5 Cleveland Browns Players Who Should See Their Roles in Increase in 2014
It is tough to be a player for the Cleveland Browns. Every time the coaching staff changes, which seems to happen every year, so does your role. In fact, every coaching change ushers in the possibility for increased opportunities or a new place of employment.
The Browns’ new brass has already made some cuts and established who will get to compete for a roster spot. So who will get the increased opportunities?
There are two ways to project who might get a chance to show off more of their game. One is to look at the coaching staff’s habits at their previous job. The other is to try and predict a player’s progression into the next season.
There were quite a few candidates for the “increased role” category, but ultimately I chose five. Here are the players who should see increased playing time in 2014.
The Browns did not dish out a four-year deal worth $13.6 million to a 28-year old receiver to target him 18 times. That is how many passes receiver Andrew Hawkins had thrown his way by Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton in 2013.
While that had a lot to do with his injuries and being limited to just eight games, he should see the biggest workload of his career in 2014.
In 2012 he was targeted a career high 80 times. That resulted in 533 receiving yards and four touchdowns. Even Davone Bess, who had a miserable season in 2013, was targeted 86 times in the Browns offense.
Perhaps a more accurate projection would be Santana Moss last season. New Browns offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan will probably use Hawkins in a similar fashion to Moss. He had 80 targets last year as well.
An underrated part of Hawkins’ game is special teams. He will be asked to do that in Cleveland as well. Josh Kirkendall of CincyJungle.com pointed out exactly how effective he was in Cincinnati.
They lose one of the more dynamic gunners in the game -- Hawkins sprinting down-field on a punt, placing himself in position to, either down the football within the five-yard line, or force the returner to wave for the fair catch, was a thing of beauty.
Hawkins, if he can stay healthy, will be busier in 2014 than he has been at any time in his three-year NFL career.
When the Browns selected defensive lineman Armonty Bryant in the seventh round there were questions about his past off the field. When he was arrested for drunken driving just days after being drafted, more questions arose. Despite the bumps in the road, the Browns stuck by him.
It paid off on the field.
Bryant had eight tackles and two sacks with very limited playing time in 2013. He proved that he deserves more reps and will get them in new head coach Mike Pettine’s defensive system.
Pettine, who runs a true hybrid system, will need big guys who have the strength to play inside and speed to play outside. Bryant is that guy.
If the Browns use his 187 snaps in 2013 as a building block towards next season he could end up being a rare seventh-round gem.
It was certainly a risk to sign a running back that has never been the full-time starter in the NFL and has a history of injuries. It was a risk the Browns needed to take, however, when they signed Ben Tate.
In just three years as a Houston Texan, Tate amassed 1,992 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns while starting just nine games. He never carried the ball more than 181 times and still posted an impressive 4.7 yards per carry average.
Starting in 2014, he wont be the running back who hypothetically deserves a starting gig anymore. It will be time to prove he belongs in the conversation with the best backs in the NFL.
Kyle Shanahan gave Alfred Morris the eighth most carries in the NFL last season with 276. If Tate can stay healthy he will get the ball just as many times.
It’s unfortunate he got drafted here and he was behind me for a while. But he’s going to be a great addition to Cleveland. They’re going to love him up there. He’s a very skilled athlete, and I’m looking for big things from him.
The Browns feel the same way, otherwise they would not have signed him to a two-year, $6.2 million deal. He will be the safety net for a rookie quarterback or Brian Hoyer. Either way, he will need to anchor the offense.
Despite the fact that I, along with many other media members, feel the Browns will draft their starting quarterback at the top of the first round, the job currently belongs to Brian Hoyer.
Hoyer has just four career starts in five years. He had thrown just seven touchdowns and six interceptions in that time span. If he is the starting quarterback at any point in 2014 it could more than double his career playing time.
Browns general manager Ray Farmer told Mary Kay Cabot of The Cleveland Plain Dealer during the NFL owner’s meetings last week that he is fine with Hoyer as the starter next season if that’s how it shakes out.
I’m comfortable. You’ve got to identify the guy that you think can do the role that you’re asking him to do. Here’s a guy that’s had NFL experience. He’s been in NFL camps. He has some tools to move forward with.
The notion of experience is one that to me it can get overplayed. You have to identify truly what the young man is going to be asked to do and can he perform in that role. And if he can, don’t be afraid to move forward in that direction.
That may be the portrayed sentiment at the top of the organization but the players are saying something different. All-Pro receiver Josh Gordon told ESPN, via ProFootballTalk.com, that he would probably have a new quarterback throwing him the ball next year.
There’s no telling. I talked with Ray, I talked with [owner Jimmy Haslam]. The choice is really up in the air right now. I’m pretty sure it’s a quarterback and I just really can’t say which one. I’m not real sure.
Either way, Hoyer will have a shot to compete in training camp, and that will at least match the biggest role he has had heading into any season.
The Browns found their feature back this offseason by signing Ben Tate, but every team needs a change of pace. Forget pace, the Browns struggled to find anyone who could run the ball effectively last season.
While it would not have changed things that dramatically, if Dion Lewis had not been lost for the season during the preseason he certainly could have helped.
Throughout training camp and the beginning of the preseason it looked as though Lewis could be a serious weapon out of the backfield. The Browns had just nine runs of more than 20 yards last season. Only four of those came from running backs in their 302 rushing attempts.
Ben Tate, on the other hand, rushed for 20 or more yards three times in 181 attempts last season. If the Browns have him and a healthy Lewis with an increased workload they should have a very potent backfield.