Welcome to the first annual BROWNSRANT BROWNS PREVIEW. Hey, how’s everyone doing. First, a little housekeeping. Browns Rant would like to welcome our new columnist Max Rage, who, as his name indicates, really blows his stack sometimes. I mean Hillary Clinton PMS style. You can read his first offering on Browns RB Jamal Lewis here.

Now a disclaimer. Browns Rant will NOT make any predictions of any kind in terms of record. Any intelligent football fan knows that it’s arbitrary and involves too many variables. Consequently, even if one makes a good prediction it’s usually due to some factor that one never considered or was dismissed as irrelevant or was so obvious that everyone else thought of it. Unfortunately, we still can predict with almost certainty that the Browns will not be good this year. They have too many question marks and I don’t see them all getting resolved. Do I think they are going to be 2-14 like Peter King does? I doubt he even looked at the schedule considering the Browns are playing a team that went winless last year(Detroit); a team that just fired their Offensive Coordinator a week before the season(KC); a team that drafted Darrius Heyward-Bey seventh overall and whose Head Coach reportedly pounded a guy in the face ; a team that traded away it’s franchise QB, is trying to trade it’s franchise WR and features Andra Davis as starting ILB as part of arguably the worst front seven in football(Broncos); a team who went 5-11 last year and has former Brown and Josh Cribbs’ financial guru Dennis Northcutt skillfully hauling in passes at WR(Jaguars). You have to think they take a few of those games, and that’s without even mentioning the Bengals(who we play twice),the Bills and the “any given Sunday” factor. So Peter, please, do us a favor and write a nice long article about Brett Favre’s jockstrap (no I don’t mean Brad Childress) and leave the predicting to someone else. Without further ado……

Coaching: When the Brown’s tabbed Eric Mangini to be there next coach everyone thought Randy Lerner was out of his mind or just plain stupid. We would’ve much rather Josh McDaniels or Scott Pioli, right? Now these organizations look like Britney Spears; spiraling out of control and repeatedly shooting themselves in the leg(Do NOT insert your Plaxico Burress joke here. I can’t tell you how many times I heard that stupid joke along with the pretentious exclamatory “no pun intended!”. I’m looking at you Jay Leno. No more.) There is no question that the Browns will be more disciplined and aggressive under Mangini than Romeo, which really is like saying America will be more liberal under Obama than Bush. The question is this.Has Mangini learned from his mistakes with the Jets when at times he seemed to play not to lose? He better, or else Randy Lerner will hire Art Shell to take his place in four years. You would also like to see the Browns develop some sort of identity on offense, and with Mangini that should mean running the football and a ball control based scheme which would be fine if you didn’t have Jamal Lewis as your starting RB. I don’t buy in to the the Browns rhetoric that they will be a game plan specific team like the Patriots just yet ; then again we don’t have toys like Brady, Moss and Welker. Needless to say, the play-calling will be carefully watched. Obviously they will tone it down a little for Brady Quinn; I just hope that means more screens to Harrison and Cribbs and not more of Jamal Lewis diving for two yards. On the defensive side you have to love Rob Ryan talking like he’s Rex and coaching like he’s Buddy(you know with the whole 46 defense and all). The only thing is Mangini is known for his “bend but don’t break defense” so either Ryan just likes to talk or (gasp!) Mangini might be coming around on the whole blitzing thing. We haven’t seen a Browns linebacker blitz since Jamir Miller(Sorry Willie, what you were doing all these years cannot even loosely be described as blitzing). If the preseason is any indication the special teams should be a crack squad. On a related note, BLAKE COSTANZO MADE THE TEAM!! I begged Mangini not to cut him and force him to trade first names with Browns G.M. Kokinis and he apparently has started to listen to me. Or maybe that’s “Jimmy” doing his thing.

Offense: Guess what one of the keys is for the Browns offense this year. I’ll give you a hint.

The Patriots do it.

The Steelers do it.

Heck, even the Toronto Argonauts do it.

Screen passes. Yes, screen passes will be one of the keys for the offense this year, especially since we’re operating with assumption that Brady Quinn will be the starter ( even though I fully expect Mangini to send him out with a ski mask under his helmet we should be able to figure out it’s him by his biceps)and since the offensive line may have some problems opening up holes (apparently only for Jamal Lewis) we will need some other way to compensate for these yards. Enter the screen pass, which offers a great way to accomplish the objectives you want from your running game while also getting the football into the hands of your play makers. I’d say chalk up the Brown’s up for at least four a game this season. Obviously, I hope they also do other things to spice it up like the no-huddle and the “Flash” package(which we rarely saw last season). Another thing they shouldn’t be shy about is throwing the ball down the field in the beginning of games. If your afraid Brady will throw a pick then tell him to chuck it out of bounds. It’s imperative that the opponent know that it’s in our arsenal.

