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Dec 29, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Cleveland Browns defensive back Tashaun Gipson (39) intercepts a pass in front of Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Derek Moye (14) in the second half at Heinz Field. The Steelers won the game, 20-7. Mandatory Credit: Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

ESPN Sees the Cleveland Browns as a Surprise Team

After continued bashing from different elements, we covered SI doing so yesterday and this morning from Mike Freeman at Bleacher Report we get to cover a national media actually looking at the positives of the team. ESPN posted an article “Why the Cleveland Browns Could Surprise” looking at a few reasons for this to be true. Its encouraging that a national outlet sees some of the positives that Browns faithful. Lets look at some of the points they make:

The Old Regime: The front office was aggressive last year in terms of free agency and the draft, chiefly attempting to upgrade the team’s pass rush. This was an area where they struggled, with big-money imports Desmond Bryant and Paul Kruger failing to live up to expectations, while first-round pick Barkevious Mingo was wholly unimpressive in his 668 snaps.

The old regime did provide the new regime some good pass rushers that didn’t produce but kept Josh Gordon around and developed Jordan Cameron as well as traded for 3 extra picks in the upcoming draft. The Browns still have a good amount of cap space after spending all of that money last year.

A New Coach: Take a player like Jerry Hughes. In the same pass-rushing productivity metric we used earlier, he finished first with 59 quarterback disruptions on just 305 pass rushes. Before his time with Pettine, he had just 32 quarterback disruptions on 322 pass rushes — over his entire career. The presence of the new coach and his ability to get the most out of his players bodes well.

Pettine seems to be a solid football coach but stats like the one about Hughes is exciting. With a new coach players also realize that they aren’t that coaches player and will have to perform or be cut, no loyalty. Pettine and Ray Farmer seem to take charge, no non-sense kind of guys. Straight forward after dealing with Joe Banner.

Exciting talent on the roster: The Browns boast a lot of talent on their current roster. There are big question marks that will need to be answered — likely in the draft at the quarterback spot — but the foundation is a strong one.

The article does a great job of noting the strengths on the roster while obviously noting that quarterback is important. The Browns have youth in a variety of spots as well as a solid foundation of veterans with Joe Thomas, TJ Ward, Joe Haden and D’Qwell Jackson. A chance to add talent via the draft is also strong with their 10 draft picks, including 5 picks in the first three rounds.

A chance to surprise: Right now it seems the Browns are something of a laughingstock, doing their best to make us think the 2013 season never happened. But it did, and it showed us the Browns have some exciting pieces that could allow them to put up a fight next season in the AFC North. They’ll be better for retaining players like Alex Mack and T.J. Ward, and they must find themselves a quarterback (which is easier said than done). But with top-end talent at a number of positions — and if the team can fix some pressing needs in the offseason — the Browns are poised to prove more than a few people wrong in 2014.

Its exciting that the Browns have a fan on the national level. There are some very clear things that have to happen before the team will win: Stability in leadership, a quarterback and a team vision. Until that happens we must focus on the positives that we can find.

Do you think the article hit good points? Do you think the team could surprise? Or are your expectations low after everything else that has happened? Where is your hope?

Tags: Cleveland Browns

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