Preseason Power Rankings No. 32: Cleveland Browns


It’s the 10th anniversary of the Browns’ first and only trip to the postseason since the franchise returned in 1999.


Last year, the Browns were the only members of the AFC North to not make it to the postseason.  While they likely won’t be quite so alone when the dust settles on 2012, they’re currently all alone at the bottom of the heap.

Hey, someone has to be No. 32.  Though the Browns could scratch and claw and climb and thrive (and I personally hope they will), the franchise collectively has pressed the button that falls between “panic” and “reset” for the coming season.

The approach feels a little different, but the outcome is likely to remain the same.  At least for now.


The good news is that the Browns continue to have one of the best left tackles in the game.  The bad news is that, even with Joe Thomas doing his job as well as anyone who protects the blind side of a right-handed quarterback, having a cornerstone on the offensive line isn’t a stepping stone to a Super Bowl.  Or, in the Browns’ case, a playoff berth.

The Browns also have a solid corps of cornerbacks, with Joe Haden, Sheldon Brown, and Dimitri Patterson anchoring an underrated coverage unit.  Second only to the Steelers in pass defense last season, with 184.9 yards surrendered through the air per game, the Browns know how to avoid getting burned by today’s high-octane offenses.

Receiver Josh Cribbs remains one of the most dangerous return specialists in the game, even though the movement of the kickoff point from the 30 back to the 35 has diminished the value of a quality kick-return ace.  In 2011, Cribbs generated the third highest punt-return average of his seven-year career, and he racked up a career-high 518 receiving yards.  The Browns need him to step up even more on offense, especially if he hopes to stick around beyond the coming season.


Though there’s promise at the quarterback position, where 28-year-old rookie Brandon Weeden arrived via the first round of the draft, the depth chart remains an across-the-board liability unless and until Weeden shows he can perform at the NFL level.  The ongoing presence of Colt McCoy serves only to exacerbate the situation; if McCoy is hovering over Weeden’s shoulder as he struggles or if McCoy ends up playing (and, with everyone including McCoy assuming he’ll eventually be benched for Weeden, thriving), the Browns could have another Derek Anderson/Brady Quinn mess.

The Browns’ pass defense may have performed so well statistically in 2011 because opponents didn’t need to throw against Cleveland, opting instead to gash them on the ground.  The Browns finished 30th in the league last year in rush defense, giving up 147.4 yards per game.  Bringing in free-agent defensive ends Juqua Parker and Frostee Rucker won’t dramatically help, but it can’t hurt.

It also won’t hurt if defensive tackle Phil Taylor can recover from a torn pectoral muscle sooner rather than later.

Beyond quarterback, the offense features plenty of potential weak spots and, at a minimum, question marks.  Can second-round rookie Mitchell Schwartz step right in and take over for Tony Pashos at right tackle?  Can receiver Greg Little make the kind of leap that will make the Browns feel even better about the Julio Jones trade?  Can receiver Mohamed Massaquoi finally step up?

The biggest concern comes behind rookie tailback Trent Richardson.  With the Browns investing so much in Cleveland’s most-hyped running back since Jim Brown, the Browns had better hope Richardson doesn’t get Ki-Jana Cartered in the preseason.  If Richardson does, guys like Montario Hardesty, Chris Ogbonnaya, and/or Brandon Jackson will need to play the way they should have played to keep the Browns from feeling like they needed to go all in on a dime-a-dozen position.


The Browns wisely have hired an offensive coordinator, in the hopes of taking some of the pressure off second-year head coach Pat Shurmur.  He opted for familiarity in former Vikings coach and Eagles offensive coordinator Brad Childress, who did well in the latter job (despite not calling the plays) and not as well in the former.  Childress knows a thing or two about running an offense with a workhorse tailback drawing safeties into the box; the challenge will be to unleash the passing game if/when Richardson becomes what the Browns expect him to be.  In Minnesota, Childress wasn’t able to do that with any quarterback not named Brett Favre.

