CLEVELAND - AUGUST 21: Chris Chamberlain #57 of the St. Louis Rams tackles Peyton Hillis #40 of the Cleveland Browns at Cleveland Browns Stadium on August 21 2010 in Cleveland Ohio. (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)
The Cleveland Browns suffered their third straight losing season in 2010-11 and team President Mike Holmgren wasted no time this offseason in firing coach Eric Mangini. Holmgren tabbed St. Louis offensive coordinator Pat Shurmar as his replacement in hopes he can have the same effect on Colt McCoy as he did Sam Bradford. Shurmar and Holmgren share similar coaching philosophies and it will be interesting to see how the first-time head coach runs the team.
Shurmar inherits an offense that already has a few key pieces in place, but still struggled mightily this past season. Three different quarterbacks started last season for the Browns, but it was the rookie McCoy that showed the best handle of the offense. With a full offseason as the starter, McCoy should only continue to get better. The only good thing Brady Quinn ever did for Cleveland was allow them to acquire running back Peyton Hillis from the Denver Broncos. Hillis emerged as a star last season, finishing with 1,177 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns. In addition, Hillis proved to be an effective weapon in the passing game, catching 61 passes. Pro Bowlers Joe Thomas and Alex Mack will continue to anchor the offensive line.
The Browns ran a 3-4 defense under Mangini, but Shurmur named veteran coach Dick Jauron as the new defensive coordinator and the team will transition back to a 4-3. Cleveland’s most stable area on defense is in its secondary where rookies T.J. Ward and Joe Haden had solid first seasons. The focus this offseason will be on improving the front seven as they switch defenses. Marcus Benard led the Browns with only 7.5 sacks so finding a pass rusher will be one of the more immediate needs.
1. Wide Receiver: Cleveland has been lacking a true No. 1 receiver since the 2007 season when Braylon Edwards had 1,289 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns. Tight end Ben Watson led the team in receiving last season with 68 catches and 783 yards. Chansi Stuckey, Mohamed Massaquoi and Brian Robiskie are nice complement targets, but I’m sure Shurmur would love to see A.J. Green fall to them at the sixth overall pick. If Green is off the board at six, the Browns could turn to Julio Jones who is coming off a strong combine. Cleveland, who finished 31st in points per game in 2010, should definitely be looking to add another weapon for McCoy.
2. Defensive Tackle: The Browns had the sixth worst rushing defense in 2010 and with the subtraction of Shaun Rogers they will have to add at least one defensive tackle. If Cleveland goes with a receiver in the first round it will still have plenty of tackles to consider in round two. Prospects like Phil Taylor, Muhammad Wilkerson and Marvin Austin should all be high on Cleveland’s radar.
3. Rush LB/DE: Whether it’s at linebacker or defensive end, the Browns need to improve their pass rush. Cleveland’s 29 sacks last season were ranked 25th in the NFL and like I stated above they didn’t have one player finish in double-digit sacks. If the Browns don’t select a receiver in the first round they could take a flyer on North Carolina defensive end Robert Quinn. Von Miller, the top rushing linebacker in the draft, may be available as well.
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