2006 NFL Preview: The Cleveland Browns

Quarterback- Fans of Charlie Frye got their wish this offseason when the Browns let Trent Dilfer leave the squad for San Francisco. Frye played in the last few games of the Browns’ season in 2005 and had flashes where he looked very good but he wasn’t able to ignite his team enough to give much promise for the 2006 season. Frye is a good prospect in the NFL but another season on the bench may have done him well and Frye will most likely go the way of other quarterbacks rushed to the starting position too soon. Behind Frye are Ken Dorsey and Derek Anderson, two quarterbacks that shouldn’t inspire much hope for continuity at quarterback if Frye goes down. The Browns need a solid veteran quarterback to at least backup Frye or the season is a loss.
2006 NFL Grade- C-

Running back/Full back- With a backfield including talents like Reuben Droughns, William Green, and Lee Suggs, the Browns shouldn’t be worried coming into 2006. But none of these three running backs has stepped up and left the competition in their wake, making it likely that Romeo Crennel will need to use all three backs to have an effective running game. Droughns should be the starter but if he is injured or under performing early, he will get the hook for Green or Suggs. If this group can establish its rotation early on and figure out each back’s role, they may be able to cobble together a running game.
2006 NFL Grade- B-

Wide Receiver/Tight end- The big question mark in 2006 will be whether Kellen Winslow can return from two missed seasons to become the receiving threat he should have been in his rookie season. With little NFL experience under his belt, Winslow still has a lot to learn and has been humbled a bit by his failure to stay on the field with off the field problems. The Browns are still slating Winslow in as one of their major threats but another injury filled season may mean that they will get rid of him or they will assume anything he gives them in the future is a bonus. The receivers will be pretty solid, with Braylon Edwards coming back from a solid rookie season and Joe Jurevicius, formerly of the NFC champion Seahawks, joining the squad to give them some experience. The receivers are pretty good but Frye (or whomever will end up at quarterback) needs to be able to get them the ball on a consistent basis or they will get frustrated.
2006 NFL Grade- B

Offensive Line- The Browns landed former Saints guard LeCharles Bentley in the offseason, getting an impressive presence on their interior line. Once the Browns figure out who will be their number one back (and keep them on the field on a regular basis), the running game may actually be pretty solid. Joe Andruzzi, Cosey Coleman, and Ryan Tucker, among others, can play well as a unit this season and potentially carry the rushing attack on their backs.
2006 NFL Grade- B

Defensive Line- The defensive line is very talented in Cleveland, with Orpheus Roy, Alvin McKinley, and Ted Washington headlining a group of veterans. However, Washington is on his last legs and this group needs a big presence in the middle to be effective. Look for the linebackers to play a key role in Romeo Crennel’s rush defense and the defensive line to give a workman like, but not spectacular, effort in pass rush.
2006 NFL Grade- B+

Linebacker- The addition of Willie McGinest makes the Browns’ defense more of a threat in the passing game and gives the young linebackers a voice of experience. McGinest will contribute his usual pass rushing ability but his most valuable tool will be teaching the defense how to play winning football. Andra Davis is a talented linebacker who will get help from Chaun Thompson and Matt Stewart, among others. Look for Davis to act as McGinest’s understudy and learn a lot from the former Patriot in 2006.
2006 NFL Grade- B

Defensive Backs- The defensive backfield in Cleveland is fair to middling and they won’t provide too many big plays in 2006. Defensive backs like Brian Russell, Brodney Pool, and Antonio Perkins are hard workers and have some talent but they are not good enough individually to be game changers nor are they good enough as a unit to stop the pass game on a consistent basis. Look for teams to pick apart the Browns with West Coast style pass routes and the Browns to be left scratching their heads about their secondary.
2006 NFL Grade- C+

Kicker/Punter- Kicker Phil Dawson is a fairly good talent at the kicker position and he is consistent enough not to put the Browns in any serious jeopardy in close games. Look for Dawson to maybe put through one or two game winners this season and make the difference between a horrible season and a mediocre season. Punter Dave Zastudil, formerly of the Baltimore Ravens, has a good leg and the Browns will improve their punting game this offseason. They will need all the help they can get from their specialists.
2006 NFL Grade- B

2006 NFL Projection- The Browns improve slightly in 2006, but questions about the quarterback position and a general lack of experience all around leaves them third in the AFC North, with a 6-10 or 7-9 record.

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