Richardson has become the star tailback because the guy who was supposed to be the next big thing in Cleveland, Peyton Hillis, took the Madden curse to a new level in 2011.  Obsessed with getting a big contract, Hillis eventually got a one-way ticket to Kansas City, where he found a pot of gold far smaller than he thought he deserved.

On defense, safety Mike Adams has gone to Denver, and ends Juqua Parker and Frostee Rucker beef up a line that could use more of the same.

The most significant change has yet to be officially made.  If the Browns want to get the most out of the 22nd pick in this year’s draft, they need to clear their 2010 third-rounder, Colt McCoy, off the roster.  The sooner it happens, the better off Brandon Weeden will be as he tries to become the first franchise quarterback of the reconstituted Browns franchise.

Camp battles.

The biggest battle shouldn’t be a battle at all.  Brandon Weeden should be installed as the starting quarterback, and Colt McCoy should be shipped elsewhere.  If they can’t trade him, they should just cut him loose.

If McCoy stays, Weeden nevertheless has the inside track on winning the starting job.  Especially since McCoy already has had enough time to audition for the gig — and has performed just well enough to persuade the Browns to spend a first-round pick on Weeden.

The battle to back up Trent Richardson likely will result in the third-place finisher (Montario Hardesty or Chris Ogbonnaya or Brandon Jackson) getting cut.  Hopefully, the winner will at least get a Water Pik.

On defense, Sheldon Brown may not be able to hold off Dimitri Patterson for a starting cornerback job.  The 33-year-old Brown could still slide back a level, if neither Eric Hagg nor Usama Young can effectively replace Mike Adams at free safety.


A six-game run against teams that either made the playoffs in 2011 or are being picked to get their in 2012 could cause the Browns to yet again fall down in a way that will prevent them from getting up.  It will be critical to at least split with the Bengals in a pair of games played four weeks apart (Week Two and Week Six), and likewise to steal at least one from the Eagles, Bills, Ravens, or Giants.

If the Browns make the trip to Indy on October 21 at 2-4 and beat the Colts to climb to 3-4 with back-to-back home games looming against the Chargers and Ravens before the bye, things could get interesting in mid-November.

It’s unlikely, however, that the Browns will be able to consistently compete in the first season of the Trent Richardson-Brandon Weeden offense.  The goal should be to demonstrate the kind of improvement that won’t cause the Browns to reach for the “panic” button or the “reset” button or any button close to either in 2013 and beyond.

65 responses to “Preseason Power Rankings No. 32: Cleveland Browns

  1. Why 32nd? Because there’s only 32 teams.

    Worst franchise in professional sports.

  2. Sigh, poor Brownies. They would have been better off letting McCoy get knocked around again in 2012, filling another hole, then getting a younger QB in 2013. Even if Weeden pans out, his Super Bowl window is going to be very short before it is retirement age for him.

  3. You forgot to say they WILL be the steelers at least once. In advance…screw you…to all the steelers fans. Go Browns!

  4. My bad…You forgot to say they WILL beat the steelers at least once.

  5. Alas, my beloved Browns have earned this spot. I still think we’ll be better than the likes of the Jaguars, Rams and the re-building Colts. However, arguing who’s better among this bunch is like arguing that a Pinto was a better car than the Yugo. It just isn’t worth the breath it takes to make the point. LOL

    I’m looking for improvement as this year progresses and, hopefully, a very competitve team come 2013. We’ll see…

  6. Watch out for Josh Cooper. He was over shadowed by Blackmon over at OSU. I think the Browns actually have potential to have a decent year this year… and i am nowhere near a Browns fan.

  7. Well, on the bright side; at least Browns fans can read about their team first.

  8. Woot! It’s not the Bills! Hopefully we don’t see them until somewhere in the middle of these rankings.

    Also, I still think Indy should be #32. I don’t know if Luck can take them out of the cellar, yet. I don’t trust any rookie QB. They have to prove to me on the NFL field before I give them the benefit of the doubt.

  9. I really disagree with this. The offensive line of Pits and Baltimore are old and have plenty of holes. The browns should be wildcard contenders.

