver pickup. Last year the Browns gave up 34 passing touchdowns, so it's not surprising the new administration decided to turn the page.
SPECIAL TEAMS: K Patrick Murray, P Britton Colquitt, LS Charley Hughlett, KOR Corey Coleman, PR Corey Coleman.
Change is everywhere for the Browns, and that includes the specialists. Only Hughlett is a holdover from last year. Raheem Mostert, the kick returner in December after being signed late in the season, made the 53-man roster but was waived the next day. Coleman and rookie receiver Rashard Higgins could battle for the kick returning job before the opener. Coleman has big shoes to fill as a punt returner replacing Travis Benjamin, who signed with San Diego in free agency. Colquitt replaces Andy Lee. Lee did not disappoint last year; he averaged 46.7 yards a punt, but he is 34 and the Browns were able to trade him to Carolina for a fourth-round pick. Colquitt, the former Bronco, was signed on Saturday.
All times Eastern
Sept. 11, at Philadelphia, 1:00
Sept. 18, BALTIMORE, 1:00
Sept. 25, at Miami, 1:00
Oct. 2, at Washington, 1:00
Oct. 9, NEW ENGLAND, 1:00
Oct. 16, at Tennessee, 1:00
Oct. 23, at Cincinnati, 1:00
Oct. 30, N.Y. JETS, 1:00
Nov. 6, DALLAS, 1:00
Nov. 10, at Baltimore (Thu.), 8:25
Nov. 20, PITTSBURGH, 1:00
Nov. 27, N.Y. GIANTS, 1:00
Dec. 11, CINCINNATI, 1:00
Dec. 18, at Buffalo, 1:00
Dec. 24, SAN DIEGO (Sat.), 1:00
Jan. 1, at Pittsburgh, 1:00