Cleveland regularly gets quality draft picks due to the fact that they regularly don't make the playoffs. Logic would dictate that better draft picks means better players, but for whatever reason that has not been the case for the Browns. The fact that they go through quarterbacks like KFC goes through chicken proves this simple fact.
Despite all this, I think new head coach Hue Jackson could break this trend. I know its all been said before, but this guy is rebuilding the Browns into something that actually could, in a few years, win games. Not a lot of games, but more than they currently are. Of course, he has to have players in the meantime, and with that he will put efforts in to make them as great as possible. Are there any players on Cleveland's roster that could actually cause Pittsburgh some trouble out on the field?
DeMario Davis (linebacker) could be one of those players. He was picked up by Cleveland from the New York Jets this offseason, and he makes sense as an acquisition. The only system he has known in his four year tenure with the NFL is very similar to that of Cleveland defensive coordinator Raymond Horton. His stats are good, with a combined 90 tackles on last season, as well as two sacks. The stats for the season before that were even better, 116 tackles and 3.5 sacks. These stats are not why I think he could be threat to Pittsburgh. The reasons why I think Davis will mean trouble for the Steelers offense are two fold. First, this guy is durable. He has played in all 64 games since he started for the Jets, and now has made the transfer to Cleveland. Something that Cleveland needs is durable players. Yes, Davis is not a pro bowl player, but he can be used to build around. The other reason for Davis actually making an impact for Cleveland is his leadership skills. This, again, means that he can be used to build around. If you have a strong leader, then the team is stronger. This natural born leader attribute of his dates back to his college days, and even led to his former coach Rex Ryan comparing him to Ray Lewis (who Rex Ryan worked with when he was with the Baltimore Ravens). His ability on the field has not shown anything to that level, but if we're talking about character and mindset, then Davis does fit the bill. If Cleveland's more recent quarterback trouble has demonstrated anything, its the importance of leadership skills and a good character.
Cleveland was expected to draft a quarterback early in the draft with their first pick in the draft, going second overall. But they didn't. They traded down. And their first pick fell to fifteenth overall where they picked up Corey Coleman, a wide receiver. Coleman is very talented, and could be a real weapon, even from day one, for Cleveland. He's a fast playmaker, first and foremost as he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.37 and had a 40.5 in the vertical jump. Coleman will be able to outrun, and generally outperform, most defenders physically. Of course, physical ability is not everything but considering that Pittsburgh was 30th in pass defense across the league last season, someone like that could cause some real trouble. Couple that with his ability to run routes and his productivity, Coleman could be a real issue.
Of course, Coleman is going to need someone to pass to him. And I almost don't want to say this, because I can already feel the comments section blowing up at me - but I think Robert Griffin III could be productive in Cleveland. If he can tap into whatever mojo he had in his 2012 and 2013 seasons that is. If that happens, Cleveland just solved their quarterback question, and we might actually see Cleveland win games. The first issue that RGIII has is accuracy - but coach Jackson as said that RGIII has "made tremendous strides" and has no accuracy issues to talk of. If that is the case, maybe RGIII was not the issue when he was with the Redskins, but rather the scheme. When he came into the league, Washington was playing a lot of the read-option and teams were not sure how to cope with that. Then teams adapted. Washington's scheme became too predictable, leading to offensive failures. Another problem with RGIII is that he has sat on the bench the all of last season. He will need lots of work to hit his stride again. Hue Jackson, I believe, may be one of the few people who could actually do that for him. When Jackson was in Cincinnati from 2012 to 2015, he helped out Andy Dalton a great deal. Jackson saw how Dalton was struggling against the blitz, so he made Dalton release the ball faster. Under Gruden, Dalton was averaging 2.33 seconds until ball release, but now is at 2.23 seconds - the quickest rate in the sport today. Dalton went from a touchdown-interception ratio of 80-49 to 44-24 and his QBR went up from 49.9 to 63.6. If Jackson can do this for RGIII, Cleveland will have a deadly quarterback, and Pittsburgh will have a major issue.
If there was one player I had to pick out as having a breakout season on the Cleveland roster - it would be Duke Johnson Jr. (running back). What is scary about this guy is how similar he is to some of the other running backs run-game coordinator Kirby Wilson has worked with, including: Adrian Peterson, Emmitt Smith and Le'Veon Bell. All of these players match Johnson's skills behind the line of scrimmage and in line as a receiver. This means that Cleveland has enough weapons in the pass game - given Corey Coleman and the potential return of Josh Gordon, meaning their pass game might actually become viable. Johnson came in third on the team last season in receptions (61), receiving yards (534) and touchdowns (2). That's nothing to scream about, but this was when Cleveland was in a dire situation at quarterback. All things considered, I think that's pretty commendable. Further to this, head coach Jackson could help develop him further. Jackson has experience with running backs of this style too, when he was over at Cincinnati he worked a lot with Giovani Bernard. Duke Johnson Jr. is only going to get better. Finally, being as Josh Gordon is gone, and Cleveland has had a fresh crop of rookie receivers, Johnson will be where the attention is going to be. Cleveland will be run first team while they solve their quarterback issues, and they will rely on Johnson. Although Pittsburgh was fifth in the league last year against the run, it's his receiving ability I am worried about. If they can get this right, even a little bit, Johnson will cause trouble for Pittsburgh. Big time.
No matter how you slice it, the Browns are still at 100/1 to win the next Super Bowl, and Pittsburgh is on the completely opposite end of the spectrum. This seems to be conventional wisdom, and has been for a while. Hue Jackson, however, could change that. And in his short tenure in Cleveland, I think he has already improved their team and has developed, drafted or signed players who could actually cause not just Pittsburgh, but many teams, some trouble in the coming season.