Quarterbacks: Let’s keep this internal for now.

Running Backs: I expect Lewis to start the first few games, average 1.9 YPC and then to be benched. James Davis has looked pretty solid during the preseason with a nice burst through the line and a penchant for the big play. And if you watched the Bears game you saw Davis doing a great job at picking up the blitz numerous times. Keep Beanie the human hamstring pull” Wells. We’ll take James Davis. Even though he seems to have been forgotten I still expect Jerome Harrison to touch the ball plenty. Remember, Mangini loved experimenting with Leon Washington in N.Y.

Offensive Line: Going into training camp I was as high as Michael Beasley (low blow alert-pun intended) on the Browns offensive line. With the drafting of “The Mack Truck” and the signing of Womack and St. Clair, and with Tuck, Rex Hadnot and Hank Fraley providing depth I thought we were stacked. Now? Tuck is gone, St. Clair hasn’t made anyone forget Kevin Shaffer and they haven’t been able to run to the right side the whole preseason. Penalties abound and laps have been run. Plus, our “swing tackle” is some guy named Phil Trautwein, who looks like he became a offensive lineman just because he looks like one. Keep your fingers crossed.

Wide Receiver: If Braylon learns how to catch a football, Cribbs steps up to be a number two reciever, Furrey makes key third down grabs and Massaquoi and Robiskie develop and contribute this year we should be good. You get the point.

Tight End: Royal is a big upgrade when he’s blocking over Winslow who after all his bravado blocked like a third grade girl. We need seventy receptions from the tight ends this year. Steve Heiden is definitely good for thirty. It will be very interesting to see what Martin Rucker can contribute. I really don’t see why Phil Savage had to trade his children for this guy; at best he looks like a decent pass catcher. But don’t discount the added blocking; I think that more than compensates for Winslow’s offense. Well, almost.

Built in excuses for the offense: Jamal Lewis is washed up; John St. Clair keeps on missing blocks; D.A. standing on the field and tripped Josh Cribbs ;(this joke is approaching Plax overkill status but until then…)Mangini doesn’t divulge which plays he wants to run to the team; the elements; Braylon Edwards catches a football like a third grade girl and last but not least: our OFFENSIVE CORDINATOR IS CANADIEN!! How can the players possibly respect him? He speaks French and gets free health care. That’s a built in excuse if I ever saw one.

Bottom Line: I don’t see anyway the offense doesn’t improve this season. We’re talking about a team who averaged 100 yards per game rushing and less than 150 passing. Plus, contrary to popular belief we do have playmakers. Your excused if you can’t get it to Edwards if he drops passes but we should be creative enough to get into the hands of Josh Cribbs. We should see a improved running game with James Davis and behind a offensive line that despite it’s problems is arguably the best in the division.

Defense: I feel like Romeo and Mel Tucker used to send out the Browns defense and tell them, ” Go out there and have fun. Remember it’s not if you win or lose but how you play the game. Now remember Shaun,your not different then anybody else. You also have to count to three Mississippi before you rush the passer. Oh, by the way, the offense sucks so you probably will be on the field for most of the game but fear not we have the oxygen masks ready to go”. Undoubtedly the Browns defense still has it’s question marks; the lack of play-makers and the perennial lack of pass rush just to name a few, but we still should be much better than last years squad. Remember Terry Cousin and Travis Daniels? That was a nightmare. How about Andra “drag me five yards” Davis? Can’t you just see him hanging on to L.T. for the last twenty yards of a touchdown run? One thing you have to give him credit for; he wasn’t able to bring you down, but no matter what you did he never let go. And who can forget the “leadership” Big Willie brought to the team. We can’t, because Mary Kay wrote eight articles reminding us. Point is, at least this season we get to see a real live NFL-style defense with all the trimmings like hitting and blitzing.

Defensive Line: Probably all around the best unit on the team which includes our only true stud in Shaun Rogers and two lunch-pail types in Robaire Smith and Kenyon Coleman. It really hit the Browns hard when Robaire when down last season. These guys do exactly what 3-4 lineman are supposed to do; A) hold the point of attack and two gap and B) collapse the pocket if possible, which is why Corey Williams is such a horrible fit for this defense since he does none of those things well(which just further illustrates what kind of bonehead Phil Savage was. How do you trade a second round pick for him and give thirty eight million dollars to a guy to do something he has never done before? What was he thinking? ). I do expect to see him on passing downs when we can utilize his ability to shoot the gaps, which is what he did in Green Bay( Ironically the Packers also switched to the 3-4 defense this off season under Def. Coordinator Dom Capers, but the scheme they run calls for the defensive lineman to shoot the gaps which is what he’s good at). Ahtyba Rubin and C.J. Mosely are also talented players which gives the Browns good depth.

