All I Want For Christmas
Is to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers. But, I’m going to be realistic. It’s probably not going to happen.
The Steelers remembered how to play football. Yes, unfortunately, it turns out that Big Ben’s career is not over. (Ugh.) Also, Andre Brown is a beast, and Le’Veon Bell is turning into quite the rookie runner. Also, I don’t care how old and banged up they are… You can never count out a Dick Lebeau defense. He is maddeningly magical.
The Browns just aren’t there yet. Are they better? Yes. Do they have more talent? Yes. Are they a playoff team? No.
And, it’s not just that they are missing a quarterback. The Browns defense isn’t quite what we thought it was either. So, if I can’t have a win against the Steelers, here is my list for Santa. He has the whole offseason to make it happen:
1. Quarterback. Seriously, what did you think was going to be first on my list? But all jokes aside, I want to start Hoyer next year. And I want Campbell to stay as a backup. (Obviously, Weeden has to go.) But, I don’t want a rookie to start. There are no Andrew Lucks in this year’s draft class, and whoever we pick needs to sit on a bench behind a healthy Hoyer and learn how to play QB in the NFL. It’s what Brady did, and it’s what Rodgers did. It’s what they should have let Kaepernick do longer. And it’s what the Browns should do with whoever they draft.
2. Receiver. Right now we have one: Gordon. And we’ve got a great tight end. But we need at least two more guys who can contest for the ball—one to run the long routes opposite Gordon (NOT Little), and one to run the slot (NOT Bess). My number one criterion for this position is physically holding a football without inexplicably dropping it. Seriously, the bar is that low. That being said, I would take a Demaryius Thomas and a Wes Welker if one or both were available.
3. Offensive Lineman. Joe Thomas is one of the best left tackles in the NFL. Alex Mack may be the best center. (Mack is a free agent this year, and the Browns need to make a diligent effort to resign him.) Other members of the line have stepped up at various points this year, but Browns quarterbacks are still taking too many hits. Thomas and Mack need some help. Some of the young guys we have now (Gilkey, et al.) may be part of the solution, but the Browns also need to look for some new faces. If we do get a new quarterback, I would like to save him from a Tim Couch-like concussion ridden, career ending experience in Cleveland.
4. Running Back. I mean, this is a given right? The Browns need an every down back, and we just don’t have one. McGahee came in and did an admirable job… not because it’s been decent, but because he’s old. And I want a shiny, new one! That being said, I also want to see what Edwin Baker can do. In two games, he has averaged 4.1 yards per carry and has scored two rushing touchdowns. And Chris Ogbonnaya does well receiving behind the line. But the Browns need a Lynch, an Ivory, a Charles, a Moreno, a Forte, a Foster… and the list could go on and on because pretty much every other team has a better running game than we do.
5. Kicker. The Browns cannot afford to treat this position as an afterthought. Cundiff got us through the season, but he is no Phil Dawson (or Matt Prater, or Steven Hauschka, and the list could go on). He is 21 of 26 so far this season. That means he has only made 80% of his fieldgoal attempts. And his longest is 51 yards. Maybe having Dawson for so long spoiled me, but Browns Babe is not impressed. I want a new foot.
Now I realize that I’ve asked for all offensive players, but the Browns defense needs some help too. I am not anywhere near sold on Leon McFadden or Tashaun Gipson. Paul Kruger hasn’t been bad, but he hasn’t been awe inspiring either. There are some holes on defense that need filling.
I am, however, pleased with some Browns defensive players who I do not think have gotten enough credit this year. We hear a lot about Joe Haden and T.J. Ward (another player the Browns must work hard to resign this offseason) because they’re probably headed to the ProBowl, and everyone knows D’Qwell Jackson is a fantastic veteran linebacker. But other members of the defense have really stepped it up this year. Phil Taylor is a formidable nose tackle that has recorded 26 tackles and 2 sacks; he plays aggressively from the first snap until the whistle blows at the end of the fourth. Even more impressively, however, Buster Skrine has recorded 64 tackles this season. Last season, Skrine made me crazy… the number of blown coverages and pass interference calls was infuriating. But he is quite possibly the most improved Browns defensive player, and I feel confident in our Skrine/Haden duo.
The Browns are getting there, but they have a ways to go. Until then, I’m going to rely on Santa.