It's too early for '09 season previews, and too late for '08 season reviews. What's an NFL blog to do in the never-ending quest to overcover the bejeezus out of the NFL? Offseason progress reports. Let's go in alphabetical order. Today, the Cleveland Browns.
Free agents gained: LB Eric Barton(notes), WR Mike Furrey(notes), RB Noah Herron(notes), DB Corey Ivy(notes), DT C.J. Mosley(notes), WR David Patten(notes), DB Hank Poteat(notes), TE Robert Royal(notes), C John St. Clair(notes), OG Floyd Womack(notes)
Change. Upheaval. Tumult. The migration of the New York Jets. It has not been an off-season of stability for the Cleveland Browns.
The best-case scenario for the Browns is that new head coach Eric Mangini comes in and does a job like he did in his first year with the Jets. Mangini swaggered into New York as the youngest head coach in the history of the league, and in his maiden voyage, the Jets went 10-6 and made the playoffs after going 4-12 the year before.
Cleveland's record last year? 4-12. Could the same thing happen here? Can the Browns, with Mangini working his magic go 10-6? Can they?!
No. No they can't.
This is a team with an unsettled quarterback situation, no one knows who'll be catching passes for them, and they'll be installing new systems on both sides of the ball. I liked their draft and I think they made some good free agent pickups, but I don't see any of them as immediate game changers. The secondary will have to gel a bit, the pass rush needs to improve, and the ultra-danger Josh Cribbs is unhappy with his contract. There are problems. There are reasons they won four games last year.
And none of this is to say that I don't like what the Browns are doing. I don't get the insistence on ridding themselves of Braylon Edwards(notes), but outside of that, they at least look like a team with a plan. There are worse things to be.
Progress: Sometimes, you're not going to measure progress in wins and losses. Sometimes, you're going to measure it in encouraging signs for the future. This is the kind of year for the Browns where they could finish well under .500, and still consider it a successful year.
Plus 2 games: 4-12 last year, 6-10 this year.