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
 

Reggie Bush5. Detroit Lions
Head Coach: Jim Schwartz
2012 Record: 4-12
2012 Offense: 372 points scored, 17th in points, 3rd in yards (2nd in passing, 23rd in rushing)
2012 Defense: 437 points allowed, 27th in points, 13th in yards (14th in passing, 16th in rushing)

 

Key Additions
RB Reggie Bush, S Glover Quinn, WR Devin Thomas, DL Jason Jones, DL CJ Mosley. K David Akers, DE Ezekiel Ansah, DB Darius Slay

Key Losses
T Jeff Backus, K Jason Hanson, WR Titus Young, CB Drayton Florence, LB Justin Durant, DE Cliff Avril, G Stephen Peterman, CB Kevin Barnes, DE Kyle Vanden Bosch, DE Lawrence Jackson

Why 2013 will be better
Reggie Bush brings a running game to Detroit, something that was nearly non-existent in 2012. Having any consistency from the running attack will nearly guarantee more production from an offense that had no problem moving the ball last season, but had difficulty turning yards into points. A defense that lacked aggressiveness underperformed in 2012, forcing only 17 takeaways for the year. Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley had good seasons, with Suh doubling his sack production last season (8 sacks) while Fairley racked up 5.5, but the Lions overall pass rush took a step back. It is hoped that the additions of Ansah and Jones up front should add more pass rush and create a better wall against the run, but the loss of Avril is noticeable. The additions of Slay and Quinn should improve the secondary, though Slay lacks physicality to complement his coverage skills and is currently behind Ron Bartrell on the depth chart. Head Coach Jim Schwartz is coaching for his job this season, so nothing less than an 8-8 record is likely to be acceptable in the Motor City this season, and even that may not be enough. And if a head coach is fighting to keep his job, that usually means the same for the starting quarterback. Matt Stafford has tons of talent, but took a step back last season from his breakout 2011 campaign. He will need to return to form if the Lions have any hope of competing for the playoffs.

Why 2013 will be worse
Calvin Johnson is a sensational receiver, but the Lions lack secondary targets to help distribute the load. The Lions have done little to upgrade this group, meaning Johnson is again a predictable focus of any opposing defense. Having Bush as the primary back is a major plus, but if he struggles to gain consistent yards and move the chains, the Lions will again be a team who pass for a lot of yards but fail to put up points. The defense appears to be improved, but the linebacker corps is thin in talent, and is playing in a read and react system off of Suh and Fairley. Stephen Tulloch is among the nest middle linebackers in the game, but he needs DeAndre Levy and Ashlee Palmer to step up their games, or else the defense continue to hemorrhage points.

Outlook
On paper another 4-12 season seems unthinkable; this team is more talented than that. But the Detroit Lions gave the vibe in 2012 of a team that felt it was entitled to win, but wasn’t necessarily willing to give the effort to make it happen. Schwartz doesn’t always seem to be in control of his own team, and the use of the term undisciplined seems an accurate way to describe this team, who ranked 23rd in penalty yards last season. Bush’s addition is important, but the receiver corps is weak after Megatron. Given the strength of the division that they are in, the Lions will do well to win six or seven games this season, in which case 2014 promises a new head coach as the first of what is likely to be many changes.