  10. The Browns are rebuilding AGAIN?!? I thought they were rebuilding 3 years ago… or was it 5 years ago… or maybe 10 years ago…

  11. With the 1st pick in the 2013 NFL draft, the Cleveland Browns select Matt Barkley, QB, USC.

  12. You know, cleveland fan, I was going to post that I really don’t think the Browns are #32 and that I think they’ll be closer to .500 than most think.

    But yeah, they WILL beat the Steelers once….every sixth or seventh season. Have fun sanding out all those rusty dents in your a$$ until 2016 or so.

  13. Sad to see them at 32, but this is what they deserve with no (or unproven) WRs, RT, G, QB and you could even say RB. It is good to see more than a couple paragraph blurb on the team I have loved since I started watching football.

    Go Browns. At 32 they can only get better, and better they shall get since it is impossible for them to get any worse.

  14. UP next the Seattle Seahawks..Coulvd be worse Brosns fans you could live in Seattle..

  15. @meytonpanning

    The average age of Pittsburgh’s projected starting offensive line is 23. A 1st round steal at right guard and a 22 year old 2 time all-pro in Pouncey. The Browns might compete for a wild card… the CFL.

  16. The Browns are like that car that Johnny Cash built from parts he stole off the assembly line over a few decades. They will make a team someday.

  17. As a disgruntled and thoroughly disgusted Browns fan, I completely agree that they suck. However, putting them at #32 seems odd. They weren’t the worst team in the league last year, and since then they’ve added a hotshot tailback, a new QB who can actually throw the ball, and some good assistant coaches. Plus the Browns were the youngest team in the NFL last year, and young teams tend to improve. Being in the league’s killer division hurts the perception of this team; they were 4-12 last year thanks to losing all 6 division games. In a weak division they’d win 2-3 division games, post a 6-10 or 7-9 record, and the media guys would consider them merely below average, not pathetic. Don’t get me wrong, they still suck, but I think they belong at something like #25, not #32.

  18. I think the Weeden pick was a waste. Could have helped the run defense or McCoy more.

  19. norcalmafia says: Jul 9, 2012 11:30 AM

    UP next the Seattle Seahawks..Coulvd be worse Brosns fans you could live in Seattle..


    Uh, yeah. Before you go insulting other cities or teams, perhaps you may want to go back to 2nd grade and work on your grammar, punctuation, and spelling issues.

  20. Where they get picked on this site means nothing. I see some upside for the Browns for the first time in a long time. Weeden was a great pick for the Browns and Richardson was also. I happen to think Weeden will turn out to be key in a year or so. Age? Years ago the Cowboys took a older QB and he did ok.

  21. Meyton panning,

    Probably a rookie LT, 27(?) yr old LG, 3rd yr C, rookie RG, 2nd yr RT.

    Old O line in pittsburgh?

  22. Don’t worry my fellow browns fans let these haters keep running their mouths about how bad our team is. Truth be told, last year the bengals were projected to be worse than us and added a quarterback and wide receiver in the draft and look at the year they had. We added a future star back and weeden is an upgrade from colt so who knows. I’m not saying the browns will make the playoffs but 32nd really? Blaine Gabbert….enough said. I agree with clevelandfanforever we will beat those geriatric incestual hillbillies this year and without that stupid grinning ratboy hines. Go Browns!

  23. “craggt says:
    Jul 9, 2012 11:29 AM
    My gut reaction was that I would rank Jacksonville behind the Browns but I supposed they at least have MJD.”

    With a top 5 defense returning, the Jaguars will be in most games. Last season they had the ball in the final minutes with a chance to win or tie the game against Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Carolina, Tennessee and Houston. All they need is just a slight improvement from the passing game and they can be an 8-8 team.

  24. I don’t know about this. If you can play top 15 defense and run the ball like Richardson did at ‘Bama you aren’t going to be 32nd. 28th, sure, but not dead last. Although, somebody has to be #32, I guess.

