If you’re a Cleveland Browns fan who happens to believe in the concept of optimism, I’d advise you to steer away from national predictions for this upcoming season. Said projections are where hope for the 2016 campaign goes to die.
The general consensus isn’t terribly surprising, honestly. The Browns are in the middle of a “we really mean it this time” rebuild, where the bulk of the talent is equal parts young and raw. Many fans and pundits see this season as a building block more than anything, with the projected win totals tallying anywhere between one and three.
I get all this. Cleveland is pinning its 2016 hopes to a quarterback on his last chance in the NFL, surrounded by an offense with inexperienced weapons, behind a line which lost two of its best players in free agency. To assume the Browns could even remotely contend is incredibly lofty.
Getting that all out of the way, I’m here to tell you some good news. It’s no promise, as predicting pleasant things for Cleveland football seems to always end up backfiring. That said, based on everything we’ve seen from training camp, there’s a chance the Browns’ offense might be a little more exciting to watch than everybody thinks.
To preface this, I don’t think anyone should anticipate Robert Griffin III rejuvenating his career so extremely that we’ll see shades of his rookie year. Injuries have sapped him of a lot of running ability, while the NFL in general figured out how to stop the read option offense he thrived in a few years ago.
However, reviews have actually been pretty solid regarding Griffin’s performance in camp. He’s displaying impressive arm strength, is proving to be a quick learner when it comes to coach Hue Jackson‘s offense and has even become a locker room leader. It all helped him nab the Browns’ starting job, giving the team a clear idea of who the offensive leader will be much earlier than usual.
Jackson appears to be designing his offense to hone in on what skills Griffin can still utilize, which should only help the team overall. Additional assistance appears to be coming in the form of the weapons Griffin has to work with.
When Jackson arrived in Cleveland, he noticed how bare the cupboard was when it came to receivers. This was thanks in part to the previous regime’s insistence this position was not important whatsoever. Since this is unsurprisingly not the case, Jackson and crew went out and acquired some wideout help this offseason.
The Browns’ first draft pick this spring, receiver Corey Coleman, looks like a future star. He’s easily been the MVP of training camp thus far, and should his performance carry over into the regular season, Cleveland’s offense could have a major spark plug.
Lining up opposite from him is QB-turned-receiver Terrelle Pryor. While you’d think making a rookie and a former quarterback as your starting wideout duo sounds idiotic, the Browns certainly appear as though they’re on to something. Pryor has looked drastically improved from last year, with the speed to be a threat over the top and the size to pose as a legit red zone target.
Cleveland certainly has an unproven, albeit intriguing starting wideout duo now. However, come Week 5, an even bigger boost could be available.
Since I’m referring to none other than Josh Gordon, I have to use the word “could” when it comes to his availability. That said, all signs indicate he has his head on straight this time, and once his suspension comes to a close after Week 4, another big-time threat is added to the offense. If he’s able to tap into the effort we saw in 2013 when he set league records, Gordon could make the Browns quite imposing.
I get it, it’s early. August is always the most optimistic time for Cleveland football. If all this hype fell flat the second the regular season started, I wouldn’t be surprised.
However, there’s legit potential on the offensive side of the ball. Coleman and Pryor could perhaps be a major surprise, while Gordon’s return can only help matters. It’s all topped off with the fact this coaching staff doesn’t have the same “no need to use actual offensive weapons because wide receivers are useless” mindset as the previous regime (I’ll never forgive you, Ray Farmer).
Browns fans are looking for anything to hang their hat on when it comes to this rebuilding season. In the offense, there sure seems to be a lot to keep an eye on. Cleveland won’t be keeping any defensive coordinators awake the night before games, but it could certainly turn more than a few heads this year.