The Cleveland Browns have had a tumultuous start to the 2013 offseason to say the least. They fired head coach Pat Shurmur and general manager Tom Heckert for two guys with previous ties to the organization, Rob Chudzinski and Mike Lombardi.
They then went about cleaning house, cutting or trading more than 18 guys who had expiring contracts—including a kicker (Phil Dawson) who was considered a fan favorite. The Browns would then fill those gaps by signing several high profile free agents—no one bigger than backup quarterback Jason Campbell.
Then there was the controversy surrounding the Browns new owner, Jimmy Haslam III. CEO of the truck stop company Pilot Flying J, Haslam’s company has been at the center of an FBI and IRS investigation for months. The news has shaken fans confidence in current management and left many wondering if there will be more changes in the near future.
Yet despite all of that, there is still reason for optimism in Cleveland heading into 2013 season. The following are the five biggest questions surrounding the Browns as they head into training camp:
1) Is Brandon Weeden the answer at the quarterback position?
Weeden certainly had and up and down performance in 2013. Completing around 57% of his passes while throwing more interceptions (17) than TDs (14), one understands why fans are hesitant to call him the future of the franchise.
The problem is that much of the criticism of Weeden may be unfair due in large part of the success of his peers. Sure fellow second-year quarterbacks Andrew Luck, RGIII, and Russell Wilson led their respective teams to the playoffs last season, but they also played in offenses geared toward their individual skill sets.
The addition of Norv Turner as offensive coordinator should alleviate some of the pressure Weeden felt last season. If he fails this year, however, he may have no one to blame other than himself.
2) How serious is Trent Richardson’s leg injury?
Richardson was sat out mandatory minicamp due to what was termed a minor injury in his left shin. While both Richardson and head coach Rob Chudzinski have downplayed the injury, many are wondering if the second-year running back out of the University of Alabama is, in fact, injury prone.
3) Who among the Browns’ wide receiver corps will step up during Josh Gordon’s two -game suspension?
The Browns looked to have one of the most improver receiver corps in the league after acquiring Davone Bess and David Nelson from the Dolphins and the Bills, respectively. Now the absence of Gordon for the first two games of the season mean that one of those guys may have to become the team’s no. 1 receiver.
4) Can the Browns head into the preseason without any more players getting into legal trouble?
There have been seven Browns players who have either been arrested or violated NFL policy since the beginning of 2013, including the aforementioned Gordon and starting tailback Trent Richardson. Seeing as how owner Jimmy Haslam has already brought quite a bit of unwanted publicity to the team, a quiet summer might be the best thing for Cleveland.
5) Will Ray Rhodes proposed switch to a 3-4 defensive scheme lead to a significant improvement on that side of the ball?
The Browns have been very aggressive during the offseason trying to upgrade the defense, both in the draft and through free agency. As much as the season rides on the arm of Weeden, the defense will have a large say in whether the team can make a push for the playoffs