July 23, 2014

For Browns, Youth Might be Painful at Times this Season

(Eric Mull USPRESSWIRE)

You can’t judge an NFL draft in the first year, let alone the day after when most grade letters are assigned. This year when we were talking about the draft, I made sure to look at the process and try and grade the team based on how well I think they maneuvered. In this case, I think the Browns played it safe and didn’t necessarily have the best luck when positioning and maneuvering to take guys. You can support the case for where they took Brandon Weeden, but only because they seemingly missed out on another player first, which most of us assume to be a receiver. That’s all in the past though. The bottom line in the next week is that the Browns come to camp with a whole host of young players that will be counted on to hopefully step in and contribute right away.

In the name of Tony Pashos and John St. Clair and Terry Cousin that’s a good thing. At the same time, think back to Alex Mack’s first few games. The kid looked nervous. He was having trouble tossing the ball back in shotgun formation. He seemed so energetic off the snap that he was actually somewhat ineffective. It was a few games before he finally started to get the groove and look like the guy we were all referencing by the end of the season with, “at least Mangini got that pick right.”

That’s the way it could be for Mitchell Schwartz. That’s the way it could be for Trent Richardson. I know people hate the comparisons to Adrian Peterson, and mostly rightfully so, but look at his rookie year anyway. Minnesota went 8-8 that year, Adrian Peterson won the Offensive Rookie of the Year while running 238 times for 1341 yards under second year head coach Brad Childress.1 Seems all good right? It isn’t that easy.

Imagine living through the ups and downs of the season in order to read the end-of-year stats with any perspective. Peterson had games where he rushed for 234 yards and 296 yards, but he also had games of 66, 63, 70, 45, 27, 36, and 3. The game where he ran for three yards was against the 49ers. Chester Taylor ran for 101 yards on eight carries, and Offensive Rookie of the Year Adrian Peterson ran for three yards on 14 carries. Yes, the Vikings won that game handily 27-7, but the point remains. Rookies, even exceptional rookies, have a tendency to play inconsistently and Browns fans need to be ready for it.

If Brandon Weeden wins the QB job and starts all 16 games for the Browns, he will almost undoubtedly have one where he throws enough interceptions that you’ll be questioning your existence as a Browns fan. Mitchell Schwartz will probably be bested by a defensive end or outside linebacker for an entire game at some point this season. Trent Richardson might have a game (or ten) where he’s bottled up completely and totally. It won’t doom the draft to doom and gloom, but these are growing pains that you can more than likely expect to show up this season.

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Footnotes:

  1. I know you know, but he’s the new offensive coordinator. If you didn’t know or forgot, now you know. []
  • The_Real_Shamrock

    As long as they show improvement through progression taking the many losses with the record they face should be tolerable. Especially given the seasons people have had to endure the last five years or so. What I don’t want to see is a yo-yo type of a season where for a few games they look promising then the next few they look absolutely terrible. I also hope I don’t see stretches where they throw the ball well then don’t, the running game disappears only to reappear while the defense does similar things on their side. I’d rather see some consistency even if it’s at being bad. Hopefully what I’ve said makes sense LoL.

    As far as Childress goes it will be interesting to see what if any impact he has on this team given them saying he wouldn’t be making actual play calls. Shurmur would still be doing it. I guess Childress will sit and watch providing input using his tremendous past accomplishments and skills to whisper in Shurmur’s ear. Oh boy!

  • mgbode

    I think you can replace the “might” in the title with “will” Just part of the learning process. Hopefully, they have enough ups to go with the downs.

  • http://www.waitingfornextyear.com Craig Lyndall

    I don’t think it will be consistent. We’ll see flashes of what it can be for halves of games and maybe even complete games if we’re lucky, but I just don’t think it will be consistent. That’s why I pointed out Adrian Peterson’s rookie games.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Halves of game or games themselves are understandable opponents make adjustments I was referring to a stretch of multiple games. Multiple games where one particular facet does well only to completely dry up making the team one dimensional. I’d rather see an overall progression where the units as a whole improve as opposed to a rollercoaster ride. I realize I’m probably being a little wishy but at the same time I’m not expecting dramatic improvements just things to build upon for the following week.

  • http://twitter.com/bbo13 B-bo

    Let’s be honest: we’re talking about the Browns here. Be it youth, injuries, coaching mistakes, or just freak occurrences, pain will inevitably be involved. The only question is what our tolerance for it will be. That, and have we bought enough bourbon to dull some of that pain.

  • maxfnmloans

    Sign the first rounders. That’s the only thing any of us should worry about right now. If they don’t come to camp, or if they show up late, then they’re going to look even worse.

  • Bryan

    Totally agree. I think this is the main reason why many national outlets are predicting such a tough year for the Browns. Even if the young guys are talented, they are likely going to struggle a bit as rookies (that is just how it is). And since our whole offense will depend predominantly on the rookies, it could get quite ugly at times. The best we can hope for is some flashes of real talent because wins may be few and far between.

