Shark Bites

The Browns will get LB Karlos Dansby back today against the Panthers after he missed the past 4 games with a knee sprain. It 's tough to know whether the Browns will return him to his full role, though, or whether Dansby's knee will hold up. That makes him a risky IDP play, albeit one with upside. His return also makes it tough to use replacement Craig Robertson, who has delivered strong fantasy numbers in Dansby's absence. Cleveland will be without CB Joe Haden, who's inactive with a shoulder injury.

UPDATE: Dansby will reportedly start in his usual MLB spot, with Robertson starting at weak ILB over Chris Kirksey. We'd lean Robertson as the safest IDP option, with Dansby bringing the highest ceiling.

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Browns HC Mike Pettine said Monday that LB Karlos Dansby could miss "upwards of a month" after spraining his left MCL in Sunday's loss to Houston, according to The Plain Dealer. Dansby's absence will hurt IDP lineups, but his absence should mean more playing time for impressive rookie Christian Kirksey. We'll see how that plays out in a lackluster LB matchup with the Falcons this weekend. The Browns D is also expected to miss OLB Jabaal Sheard for the rest of the season because of an unspecified bone injury in his foot. That removes a pair of key pass-rushers from a unit already mediocre in that area.

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The Browns made news recently by trying out veteran QBs Tyler Thigpen and Vince Young. Apparently, both players showed them enough. The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that the team has signed Thigpen, and NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reports that the Browns will also sign Young. Brian Hoyer rounds out a trio that still fails to provide the franchise with a long-term answer. But that could be enough insurance to remove any feeling of "needing" to draft a QB in Round 1. Or the vets could compete for the Week 1 starting job and allow a rookie to ease into the job. Or they could fight for 2 backup jobs behind a rookie starter. The Browns figure to be 1 of the more interesting 1st-round teams in the upcoming draft, especially with new leadership in place. And just in case you're wondering, Thigpen and Young don't belong anywhere near a fantasy roster.

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The Browns are fully expected to add a RB this offseason, either through free agency or the draft.  New OC Kyle Shanahan recently talked about the type of back he's looking for: “You want a [back] who can press holes, can get downhill and always get good yards per carry, not always looking for the home run, but not a guy that has to get a 60-yarder to average 4 yards per carry. It’d be nice to keep feeding a guy and his longest run in the game might be 10 yards, but still at the end of the game, he’s averaging 4.2 per carry. I just want a consistent running game where you’re never getting in third-and-long, always trying to be in a manageable down and distance where the defense can never really tee off on run or pass.”  Free-agent Ben Tate would fit that grinder mold.  So would rookie Carlos Hyde.  Of course, Shanahan has also had success with later-round picks like Alfred Morris.  Antonio Andrews and Terrance West would fit into that bucket this year.

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The Browns have hired Mike Pettine as their new HC.  He's a defensive mind with an impressive recent track record.  Pettine served as the Jets' DC under Rex Ryan from 2009-2012.  New York finished among the top 8 in total defense in each of Pettine's 4 seasons, including a 1st-place finish in '09.  Pettine moved on to Buffalo this past season, where his defense ranked 10th in yards allowed and 6th in takeways.  He'll have plenty of defensive talent to work with in Cleveland, including Phil Taylor, Paul Kruger, Jabaal Sheard, D'Qwell Jackson and Joe Haden.  We'll see who Pettine brings in to run the offense.

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New Browns DC Ray Horton said unequivocally in a Thursday radio interview that his defense is going 3-4 next season. The obvious first question for IDP owners is: Whither Jabaal Sheard? He's all OLB in the new front and should hold up fine there. His fantasy value could take a hit with the position eligibility switch, but the new role also could help his pass rushing. Production lagged on that front in his 2nd season. ILB D'Qwell Jackson can play anywhere and should be just fine. DTs Ahtyba Rubin and Phil Taylor must have their roles sorted out. One figures to slide to DE, but it's not clear which would fit such a move better. The Browns will also likely need to seek another OLB starter. Frostee Rucker would be limited at best in that role. James Michael Johnson should be the front runner to start next to Jackson at ILB. He could turn into a sleeper with enough playing time. Paris Lenon played 93.7% of the Cardinals' defensive snaps starting next to ILB Daryl Washington last year.