  25. I cannot agree with the Browns being ranked dead last, but I also cannot make a solid argument to rank them any better than last. I believe that 8-8 would be a great finish this year, but more than that is wishful thinking. As one of the other commenters stated, at least there’s nowhere to go but up in the power rankings.

    Also, Colt is cheap (re: cap space), a good kid, and still better than the more expensive Wallace. It’s diffiult to fathom Colt being a locker-room issue for the Browns, but Wallace has already shown his cancerous abilities. I hope they dump Wallace, find a #3, keep Colt, and start winning (or at the very least playing football that doesn’t induce severe gastric distress like the last few seasons).

  26. not making excuses but in all fairness to the Cleveland Browns, they play in one of the toughest divisions in the NFL & the two powerhouses in their division ( BAL & PITT ) have financial backing from their owners & are considered two of the better talent evaluators in all of the NFL, year in & year out they find solid talent rounds one through seven in the draft & not all teams can say that!!

  27. For what it’s worth, the FOOTBALL OUTSIDERS rank teams using a variety of complex metrics, and at the end of last season their metrics showed the Browns ranked #25. Not sure how a young, improving team places #25 one year, then improves both its running game (Richardson) and passing game (Weeden) in the offseason, then goes backward to #32. This is purely a media perception along the lines of “Oh, the Browns always suck, let’s put them at the bottom” instead of any real analysis.

  28. More evidence that the writers at hate the Cincinnati Bengals…. “Split with the Bengals..” is very biased, but that’s’s Anti-Bengals MO.
    The AFC North is the toughest division in Pro Football. Every year there’s possibilities of ‘split’ games between any two teams.
    Two seasons ago Cleveland was the darling sexy pick. I don’t claim to predict any NFL season (That’s why Pro-FOOTBALL is great), but I would be shocked if the Ravens fall to 4th place…and still have a shot at Wildcard! AFC North is Terror.

  29. I think McCoy NEVER had a chance, Tom Brady couldn’t have won with that team the last couple years. So long as they keep digging themselves a hole on draft day don’t expect a major turn around. Richardson may be a stud but look at MJD, Stephen Jackson,AP, they are as good as it gets and hey have played on losing teams thier entire careers. They should be building a team instead of a superstar.

    I think the best teams have shown that it all starts with a lights out defense. Then of course you need the Clutch QB,and the playmaker to catch the ball. Just saying … Defense wins Championships. NYG, GB, PITT, NO (yea I know they don’t belong in this list but…they did shut down peyton) All feared defenses when they went all they way.

  30. The Factory of Sadness is gearing up for a record-breaking production run.

  31. Ok these “toughest division” excuses is UNACCEPTABLE. yES im a Skins fan and we have been in the bottom of the NFC east for quite some time and of course im not happy bout it but NEVER will i EVER use our division(WHICH IS THE TOUGHEST DIVISION IN THE LEAGUE PERIOD!!!) as an excuse to be last in the division. It all starts with the front office. Owner on down. Yall have issues in the front office. Where’s the vision. Where’s yall identity. Yall dont have these and yall are suffering. Kill the excuses and hold yall front office accountable. Just look what my Skins did! entire new front office and you’d have to be BLIND as stevie wonder to think we havent improved across the board.

  32. While I think it’s a toss-up for the most part and preseason projections are meaningless, I see a few teams that look worse than the Browns.

    Indy, Miami, Jacksonville, and possibly Minnesota and St Louis. I would have went with Indy at 32 until they’ve proven otherwise.

  33. mallyredskins, no way the NFC East competes with the AFC North. The Giants are the worst Super Bowl winner in the last few years — they only got there thanks to Kyle Williams’ inability to not fumble — and the Cowboys and Eagles are never real threats thanks to horrible ownership, management, and talent evaluation. All that’s left is the Dan Snyder money factory masquerading as a football team in Landover. Sure, they’re competitive with each other, because they’re on about the same levels (well, not WAS).

    Meanwhile, in the AFC North, you have the only division to send three teams to the playoffs last year, you have two teams that win at least 1 playoff game almost every year (a real DB would have saved PIT last year, but, alas for them), and in CIN a team that would probably take half the divisions in the NFL.

