COMMENTARY | Not since the team changed its starting quarterback before the end of the first game of the 2007 season have the Cleveland Browns gone through such a roller coaster September. They dropped their first two games, they traded away Trent Richardson to the Indianapolis Colts, Brian Hoyer emerged as a Cleveland sports hero, and the Browns won back to back contests en route to finishing the month tied for the lead in the division standings. Cleveland is very much so part of any and all playoff conversations one-fourth into the campaign.
That's a delightful change for long-suffering fans of the franchise.
2013 Cleveland Browns September review: MVP
It has to be the previously mentioned Hoyer. One stat, points scored, tell the story here. Under Brandon Weeden, the Browns found the end zone just once in two games, and the team was averaging eight points per game. With Hoyer leading the offense, Cleveland has managed to put 48 total points on the scoreboard in the past two weeks.
That the Browns have been more confident and have seemingly enjoyed themselves on the football more since September 22 are undeniable points. It's possible that Weeden suffering a sprained thumb in Baltimore could be the event that changes the destiny of this franchise; for 2013 and beyond. Losing your job to injury is tough, but Weeden isn't taking a meaningful snap as long as Hoyer remains healthy and continues winning.
2013 Cleveland Browns September review: That defense
Lost in the hubbub caused by the Richardson trade and the play of Hoyer is that Cleveland has a defense capable of carrying the team to a winning record. Opponents are averaging under 18 points per game against the Browns. Cleveland is surrendering under 292 yards of total offense and only 79 yards on the ground in contests. They have accumulated 14 team sacks, which has them tied for third place in that category.
D'Qwell Jackson, arguably the most underrated linebacker in the pro game today, is again leading the team in total tackles (37). Desmond Bryant is nearly averaging a sack per game. Rookie Barkevious Mingo is as good as advertised if not better. Buster Skrine has, minus a handful of forgettable moments, drastically improved.
Cleveland held Adrian Peterson to 88 rushing yards in Week 3. He responded by gaining 140 yards and scoring twice against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Cincinnati Bengals scored only two field against the Browns. Say what you want about Hoyer being an unproven commodity. Cleveland's defense is for real, and it is spectacular.
2013 Cleveland Browns September review: Tag team
The duo of tight end Jordan Cameron and wide receiver Josh Gordon has changed the way teams prepare to face the Cleveland offense. Gordon started his season late due to a two-game suspension, but he made it up to the Browns by reeling in ten passes for 146 yards and a touchdown. He added four catches and 71 receiving yards against the Bengals. Cameron, meanwhile, is well on his way to the Pro Bowl. The third-year man out of USC found the end zone five times in September, and he leads the Browns with 30 receptions.
With Gordon's ability to stretch the field and Cameron as an unstoppable force inside the red zone, Cleveland has the makings for what could be the team's best passing attack of the current era that began in 1999. All the team needs is a quarterback who can best utilize his weapons. Whether or not Hoyer is that guy hasn't yet been determined.
2013 Cleveland Browns September review: Overall
It's impossible to hand out an overall grade for September because the Browns truly were a tale of two teams; one with Weeden that went 0-2, and one with Hoyer that went 2-0. Because of that, I decided to give Cleveland an "incomplete." We should be able to determine how good or how not good they actually are after they take on the Buffalo Bills, Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers and Kansas City Chiefs in October.
That's a difficult stretch of games for any team.
Zac has been following Cleveland sports since a little before his birth, and thus his heart breaks a little more with every year. He has been covering the Cleveland Browns, New York Giants and the NFL for Yahoo Sports since 2010
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