Linebackers: I’m really down on Kamerion Wimbley. Sure, I know the coaches plan to move him around this year. I just don’t think it will help. The little boy Browns fan inside me has already created highlight reels of Wimbley taking off Big Ben’s head but then reality sets in. This guy doesn’t lack the work ethic, talent or intensity to get it done. Is it really the elusive “counter move” or is it in his head? It’s just so frustrating after the monster rookie season he had. On the other hand Eric Barton is a huge upgrade over Davis, and he’s only a decent player at best. Not having Davis should shave the YPC by a half a yard at least. Everyone talks about D’Quell Jackson being close to a Pro Bowl player; I say he’s definitely tackles a lot of people but he doesn’t make enough impact plays. He might get there though. David Bowens? Decent Veteran. Alex Hall? Needs more consistency but love his talent. David Veikune? Encouraging preseason until the Bears game; got a lot of first-team reps. Kaluka Maiva? Special team demon. Leon Williams? Wondering why he made the team.

Secondary: Max Rage loves the corners. I’m afraid of them. They are ball hawks but young and too inconsistent in coverage. And what’s with the celebrations and gyrations every time your opponent throws a incomplete pass? Are you guys totally oblivious to the fact that this is a very common occurrence? That it happens approximately 40% percent of the time? Maybe Hank Poteat can provide some “veteran leadership” while he fights for the nickel back spot with Coye Francies, who is looking very,very good. I think Abe Elam and Brodney Pool will get beat deep plenty this year. I hate to say it but I’d be more comfortable if we had Sean Jones back there.

Built in excuses for defense: Too many Jets; Rob Ryan’s hair was getting in the way of the chalk board during meetings; Bryan Cox is a “butt head”; lack of playmakers; we never blitz.

Bottom Line: Again, I don’t see how this unit doesn’t improve at least against the run. Against the pass we could be in for a very long season. Mangini must find a way to manufacture some pass rush.

Well that’s it. Hope you enjoyed. One last note. Every year we get all psyched up about the Browns and every year they deliver mind numbing disappointment. Remember how deflated every one was after the pathetic showing against the Cowboys last year? Troll the message boards and you will see Browns fans predicting 7-9 or 8-8 seasons. Even a few occasional playoff picks. Now check out what the local and national media predicts. I’m not saying they know what they’re talking about, I’m just saying that we as fans our a little biased. Of course, we should demand excellence from our team but we shouldn’t expect it like it’s the most natural thing in the world as if we were Pat’s fans. We’re not. We’re Browns fans, and I wouldn’t trade that for anything in the world. Even if it means rooting for Jamal Lewis.

JAMAL LEWIS SUCKS. There I said it. Why is everyone so afraid to say it? Please tell me that Browns nation isn’t so naive to think that just because the Browns have a good record when he gets twenty or more carries it doesn’t mean he’s a legitimate starting RB in this league. How many starting running backs wouldn’t you rather have on the Browns instead of Lewis? Cedric Benson? Julius Jones? Maybe? I mean please, the only reason they were able to win those games is because the Browns were up big and they tried to “eat some clock” with Jamal Lewis basically taking knee after knee and then it still almost killed them.

It seems Brown’s fans have forgotten Romeo’s default game plan; hand the ball off to Jamal on first and second down and then try to convert on third and long. Doesn’t everyone remember screaming bloody hell at the TV after Jamal went down on the first hit after another two yard gain? After we were down, oh say two touchdowns Romeo would realize something was amiss and put in Wright or Harrison to make it respectable. Am I the only one who remembers this?

A word of warning; when by some miracle the offensive line opens a whole the size of Queen Latifah’s backside and Jamal A)Identifies the hole and B) slowly moseys his way for eight yards and a first down, JUST SAY NO. Say no to the guy next to you at the bar who says, “That Jamal Lewis guy still has it. Did you know he had back-to-back thousand yard seasons? He’s the lone bright spot on the Browns” don’t listen to him or shake your head politely and buy him another beer. Either launch into a profanity laced tirade against Jamal Lewis or take your beer and move. Reuban Droughns, another great Browns RB (washed up from a different team) was just as good here, and he couldn’t crack the rotation with the Giants. So why do James Davis and Jerome Harrison have to play spectacular to take away carries from him? Mediocre should suffice.

