Cleveland Browns CLE -DEFswitching to 3-4 defense
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.
Cleveland Browns CLE -DEFsay too early to name starting QB
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.
Cleveland Browns CLE -DEFhire Chudzinski as HC
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.
Cleveland Browns CLE -DEFfire HC and GM
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.
Cleveland Browns CLE -DEFdown 2 WRs for Week 5
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.
Cleveland Browns CLE -DEFhave a competition for backup RB job
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.
Cleveland Browns CLE -DEFcommitted to Colt McCoy?
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.
Cleveland Browns CLE -DEFadd Brad Childress as OC
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.
Cleveland Browns CLE -DEFget young RB into mix
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.
Cleveland Browns CLE -DEFwant to add a change-of-pace RB
According to beat writer Tony Grossi, the Browns are looking to add "a third-down, change of pace, pass catcher, scatback" once free-agency opens. RBs Peyton Hillis and Montario Hardesty will serve as Cleveland's primary ball-carries in 2011, but neither guy is a real homerun hitter on passing downs. Darren Sproles, Cadillac Williams, and Brian Westbrook could all be options for the Browns.
Cleveland Browns CLE -DEFname Pat Shurmur head coach
The Browns have named former Rams OC Pat Shurmur their HC. Shurmur will install a West Coast offense in Cleveland, which suits QB Colt McCoy's skill-set. Shurmur is also known for getting his backs heavily involved in the passing game. Good news for RB Peyton Hillis.
Cleveland Browns CLE -DEFfire Eric Mangini
It's Black Monday in the NFL, and the first coach has already been axed. The Browns have fired HC Eric Mangini. He went just 5-11 in each of his 2 seasons in Cleveland, and his teams never showed any signs of progress. This firing comes on the heels of being let go by the Jets after 2 seasons. Mangini's head coaching career is likely over. According to SI's Peter King, Cleveland may be going after Eagles current OC Marty Mornhinweg as their next HC.
Cleveland Browns CLE -DEFBrowns without 2 def. starters
Browns LB Antwan Peek and DE Orpheus Roye are inactive. Cleveland is still a sleeper defensive play simply because they're playing 49ers Chris Weinke at home.
Cleveland Browns CLE -DEFIDP Grab of the Week
Browns CB Daven Holly, a 3rd-year man out of Cincinnati, has been starting for the injured Eric Wright for 3 weeks. In that span Holly has collected 14 tackles, 3 passes defensed, and almost had 2 picks. Teams prefer not to throw toward Leigh Bodden on the other side. Holly could post sneaky IDP stats against the woeful Jets this Sunday.
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