  34. They have an extremely underrated defense. With Trent Richardson in the picture, I highly doubt they’ll come out as the worst team in football (though I think they’re equally unlikely to make playoffs). My money is on Miami. Tons of holes heading into the offseason, and arguably even more coming out.

  35. Things just keep getting worse for you guys out there.. Hey, maybe LeBron will consider coming back for pigskin!?? At least LeBron is still younger than Weeden!! Anybody remember Weinke?? weeden/weinke same ol’ same ol’

  36. I’m pulling for the Browns, but they have the most messed up situation at quarterback. St. Louis has Bradford (who isn’t nearly as bad as he looked last year), Ponder shows some promise of at least being adequate, Miami and Jacksonville can field at least journeyman quality quarterbacks, and Luck has way more upside than Weeden or McCoy. At this point in the summer, it’s hard to see the Browns any higher than #32.

  37. @mistersmith22

    as a 9ER fan i loved your take & it was all true except for the part you left out, which was the help from the zebra who ruled “forward progress” on the bradshaw fumble with under 2mins to go in the 4th QTR on the the giants 28yd line, absolute joke!! tuck rule 2.0

  38. Being a lifelong Browns fan, I also see the Browns as the 32nd ranked team in the NFL. Besides the draft, no real issues were addressed in the offseason.
    This Franchise should have never came back if the Lerhner family is just in it to bring the Browns back to Cleveland.
    I buy all the merchandise, and go to most home games, and it just feels like a kick in the teeth year after year, as the front office, coaching, and team gets worse year after year.
    I should have moved to Baltimore when the Browns did, at least I would have a tolerable product to watch on Sundays.
    God Bless my Cleveland Browns. (Lord knows we need it)

  39. I don’t know whether the Browns will be better, but I do know that being No. 32 out of 32 cannot be considered a “Power” ranking.

  40. meytonpanning says:
    Jul 9, 2012 11:08 AM
    “I really disagree with this. The offensive line of Pits and Baltimore are old and have plenty of holes. The browns should be wildcard contenders.”

    Well I know at least one person who didn’t pay any attention to Pittsburgh in this year’s draft…

  41. As a Browns fan, I have to agree that this ranking is too low. Of course, I’ll be shocked if they don’t finish in the cellar in the division but this a young team on the upswing in a division where both Baltimore & Pittsburgh may be sliding down because of age. The Browns have drafted pretty well the last few seasons and the roster has improved. They may have the best offensive line in the division by season’s end as the young kids get more experience. Their running backs may be the best group in the division. Their secondary has talent. They’ve added some speed at linebacker and their d-line, once Taylor returns, will be stronger. The big question mark is at QB and who knows how Weeden will do? Also, they still lack anybody at wide-out who scares a secondary. If the former Cane can deliver, it would be a huge boost, but he dropped to the 4th round because he’s too small. If he can beat press coverage, they may have something.

    While this front office hasn’t been perfect, I do think they have the franchise on the right track overall.

  42. clevelandfanforever says:
    Jul 9, 2012 10:54 AM
    My bad…You forgot to say You forgot to say they WILL beat the steelers at least once.

    Ahhhhh, the eternal optimism of Clowns fans…since 2000… the Steelers are 22-3 against the Clowns…

  43. Everyone needs to stop saying that the AFC North or NFC East are the toughest divisions in football. Um, did we all forget about the NFC North? The Packers are amazing and will be for the next 5 years at least. Everyone knows the Lions have the hottest young team in the NFL. And the Bears have added some great WRs to a team that would have easily made the playoffs last year if their QB didn’t get hurt.

