Jun 112013
 

Rob Chudzinski6. Cleveland Browns
Head Coach: Rob Chudzinski
2012 Record: 5-11
2012 Offense: 302 points scored, 24th in points, 25th in yards (19th passing, 24th rushing)
2012 Defense: 368 points allowed, 19th in points, 23rd in yards (25th passing, 19th rushing)

 

Key Additions
Head Coach Rob Chudzinski , LB Paul Kruger, CB Kevin Barnes, DE Desmond Bryant, QB Jason Campbell, QB Brian Hoyer, WR Davone Bess, WR David Nelson, TE Kellen Davis, K Shayne Graham, LB Quentin Groves, CB Chris Owens, RB Dion Lewis, DE Barkevious Mingo, CB Leon McFadden

Key Losses
WR Josh Cribbs, K Phil Dawson, LB Scott Fujita, RB Brandon Jackson, WR Mohammed Massaquoi, LB Kaluka Maiava, DB Usuma Young, DB Sheldon Brown, TE Alex Smith, S Ray Ventrone, TE Ben Watson, DE Frostee Rucker

Why 2013 will be better
The Browns placed an off-season emphasis on defense, signing free agent linebacker Paul Kruger away from Baltimore. Kruger and D’Qwell Jackson now form the backbone of a solid linebacking corps, providing no rush for the Browns to work rookie Mingo into the rotation. The switch to a 3-4 front will see Desmond Bryant, Phil Taylor, and Ahtyba Rubin playing with their hands on the ground. On offense the Browns have improved their receiving corps, where the Browns are counting on castoffs Bess and Nelson to complement Josh Gordon, who will miss the first two games of the season for a drug policy violation (and seems to be one mistake away from losing a year), and Greg Little. Both Bess and Nelson are capable receivers, with Bess catching 61 passes in 2012 and Nelson accomplishing the same in 2011 before an injury made his miss all but one game last season.

Why 2013 will be worse
The Browns have not resolved the quarterback position, with a second year starter on a short leash in Weeden, a journeyman veteran who has started seven games over the past two seasons in Campbell, and a former Tom Brady backup who has started one NFL game in Hoyer. Suddenly the decision not to trade up for RGIII begs another glance. Trent Richardson had a mixed rookie season with 950 yards all 11 touchdowns, but a net of only 3.6 yards per carry. He is a durable back, but the offense on the whole simply lacks a lot of pop, and averaging more than last year’s 18.9 points per game is going to be a challenge. On the defensive side, the secondary has seen significant change, and Joe Haden anchors a unit that probably won’t scare too many teams. Rookie corner Leon McFadden appears set to start opposite Haden, while the safeties will be second year man Tashaun Gipson and TJ Ward.

Outlook
There is something to be said for bringing in Norv Turner to be the offensive coordinator. Turner seems better suited to this role than that of head coach, and if anyone is going to get Weeden playing well enough to make the Browns compete it will be Turner. Adding weapons at receiver doesn’t hurt, and having a solid offensive line gives the Browns the potential to surprise some teams. On the other side of the ball, switching to a 3-4 with an improved linebacking corps gives defensive coordinator Ray Horton the weapons he needs to try and disrupt opposing offenses. If the Browns can apply consistent quarterback pressure, they may be able to offset any concerns that exist in the secondary. The Browns appear capable of winning anywhere from 4 to 9 games this season, but I’ll place the over/under at 7. Consider it a good first step in banishing the “Factory of Sadness” moniker that is now the team’s unofficial slogan.

Jun 102013
 

Matt Flynn3. Oakland Raiders
Head Coach: Dennis Allen
2012 Record: 4-12
2012 Offense: 290 points scored, 26th in points, 18th in yards (8th passing, 28th rushing)
2012 Defense: 443 points allowed, 28th in points, 18th in yards (20th passing, 18th rushing)

Key Additions
QB Matt Flynn, DB Charles Woodson, DB Tracy Porter, S Usama Young, WR Josh Cribbs, LB Kevin Burnett, LB Nick Roach, DE Jason Hunter, CB Mike Jenkins, DT Pat Sims, DT Vance Walker, RB Rashad Jennings, P Chris Kluwe, CB DJ Hayden, T Menelik Watson

Key Losses
QB Carson Palmer, DE Richard Seymour, WR Darrius Heyward-Bey, TE Brandon Myers, DL Tommy Kelly, DE Desmond Bryant, DE Dave Tollefson

Why 2013 will be better
In this case, “better” is a relative term that means the Raiders are in the process from emerging from years of irrelevance. The ever-moody Carson Palmer has been replaced by the enigmatic Matt Flynn, which will either solve the team’s quarterback needs for the next several seasons or else will result in emergence of Terrelle Pryor or Tyler Wilson. If the Raiders can get a full season out of Darren McFadden and production from their wide receivers, they could make most games tolerable for the Raiders’ faithful to watch.

Why 2013 will be worse
Matt Flynn has shown flashes, but is unproven and the Raiders might be expecting too much, especially given that Palmer threw for over 4,000 yards and 22 touchdowns. The defense is a patchwork of one year contracts while the Raiders absorb an ugly cap year after years of mismanagement. They’re taking care of their business in the right way, but it might well get worse before it gets better. The defensive line is still in need of serious help after last year’s second worst pass rush.

Outlook
In all likelihood, Oakland is looking at a lost season as it recovers from years of cap and draft mismanagement. There is no easy fix for the problems the Raiders are facing, but once they get through the 2013 season, they are likely to emerge with a high draft pick and somewhere in the neighborhood of $50 million in cap space to begin building the once proud franchise. Beyond McFadden, there are few reliable targets on offense, though Denarius Moore looks to be a potential star in the making. However, McFadden has missed 23 games in the past five seasons and could well be regarded as injury prone. The defense is a temporary patchwork with a talented secondary but a problematic front seven. As I have said before, I fully expect the Raiders to be atop the AFC West in the next three seasons if they stick to their rebuilding plan, but five or six wins represents an absolute ceiling for the 2013 Raiders.