Despite drafting Johnny Manziel in the first round of May’s draft, the starting quarterback job belongs to Brian Hoyer to begin the year. And Hoyer will have a talented backfield tandem of Ben Tate and rookie Terrence West, and a receiving corps that includes vets Miles Austin, Nate Burleson and tight end Jordan Cameron, who’s in a contract year.
The team’s most explosive player, Josh Gordon, will not be a part of the team this season due to a suspension, and that’s a tough blow for a young offense that lacks playmakers. Nonetheless, the situation at quarterback — where Manziel will be waiting in the wings should Hoyer slip up — will limit how productive the unit will be.
Defense will be the heart of the Browns this season, and first-year coach Mike Pettine has a dynamic collection of talent to work with. The team drafted Justin Gilbert with the No. 8 overall pick to fill in opposite one of the league’s elite corners, Joe Haden, Karlos Dansby and Donte Whitnerwere added via free agency to strengthen a core that already features Phil Taylor and budding talent Tashaun Gipson.
Without question, the Browns have a chance to be one of the league’s top defenses in 2014. The development of last year’s first-rounder, Barkevious Mingo, and Gilbert will be major factors in just how high the unit’s ceiling will be.
While the defense should be stellar right off the bat, the offense is a work in progress, one that’s going to be hindered by the absence of Gordon. With legitimate contenders in Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and Baltimore in the division, the road is all the more difficult for Cleveland this season.
A successful 2014 for the Browns would be solidifying the quarterback position for next season. The Hoyer-Manziel competition this summer is solved, for now, but Manziel will take over at some point this year. How much Johnny Football can show by season’s end will give us a better glimpse of what this team is capable of down the road.
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