I don't mind Cleveland's prospects this year. They took a few chances and shook up their management situation. It's just that the team is stuck in the quagmire that is the Cleveland sports scene right now. The whole town is toxic, but there's still the off-chance that the Browns surprise people (especially early, when they play the Bucs and Chiefs, with the possibility of a Roethlisberger-less Pittsburgh in Week Six).
WHY THEY'RE GOOD
-I really like everything-back Peyton Hillis. Since his days at Arkansas he's shown a diverse set of skills that have cottoned to me in a weird, bronery way. He can run (five yards a carry back in 2008) and block (just take my word for it), and the Browns need to find a way to get him the ball, lest I call them chumps. And the fact that Cleveland pried him away for Brady Quinn is the icing on the cake. Not to take away anything from Jerome Harrison, of course, whose 286 yard masterpiece against KC is still fresh in the minds of many.
-Joe Thomas is one of the best left tackles in the NFL. That's just a fact. Also, the interior of the offensive line received a boost when center Alex Mack proved he was a top-tier player at the position in his first season.
-Jake Delhomme may have choked his way out of Carolina, but he's an improvement over the walking dead the Browns have had taking snaps for them. And, he's been having a sharp preseason! CASE CLOSED. Jake Delhomme WILL be good. For the sake of Cleveland's populace, you just have to believe.
-Josh Cribbs remains an interesting asset for Cleveland. His use in the Browns' Wildcat formation is the closest thing to surprise the team has, unless Delhomme is actually a ball machine in a trenchcoat. Cribbs is also part of the reason why Cleveland wound up as one of the league's best on special teams.
-Eric Mangini is no longer running unchecked at the helm of the Browns. Mike Holmgren will probably rein in the Mangenius when he starts trying to put Colt McCoy into unpadded hitting drills. That the Browns went out and got Tom Heckert to take care of personnel is even better. Holmgren got canned as the GM in Seattle, and it wasn't until his focus was completely on coaching that the Seahawks made the Super Bowl. Heckert comes from Philadelphia, and his five trips to the NFC Championship game prove that maybe he has some gift for finding talent (but not the kind of talent that wins you that game. SNIP SNAP).
WHY THEY'RE BAD
-Shaun Rogers' leg broke, he's facing a suspension for a gun charge, and he was never Johnny Go-Hard in the first place. He's supposed to be the headliner for the defense, but the man has some problems. Except at crime fighting.
-Inside linebacker D'Qwell Jackson isn't due back in practice for another month. In his stead, a motley crew of linebackers take over, including Matt Roth, Scott Fujita, and Chris Gocong.
-Despite what I said earlier, you don't want to have a quarterback who had a touchdown/interception ratio of 8/18 managing your offense. And not to pour salt in the wound, but his completion percentage of 55.5 last year was his worst since his rookie season. Unless Jake the Snake shakes off his two-year hangover, things will get real very quickly. If he falters, Seneca Wallace is next on the docket.
-The situation at wide receiver is thin and hinges on improvement. There's Mohamed Massaquoi, who is the number one option, but had only 34 catches and a 36% catch rate when thrown to. Rookie Brian Robiskie projects to be the X. Cribbs will be the third guy, but his 20 catches last season were a career-high. All three need to progress quickly and get on the same page with Jake Delhomme if the offense is going to be successful.
INCORRECT PREDICTION: 6-10, FOURTH IN AFC EAST