COMMENTARY | All is right with the world for the Cleveland Browns. Well, for now, anyways.
Now 2-0 in the preseason after defeating the Detroit Lions on August 15, the Browns have played as well as any team in the league the past two weeks. What really has Browns fans salivating, though, is the fact that Cleveland's starters on both sides of the football have dominated their opponents thus far in the preseason.
Cleveland's offense, in particular, has been a revelation. Playing in a new offensive system devised by first-year offensive coordinator and noted passing guru Norv Turner, the Browns have thrived, jumping out to early 17-0 leads in their first two exhibition matchups. Second-year signal-caller Brandon Weeden's quarterback rating currently sits at a lofty 139.8, and he has led the Browns' offense with a confidence seldom seen during a rocky rookie season in 2012.
The Browns' defense has done its part as well, allowing just 25 points in two preseason games. New defensive coordinator Ray Horton's aggressive 3-4 scheme has Cleveland attacking opposing quarterbacks in a way fans haven't seen since the days the Browns called Cleveland Stadium home.
Toss in a special teams unit that seems like it won't miss a beat after the offseason departures of longtime Cleveland fixtures Josh Cribbs and Phil Dawson, and it's understandable why Browns fans are excited about their team's prospects in 2013.
Unfortunately, for Browns fans hoping for a return to the playoffs that is way overdue in 2013, the sad truth is that a team's fortunes in the preseason are generally not a good measuring stick as to how it will fare once the games really count. Cleveland's last opponent, the Lions, found that out in a most extreme way in 2008. Detroit became the first, and still only, team in NFL history to finish a season 0-16, and it did it after going 4-0 in the preseason.
One thing the Browns may have going for them is that they really haven't played all that well in the preseason recently. During Cleveland's current string of double-digit loss seasons dating back to 2008, the Browns not once have managed to have a winning record in the preseason. Cleveland's 3-1 record in 2007 was the last time it finished over .500 in the preseason, which was followed by a 10-6 mark that fall, the Browns' last winning season to date.
A relatively easy schedule, a core of young talent on both sides of the ball, and a coaching staff that could be the best that the Browns have had in years are reasons why Cleveland can succeed in 2013. Cleveland's preseason glory may not translate into a playoff berth this season, but Browns fans will get to root for a team that certainly will be more competitive and entertaining than any this city has seen in quite a few years.
Shaun Heidrick is a Yahoo! Contributor who has followed the Cleveland Browns for 25 years.
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