The Cleveland Browns 2011 season started off well but ended in disappointment and is yet another year that Browns nation may want to forget. Things looked promising at one point as the team jumped out to a 2-1 start but when it was all said and done, the Browns turned into the same old Browns and after sitting at 3-3 after six games, the team lost nine of its final 10 games to once again finish in the basement of the AFC North.
Yet, under the leadership second-year head coach Pat Shurmer and team President Mike Holmgren, the Browns have invested heavily in their future and after using a pair of first round picks to select former Alabama running back Trent Richardson and former Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden, the hope is that the team is finally headed in the right direction.
Richardson is believed to be the best running to come out of the draft since Adrian Peterson in 2007 and is the total package. He is a tremendous runner in the open field and between the tackles but is also very good at catching the ball out of the backfield. He will be the team’s best offensive playmaker from day one with the Browns and will be relied on heavily to help improve an offense that ranked 30th in points scored and 29th in yards.
In Weeden, the Browns are hoping to have finally found themselves a franchise quarterback. He is not your average prospect because he enters the league as a 28-year old rookie. However, Weeden was very productive as Oklahoma State, is a proven winner and is ready to play right away. He currently is penciled in to be the opening day starter.
Outside of Weeden and Richardson, there is little to get excited about on offense except for Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas. Yet, another player that could make an impact in Cleveland in second-year wide receiver Greg Little.
Little led the Browns in receiving in 2011, with 61 catches for 709 yards and two touchdowns, followed by Josh Cribbs, who hauled in 41 passes for 518 yards and four touchdowns.
While the offense is still under construction, the defense is much closer to being a finished product and is led by third-year cornerback Joe Haden, second-year defensive end Jabal Sheard and veteran D’Qwell Jackson. Second-year defensive tackle Phil Taylor is also a key cog in the defense but his season is in jeopardy after an offseason injury to his chest.
The defense is already good enough to be a playoff team as the Browns finished fifth in points allowed and 10th in yards allowed. Yet, the offense will need big seasons from Weeden, Richardson and Little if they are going to have any chance to contend this season.
With that in mind, here is a full projection of the Browns 53-man opening day roster:
QB (2): Brandon Weeden, Seneca Wallace.
RB/FB (5): Trent Richardson, Brandon Jackson, Montario Hardesty, Chris Ogbonnaya, FB – Owen Marecic.
WR (5): Greg Little, Mohammad Massaquoi, Josh Cribbs, Travis Benjamin, Carlton Mitchell.
TE (4): Ben Watson, Evan Moore, Dan Gronkowski, Cameron Jordan.
OL (9): Joe Thomas, Jason Pinkston, Alex Mack, Shawn Lauvao, Mitchell Schwartz, Oniel Cousins, John Greco, Ryan Miller, Garth Gerhart.
DL (9): DE - Jabal Sheard, Frostee Rucker, Marcus Bernard, Juqua Parker. DT – Ahtyba Rubin, Scott Paxson, John Hughes, Billy Winn, Kiante Tripp. PUP – Phil Taylor
LB (7): Chris Gocong, Scott Fujita, D’Qwell Jackson, Quinton Spears, Michael James-Johnson, Kaluka Maiava, Emmanuel Acho.
CB (5): Joe Haden, Sheldon Brown, Buster Skrine, Dmitri Patterson, Trevin Wade.
S (4): TJ Ward, Eric Hagg, Ray Ventrone, Usama Young.
ST (3): K – Phil Dawson, P – Reggie Hodges, Christian Yount.