COMMENTARY | For a decade, the Cleveland Browns have been the team of the future.
Ten straight seasons have begun with varying levels of optimism amongst Browns followers that, for the most part, has been all for naught. Save for a fluke 10-6 season in 2007, "wait till next year" has generally been the rallying cry of Cleveland supporters starting around Halloween. An endless parade of head coaches that couldn't win and starting quarterbacks that couldn't put points on the board has tested the mettle of Clevelanders as much as our long winters do.
Less than five weeks from the start of the NFL regular season, that familiar optimism has returned to Cleveland. With a core of young talent still in the dawn of their NFL careers, the future of the Browns looks brighter than it has in years.
Though Cleveland doesn't have many players on the current roster who would even be considered household names in the city they play in, these three Browns may make a name for themselves in 2013:
Travis Benjamin, PR/WR
A second-year player out of the University of Miami, Benjamin has some large shoes to fill in 2013, replacing the departed Josh Cribbs. Cribbs, quite frankly, is one of the best return men in NFL history, but Benjamin has more than enough potential to excel in his own right. Benjamin has speed to burn, which he showed off in his limited opportunities fielding punts for Cleveland in 2012.
Despite returning only three punts the whole season, Benjamin brought two of those back at least 40 yards, including a 93-yard touchdown against the Kansas City Chiefs on December 9. Benjamin also played well in limited action at wide receiver last season, averaging 16.6 yards per catch on his 18 grabs. With more chances to show off his skills in 2013, Benjamin could open a lot of people's eyes this fall.
Jordan Cameron, TE
After two years as the understudy to Benjamin Watson, Cameron will get his opportunity to shine in 2013. The ascension to starter couldn't have come at a better time for Cameron, as the new offense of head coach Rob Chudzinski and offensive coordinator Norv Turner figures to heavily feature the tight end position. Chudzinski's Carolina Panthers squad targeted tight end Greg Olsen a whopping 104 times in 2012, so Cameron will have no shortage of passes being fired his way this season. With this knowledge, Cameron has to be considered the Browns player who has the best chance for a breakout season in 2013. Assuming Cameron can handle his increased workload this fall, a trip to the Pro Bowl may not be out of the question come January.
Craig Robertson, LB
A player that was barely on the Browns' radar heading into the 2012 campaign, Robertson seemingly came out of nowhere to become a valuable part of Cleveland's linebacking corps last fall. Robertson finished second on the Browns with 93 tackles, despite starting only three games as Cleveland continued to give Kaluka Maiava chances to live up to his potential. Maiava signed with the Oakland Raiders in March and new defensive coordinator Ray Horton has installed a 3-4 scheme in Cleveland, so Robertson will not be starting any games on the bench in 2013.
Robertson also added two interceptions and two fumble recoveries in 2012. The acquisition of former Baltimore Raven Paul Kruger to harass opposing quarterbacks could lead to an increase in those numbers this season. Robertson should be a key part of a vastly improved group of Cleveland linebackers in 2013.
Shaun Heidrick is a Yahoo! Contributor who has followed the Cleveland Browns for 25 years.
- American Football
- Sports & Recreation
- Cleveland Browns
- Benjamin Watson