Going into last week’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals the Cleveland Browns were looking at competing for the AFC North title and playoff spot. A horrific, SPECIAL loss to the Bengals ended that conversation. Going into this week’s game with the Pittsburgh Steelers the Browns were looking at competing for the last AFC Wild Card spot and second place in the division. Today’s loss means the 4-7 team will be looking towards the future, specifically the draft, and draft positioning. All due to two big losses, including today’s overall sad performance.
Against the Steelers the Browns looked like a team missing key pieces and a belief that they are ready to compete with the big boys in the AFC North. The defense gave up 2 touchdowns and 2 field goals. The offense lost Jason Campbell midway through the game, had limited success running the football and wasted the 14 reception 237 yard receiving game from stud Josh Gordon. Brandon Weeden relieved Campbell threw a INT and lost a fumble. Campbell and Chris Ogbonnaya also lost fumbles for 4 total turnovers.
While the game was a big loss some positives were apparent in the game. The defense’s 2 touchdowns given up were on short fields, including a 4 yard series for the Steelers. Gordon’s superstar game should keep him as the centerpiece of the passing offense, or at least a sure fire 1st round pick if the administration is still bent on trading him. While only pulling in 3 receptions, Jordan Cameron was “rediscovered” on offense with 10 targets. Ogbonnaya, though he fumbled, put up a good YPC at 6.5 and was solid in the running game showing continued signs as a solid backup halfback.
The other positive is that the season has a very clear direction, the off-season. The team has been competitive games that they have gotten competent quarterback play. It is clear that the team will need to find the long term solution to that issue. Campbell and Brian Hoyer may hold the spot down next year, and with continued roster improvements through the draft and free agency should make the Browns competitive in 2014. Currently the Browns sit tied with 3 other teams at 4 wins, if the Redskins pull of an upset on Monday Night Football they will join the 4 win teams. Those teams would go through the tie break procedure for picks 6 through 10.
Expecting the team to “tank” for the rest of the season is unrealistic as the new coaching staff looks to create an identity. Yet it can be expected that the team will play younger players more time and veterans with minor injuries will sit a bit longer to get fully healthy. The game against the Jacksonville Jaguars next week now has bigger long term implications. A loss to the Jaguars, pulling them up to 3 wins, could lead the Browns quickly up the draft board. With the Atlanta Falcons currently sitting tied with the least wins in the league, and a shot at the #1 pick. The Falcons, with their Franchise QB already on the roster, Matt Ryan, could be a perfect trade partner for the Browns.
Yesterday’s game against the Steelers has defined the rest of the season for the Browns. Waiting for Next Year is not only a great local website but also the purpose of the rest of the Browns’ season. Finding THE Franchise QB in the draft is the goal, the only goal for this regime.