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Browns 2012 review: Quarterbacks and specialists

Jan 18, 2013 -- 6:00am

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By Tony Grossi

The Morning Kickoff …

2012 position review: With all the post-season attention riveted on the Browns’ football operations overhaul, not much has been paid to the players. After the coach and personnel director are found, the roster will get a thorough review. This is the seventh in a periodic series analyzing the Browns’ position groups.

Position: Quarterbacks.

Players under contract (through year): Thaddeus Lewis (2013), Colt McCoy (’13), Brandon Weeden (’15).

Players not under contract: Josh Johnson.

Total snaps (incl. special teams): Weeden, 929; Lewis, 62; McCoy, 39; Johnson, 2.

Most common starters: Weeden.

Analysis: Weeden’s rookie season never fully recovered from an awful debut – four interceptions and a 5.1 passer rating in a 17-16 loss. Even his high point was shrouded in a disappointing loss. He arguably outplayed Andrew Luck in Indianapolis, only to lose, 17-13, when Josh Gordon dropped a go-ahead TD pass with 6:38 to go. Ultimately, Weeden had some highs and lows. In 15 games, his 3,385 yards were second among rookie QBs to Luck, and he set franchise rookie records for wins, yards and various other categories. But his 72.6 passer rating was lowest among NFL rookie QBs and 29th overall. His 17 interceptions were tied for fifth-most. Weeden displayed a powerful arm and a nice, physical presence in the pocket. His deficiencies included inconsistent accuracy, repeated rejections at the line of scrimmage, slowness in reading the field, tendency to lock on receivers and breakdowns in the red zone. Overall, Weeden seemed uncomfortable in the plodding, language-heavy West Coast offense. He is still waiting to receive some positive feedback from the new management regime. McCoy bit his lip all year and then expressed anger about play-selection in a lost-cause relief role in Game 15. Lewis showed some life in a Game 16 start, but couldn’t complete a pass beyond 10 yards.

Bottom line: Weeden should benefit from the vertical passing game espoused by new coach Rob Chudzinski and coordinator Norv Turner. McCoy’s questionable arm strength would appear to be a ticket out of town.

Position: Specialists.

Players under contract (through year): Travis Benjamin (2015).

Players not under contract: Josh Cribbs, Phil Dawson, Reggie Hodges, Christian Yount.

Total special teams snaps: Cribbs, 336; Hodges, 152; Yount, 152; Dawson, 138; Benjamin, 16.

Analysis: Dawson earned his first Pro Bowl berth in his 14th season, perhaps his last with the Browns. Only 79 points from breaking Lou Groza’s fanchise scoring record, Dawson and the Browns have failed for two years to agree on a multi-year contract, resulting in him receiving the franchise tag two years in a row. Fine print in the CBA requires a club to pay a player tagged a third time 144 percent of his previous salary OR the highest franchise number at any position, whichever is more. In other words, franchising Dawson a third time would be prohibitive – about $15 million. New CEO Joe Banner’s history, anyway, is to discard players beyond 30 and Dawson is 37. Hodges had a rough year coming back from 2011 Achilles surgery – 31st in gross average and 30th in net. Like Dawson, Cribbs has probably outlived his time in Cleveland, especially with Banner making the decision. If so, Benjamin’s franchise-record 93-yard punt return for a touchdown was a nice audition for the heir-apparent for Cribbs.

Bottom line: With so many expiring contracts, it looks like major change is in the offing.

Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com.

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Email your “Hey Tony” questions to tgrossi@espncleveland.com

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi

 

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