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Browns coaches say it's too early to deem anyone the starting QB for 2013. That's fair. The team has turned over the whole front office and coaching staff from the group that drafted Brandon Weeden in Round 1. We'll see if the new crew targets anyone in the draft, free agency or even on the trade market. (Matt Flynn? Ryan Mallett?) We fully expect Weeden to emerge as the starter this fall, though. OC Norv Turner conceded on Weeden: "I think he has the skill set we're looking for. He certainly has a big arm." The Browns also need to focus on enhancing the receiving options for whomever they line up under center.

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The Browns have hired Rob Chudzinski as their HC.  This one comes out of left field, as Cleveland had reportedly been closing in on Ken Whisenhunt as their man.  In fact, it hadn't even been reported that Chudzinski interviewed with the Browns.  Nevertheless, he's their new head honcho.  Chud spent the past 2 seasons as Carolina's OC, where his squad's performance was up-and-down.  He was the OC in Cleveland from 2007 to 2008.  Chudzinski is known for a vertical aerial attack, as well as featuring his TEs in the passing game.  He's also gained a reputation as a successful QB tutor -- good news for Brandon Weeden.  Chudzinski is expected to bring along Norv Turner as his OC.  He's a run-first guy, which should balance Chud's approach.

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2 years ago

The Browns have fired HC Pat Shurmur and GM Tom Heckert.  The moves were expected under new owner Jimmy Haslam.  Shurmur went just 9-23 in 2 seasons in Cleveland and was never able to get his West Coast Offense rolling.  He'll likely be back in an OC role in 2013.  The Browns are in for a complete overhaul this offseason.  It'll be interesting to see if the new HC and GM believe in Brandon Weeden as a franchise QB.

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Browns WRs Mohamed Massaquoi and Travis Benjamin are both doubtful for Sunday's game against the Giants with hamstring injuries.  Greg Little and rookie Josh Gordon will start out wide for Cleveland.  Neither is a recommended fantasy option.

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Browns beat writers seem split on who the team's backup RB will be this season.  Terry Pluto writes that Brandon Jackson has "established himself as the No. 2 back," while Tony Grossi sees RB Montario Hardesty as the favorite.  Chris Ogbonnaya is still around too, but it doesn't seem like he's in the mix.  This is a battle that likely won't be decided until training camp and the preseason are wrapped up.  Of course, the winner's only fantasy value will be as Trent Richardson's handcuff.  We'll have a breakdown of all the fantasy-relevant training camp battles in a feature article later this month.

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Browns GM Tom Heckert gave QB Colt McCoy a vote of confidence on Thursday.  "Colt has a big ceiling," Heckert said with a straight face.  "Obviously it's my job to get him better players surrounding him."  While McCoy would benefit from an improved supporting cast, he's shown nothing to suggest he's an NFL starter.  Through 21 games, he's completed just 58% of his passes with 20 TDs and 20 INTs.  Heckert may be talking McCoy up now because he realizes he may be forced to go back to him in 2012.  It doesn't sound like the Browns will land free-agent QB Matt Flynn, and they missed out on their chance to draft Baylor QB Robert Griffin.

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The Browns have hired Brad Childress as their OC.  He's expected to call the plays after HC Pat Shurmur handled those duties this past season.  Childress was just 39-35 in 5 seasons as Vikings HC, but he was more successful as OC with the Eagles before that.  With strong ties to Shurmur, Cleveland's offensive scheme won't change much going forward.

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Rookie RB Armond Smith turned heads Friday night with an 81-yard TD scamper. The run came in the midst of what some have called an impressive camp. Smith brings terrific speed and has reportedly displayed confidence. Of course, he also fumbled twice in Friday's game. We'll see where things go from here, but Smith is not a fantasy target for anyone yet.

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