  • MrCleaveland

    With the new rookie wage scale, their agents need to find a way to be relevant. So now they come up with this ridiculous demand that if their player gets cut and signed by another team, they still get their full salary from the Browns.

    If I was a GM, I would never agree to such nonsense. If an agent holds out a player for this, he’s committing malpractice.

  • JK

    Well.. Duh… Not really doing much by saying the Browns might struggle this year…

    But for sake of argument I’ll throw this out…

    I don’t see why the Browns can’t have a decent year if their picks end up being good. With Schwartz they have a full offensive line, with Weeden we have a QB who can actually throw the ball, with TR we have bulldozer, and we have hungry WRs who should be ready to make a name for themselves. On the other side of the ball, it hurts we lost Phil Taylor but I feel like our D was solid last year just on the field wayyyyyy too much.

    If it pans out I don’t see why they couldn’t have somewhat of a breakout year (see Bengals last year). I’m not predicting playoffs or even 8-8 but you might have a team here who could be fun to watch for once. I don’t buy into this ‘rookie’ thing too much, if they’re good, they’re gonna be good (see Bengals last year… again). These guys are professionals and have been playing football their entire life.

  • BenRM

    When I put on my rose colored glasses for a moment, I agree. If the Browns hit on most of our high picks, and especially if Weeden plays at an above-average level, we could easily be around .500.

    I still doubt we’d make the playoffs, but I think there’s reason to think the Browns could be a legitimate team.

  • maxfnmloans

    my larger concern is with Weeden. I’ve already been through the “pick a guy at 22, he holds out, then never ever seems to get on track” game once already. I’m not interested in wasting a year of his already limited window simply because the Browns won’t guarantee a fourth year.

    If it was so important for the Browns to scrap their draft strategy and grab Weeds at 22 once their “guy” got taken and they got spooked, then it should be just as important to them to get him into camp on time. If they were not willing to do what it took to get him in on time, then they should not have made the pick.

    The reason we have to worry about the window of a rookie QB is because they drafted a 28 year old. If this were a 22 year old, then fine, let the team handle its business. They chose to be put on a truncate timeline when they chose this quarterback. The rules are different, and they cannot sit idly by pointing out some “gentleman’s agreement” between teams that they don’t sign picks in the 20′s to guaranteed deals longer than three years.

    They have already taken the risk, now they need to own it. Don’t pussyfoot around and then point to him not getting into camp on time as a reason why their plan that they implemented of their own free will did not work.

    That’s all. If TRich’s agent is trying to get “double paid” by excluding offset language in his contract, well, that’s not right and he should be dealt with accordingly. Hes a 22 year old rookie RB. Quite different than a 28 year old rookie QB

  • MrCleaveland

    Right you are, Max. I’d give B-Weed his fourth year guaranteed, precedent or no precedent. QBs are different. So we’ll see who blinks.

    But I wouldn’t let Richardson or anyone else double-dip, regardless of how unlikely it is that such a clause would ever come into play.

  • maxfnmloans

    The first time I heard “other teams don’t want them to guarantee the fourth year because of the precedent that sets” I threw up in my mouth a little bit. This league us built upon teams trying to gain a competitive advantage over the others, by any means necessary, yet somehow the Browns are supposed to potentially put themselves at a disadvantage to uphold some sort of “company” line?

    Like any of the teams we play the first part of the season will take it easy on Weeden because he is behind the learning curve, due to his not being into camp on time, because the Browns were doing the other teams a solid? That’s absurd, and if anyone ever tries to sell that to us again we should be offended.

  • MrCleaveland

    Right again. Playing hardball with Weeden would be a little bit like the time the Cleveland Gladiators players stood in solidarity for players’ rights and went on strike right before a game — and then nobody else did, not even our visiting opponent. The only thing the Glads got out of that was a forfeit loss and a “Thanks, suckers” from the rest of the league.

  • bossman09

    So here is what I don’t understand. If we replace McCoy with Weeden. Pashos with Schwartz, Robo with Gordon, and Hillis with Richardson, are you REALLY worried about starting rookies? I’m amazed by this train of thought. 27th ranked QB, Worst starting RT in the NFL, WR who couldn’t start for the Browns (the Browns!) and was cut, and headcase hillis who gained 578 yards. Gordon can eclipse Robo’s 2011 performance in one game. Richardson, even with rookie jitters, will outplay the 2011 Hillis times 2. McCoy vs. Weeden is probably a push, but that’s worst case. And as far as schwartz goes… well, if you are really concerned here, we could start Greco again and we would be no worse than 2011 (Almost couldn’t type this without laughing). Every other player is the same as 2011 and we won 4 games. The panic/fear is really unfounded. Sure there will be ups and downs, but from the 4 previous starters, there were virtually no “ups” for the whole season. I mean really, What was Pashos’ highlight? Robo’s was getting cut, Hillis had one good game against the Ravens, and Colt’s best game was against the Colts (Irony).

  • mgbode

    it’s not that anyone is worried. it’s that we know there is a transition period even with the best rookies to the NFL-level. so, while we hope they will prove to be better than their predecessors, there likely will be ‘moments’ where they look worse.