As I sit down to write my preview of week one against the Iggles, the world of Browns football is in a state of limbo. Will we have Joe Haden on Sunday? Will he be suspended for the full 4 games or did he actually win his appeal that we just found out this morning has already been heard? As usual, the Browns are off to a routine start to the season for any Cleveland team. Who really knows what’s going on?
The only thing that I can assure you of right now is that I am awaiting the start of my Sport Finance class because the student center here in the ‘Ville is way too small to handle the lunch rush. So, remember that if I seem a bit on edge or pessimistic, it’s because I am already anticipating the fact that I am about to be starving (this is serious, people), and I really want Chik Fil A. Also, Kendrick Lamar is playing in my headphones, which is helping my mood. The dude’s flow is like butter (Butta? Better stick to being a white kid from Medina). Anyway, Cleveland Browns football. Here we go again.
I want to point out from a stance of optimism (my Dad put me on to this idea this morning in a text, and I’ve adopted it out of some strange sense of hope) that no matter how bad we looked against Philly in the preseason, we were just holding our cards close and didn’t want to show them how we were going to absolutely trounce them come Sunday afternoon. There. Feeling better already, aren’t we? Nobody cares that they were likely doing the same. It’s all about us, folks.
On the game itself, I do have a real sense of optimism for Sunday. A small disclaimer, I always go into the season with the same ridiculously high amount of optimism. I convince myself each and every week that we really do have a chance to win. Here are my reasons for this week:
1. It’s opening week, anything can happen. Furthermore, it’s the NFL, not the NBA. Anything COULD happen.
2. Perhaps a more legitimate reason, the Browns are still extremely young at many crucial positions. Eric Hagg, Josh Gordon, Trent Richardson (eventually), Weeden, Pinkston, and Lauvao to name a randomly selected few have little to no starting experience in the league. This would lead a lot of pessimists (or maybe people with common sense, but we’ll stick with pessimists) to believe that this is an extreme weakness. However, the mindset for us as fans and the organization as a whole has got to be focused on improvement throughout, and the only way the Browns can go is up as this group works together more.
3. More on the offensive line, I really think this group will be an unheralded strength for the offense. We know that there’s two bonafide Pro-Bowlers on there in Mack and Thomas at center and left tackle, two crucial leadership positions on the line. The biggest key here is chemistry, and this group has now had a full offseason and preseason together without injury. I think that could go a very long way, especially given the upside of Schwartz at right tackle. You don’t need five Pro-Bowlers to keep your quarterback upright and the running game productive, and given Richardson’s ability to see the field effectively and Weeden’s obviously better arm being the benefactors of that chemistry, the offense could surprise people because of the big boys up front.
4. It may look like I’m avoiding the defense. If it does, I assure you it has nothing to do with the fact that they’ll will be without 2/3 of their starting linebackers, a stud defensive tackle, and perhaps the only legitimate All-Pro candidate on the unit for at least 4 weeks. It has NOTHING to do with that. And even if it did, this section is about optimism, so it just wouldn’t quite fit.
5. Offensively, the Browns finally have some weapons. Besides the improved offensive front, there are skill players that could make plays. It starts with the addition of Josh Gordon. My gut tells me that we will see a lot more of him than the depth chart suggests (He’s currently third). Gordon is a freak and could compliment Little’s comparable ability nicely on the edges.
Again, you can’t underestimate what Weeden’s tools can bring to the table. I know that a lot will depend on how his learning curve is, but I still think he will be an improvement. On that same note will be Richardson’s learning curve, which is bound to be much shorter.
6. Defensively, despite all of the purely pessimistic comments I made above (blame the lack of Chik Fil A), veterans TJ Ward, DQ Jackson, Ahtyba Rubin, Sheldon Brown, Jabaal Sheard, and possibly Joe Haden will still be on the field. Add in the outspoken optimism the Browns have about Hagg, Fort, Skrine, and Wade, and the defensive unit gets a cautiously optimistic “wait and see” in my book. Oh, and don’t forget Frostee Rucker. It’s too cool of a name (no pun intended) to leave out.
There you have it, Browns fans. All of that will somehow add up to an opening weekend victory. Here’s the Believing Since 1999 official prediction (Bring it on, Berman):
Browns take home a W in week one over the Eagles with a defensive touchdown, a rushing TD, and of course a late 50-yarder from none other but Philly Dawson. The coincidence (not irony, as much as I want to say ironically) of Philly beating Philly will just be too much. Final score: 17-13 good guys. Write it down.
Regardless of the result, remember that we are all in this together, my dysfunctional friends. After all we’ve been through, there is absolutely no good reason to root for this team, but here we are anyway, because we love them like they’re our children. It’s the only justification we have left.
Time to shock the world, finally.