    NFC North > Everyone Else

  44. The Browns 2011 Offense was pathetic – without question. But add OC Brad Childress, stud RB Trent Richardson, QB Weeden and RT Schwartz to bookend Pro Bowler Joe Thomas w/ anchor C Alex Mack in the middle and a couple decent Guards and you have a good to very good O-Line which was the primary problem. Now if WR Greg Little takes the next step and Massaquois plays #2 along others plus a decent cast of TE, this O should look nothing like last year’s debacle. T-Rich will have to be reckoned with, Weeden can make throws that Colt can’t so putting 8 in the box will not work any more. Defense will be average but should not have to be on the field 70-75% of the time which should make a big difference. 6-7 Wins likely with 8-8 season a stretch goal. This team has more talent than people think and might surprise a few teams…

  45. This is true but sad – The Browns (at least they still have their original name) used to be one of the leading franchises in the game.

    FYI – I remember Otto Graham

    True words from Jerry Krause – “ORGANIZATIONS (caps mine) win championships”

  46. The Browns botched the draft so they might very well finish as the worst team in the league. Instead of Weeden and Schwartz, they should have taken DeCastro and Glenn. Then they would have a real O-line and a better QB situation with McCoy. They still have no receivers and throwing Weeden to the wolves isn’t a good idea either. The NFL is a passing league and asking a rookie QB with no receivers to produce is asking for too much.

  47. Drafting Weeden was one of the dumbest things this team could have ever done. In 2-3 years he’ll either be on crutches or playing backup to the next first round draft pick at QB.

    Richardson may be a great player, but this was such an obvious pick to make. And he’s only one player. The rest of the draft was terrible and forgettable. And they did nothing in free agency whatsoever.

    The Browns will be somewhere around 2-14 this season as Holmgren proves that he’s incapable of building a team by himself. And Randy Lerner will continue to get off scott free by the same fan base that crucifies the Dolan family for being “cheap” in their stewardship of the Indians.

  48. Let me see if I have this right. The team that had the 2nd ranked passing defense, and 10th ranked overall defense, and the team that spent 3 of its first 3 draft picks on offense is ranked 32nd.

    So, they make a good attempt to bring the offense up to the standards of the defense, and they’re ranked last. The Colts, on the other hand, lost several offensive stars (QB, RB, WRs, OLs), and they’re ranked higher.

    I have one comment left for naysayers who claim the AFC North is not the toughest division in the league: Was there any other division to have all 4 teams in the top 10 of the league in defense?

  49. For whatever reason Colt McCoy took a big step backwards in 2011. Granted, the OL play was terrible (right side), but even when he did have time he was off target – sometimes WAY off target. So Weeden was a decent gamble, even in RD1. IMO he was the 3rd best QB in the draft behind Luck and RGIII and is a young 28 meaning he hasn’t been beaten up for the last 6 years. I agree not getting a legit top ranked WR or 2 was disappointing, but the key to the season is Weeden and of course a much improved OL. In head to head competition vs Luck, RGIII and Tannehill his OK State team was 3-0 so he must have done something right. Stat line for 2011: 355/486 73.1% 4,111yds / 34TD / 12INT 162.3 rating. Give the kid a chance to prove himself before you trash him – he has yet to even throw a single NFL pass….

  50. Here’s all you need to know about the AFC Central/North: Future Hall-of-Fame Genius Bill Belichick couldn’t win in that division and eventually was fired.

  51. firegoodell says: Jul 9, 2012 2:41 PM

    Ahhhhh, the eternal optimism of Clowns fans…since 2000… the Steelers are 22-3 against the Clowns…


    Not a Steelers fan, but the funniest day of the NFL season is when your team comes to Cleveland and 3/4 of the stadium is wearing black and gold and Browns fans leave with over 10 minutes to go in the game. Hard core Browns fans! LOL

    Yeah, they’re going to split with the Steelers. Right.

  52. I guarantee you will be wrong about this prediction. The Browns are going to win a minimum of 6 games this year, and are gonna prove the haters wrong. They are not as far away from being a contender as a lot of people think. Weeden is gonna surprise a lot of people. He will have a better year than Andy Dalton did last year, mark it down!

  53. jayrun is correct. I like Weeden’s arm better than Dalton’s. The problem is Weeden does not have the collection of receivers that Dalton has. The Browns defense is good as long as they stay healthy and stay focused. They should have picked up another thumper to go with Jackson at MLB. They at least have a plan-let it play out!

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.