So that’s my rage. The ball is in your court Mangini. Do you want to impress Brown’s fans and do right by Jamal Lewis(i.e. bench him) and emerge from Belichik’s I-do-everything-please-hire-my-assistants-who-I-choose-for-their-abilities-to-spy-on-other-teams- shadow? Or are you just another Belichik disciple who thinks he’s smarter than he is? CUT JAMAL LEWIS. GO BROWNS.

Here we are Browns fans. The season is upon us. We have the same chance as everyone else to be a playoff team (as a Browns fan Super Bowl team is not even in my vocabulary) but why not us? Why can’t this year be our year? I keep asking myself why we can’t get a couple lucky bounces- okay a lot of lucky bounces. Maybe play a couple teams that overlook us; who knows? If we can’t dream now when we are all even chances are we won’t be able to dream later.

Browns vs. Vikings week one you have a 39 year old quarterback who’s been known to throw picks for no other reason but to say hey, my name is Brett Favre, I’m a gunslinger, girls over forty love me. You have a coach Brad Childress when watching him coach actually makes you think that Romeo will get another job (girls over forty do not dig him). It’s a dream. It could happen any given Sunday. Look at the Dolphins from last year who went from 1-15 the previous season to 11-5. It could happen. Anything is possible.

So I woke up after the win against Favre’s Vikings and started thinking; how did an under average team such as the Dolphins manage to go 11-5 with a quarterback (Chad Pennington) who makes Brady Quinn’s arm look like Jake Cutler’s, with a best receiver in Ted Ginn who is five foot ten and can’t run routes, with one of their running backs (Ricky Williams)that is so high on weed he makes “The Dude” look like The Pope. A defensive line that lost its best player (Jason Taylor) etc… you get the point. They were not exactly the Cowboys of the nineties.

Then it dawned on me. The Dolphins didn’t go into any game saying, “Hey, we are better than them, we are going to beat them on both sides of the ball and dominate the game”. Rather Tony Sparano told his team, “We are going to do everything in our power to win this football game, to gain an extra yard and to gain any advantage possible”. Sparano created the wildcat not because it was the most technically sound way to play the game of football, but just because it gave him a chance for his team to get an edge. With out-of-the-box coaching and a mentality that we will do anything to win(and with the testicular fortitude to buck the status quo) they surprised and shocked the NFL.

So Eric, what do you think? Do you have it in you? Do you think you could throw out all your “there is a right and wrong way to play to the game philosophy”, to give the Browns a chance to win a football game? Do not get me wrong, I would love to see a Brown’s team that can beat teams up, win games on pure talent, and football smarts alone. Just this Browns team doesn’t have the personnel to win like that.

Now I know what you all are thinking. Don’t we want to build a team on technically sound football even if we have to wait a couple years to be good? Would you not rather see a technically sound 6-10 Browns team that looks like if we added a couple of fixer uppers we could (gulp?) make the playoffs, or (double gulp??) win a playoff game? The answer is yes, that’s the dream for the city of Cleveland. Let us start dreaming anew not like we are always building for the future Clevelanders, but like the winners we all deserve to be. Just because the rest of the NFL thinks we’re a bunch of losers doesn’t mean we have to play like one. On the contrary, it will show us and teach the players something that is surely needed, the “we will do anything to win and gain any advantage no matter how big or small” mentality. In my opinion there is nothing better to teach than that- to have an organization that runs on these principles. More often than not organizations that run on these principles (i.e.Patriots, Steelers), win now and our power houses for years to come by playing and doing anything to win a game. Take the Steelers win in the Super bowl against the Seahawks. The biggest play in the game was a trick play that saw WR Antoine Randle-El throw a touchdown pass to WR Hines Ward, so in a game in which they were outplayed they managed to win because they had a coach who did anything possible to get a victory. The coach all us Browns fans coveted; a guy by the name of Bill Cowher.

So dream with me Browns fans. Let us dream that this is the year we turn into a city of winners. Let us say NO to anyone who says the word building block, or that we are rebuilding (Mark Shapiro). We can dream of a team that plays and cares to win as much as we do. Here is my rage to anybody who believes that building for the future is more important than winning football games now. To anybody in the Browns organization who believes that winning is somewhere in the future, and tries to convince us that we have a grand master plan. So let us dream Browns fans. Let us dream that dreams is not all that we have left. GO BROWNS