Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Browns need much more than a quarterback

With all this talk and speculation about which quarterback the Browns are going to select with their first choice in the college draft in May, let’s not lose sight of one indisputable fact.

This club needs help just about everywhere on the football field, most notably on offense.

This is a team that lacks athleticism on the offensive line, has no quality running back or fullback on the roster and is woefully thin at wide receiver. In other words, Kyle Shanahan has his work cut out for him.

Yes, the new offensive coordinator needs a quarterback to help run that offense. And he might just have one on the roster in Brian Hoyer. This is, in no way, anointing the kid from Cleveland in the starting dole.

But it’s natural to wonder what kind of a season the Browns would have had if Hoyer had known how to properly slide while scrambling in the open field in game five last season. Who knows? He stays healthy and the Browns most likely do not lose 12 games.

And Rob Chudzinski is still the head coach.

And Joe Banner is still the club’s chief executive officer.

And Mike Lombardi is still the general manager.

On second thought . . .

Back to reality.

Even though he says he knows which quarterback he would take in the draft, new General Manager Ray Farmer isn’t committing to taking that quarterback in the first round. And he shouldn’t.

He’s been around this team long enough to know there are enough problems on offense that playing a wet-behind-the-ears kid fresh out of college at the most important position on the team is not going to solve those problems.

Farmer knows games are won and lost in the trenches. Right now, he does not have enough talent on the roster, at least on the offensive side of the ball, to win games in that manner.

Fortunately, this year’s draft is loaded with prime players on that side of the ball. There are no potential superstars in this lottery. However, it is unusually deep in quality talent from top to bottom.

The severe dropoff in talent after the first round or so in the past is not there this year. There are players who will be taken in rounds two and three who would have been good enough to be selected higher in previous years.

That bodes well for the Browns, who have 10 picks overall and own three of the first 35 selections and seven of the first 123. There is a wealth of talent in those first seven picks that Farmer, even by accident, is bound to come away with some high caliber players.

Unless he chooses to trade any of those choices, which would be a mistake because he needs to fill his roster with as much young talent as possible, the 2014 Browns should be the antithesis of what we’ve seen the last few years.

Two areas that definitely need to be addressed are speed and quickness on both sides of the ball, especially on offense. The Browns are a plodding team when they own the ball and are vulnerable to teams that are fast and quick.

The defense, to a much lesser extent, needs to be taken care of, especially in the secondary and inside linebacker. If they slap the franchise tag on strong safety T. J. Ward, that temporarily solves one of the problems.

But they need a free safety – Buffalo’s Jairus Byrd? – to complement Ward and a big cornerback to play opposite Joe Haden.

A definite need is inside linebacker. D’Qwell Jackson isn’t getting any younger and he struggles in a 3-4 scheme. Craig Robertson also struggled last season, particularly on pass defense.

So while drafting a quarterback is a must – and let’s not get too excited because I don’t see any future franchise quarterbacks among the current crop – and probably will be taken high, filling in the other gaps should be more of a priority to Farmer.

Every now and then, a college draft comes along for a team that can be labeled defining. On paper, this appears to be that kind of a draft for the Browns. 

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