“Counterparts to be counted on” is a 32-part series where we the “Front Office” of couchpotatogm.com analyze one offensive player and one defensive player on each team that MUST have a particularly strong individual season in 2015 for their respective teams to have a successful 2015 campaign. The ultimate goal is to win a Super Bowl but a successful season doesn’t always result in hoisting the Lombardi Trophy. No matter what “you” consider to be a success these counterparts are essential to achieving that goal.
Cleveland Browns “Counterparts to be counted on” 2015
Johnny Manziel – I didn’t think Johnny Manziel had a chance in hell to be successful at the NFL level considering the spread/sandlot brand of football he played at Texas A&M. Still not convinced. But it is imperative to determine if Manziel is the quarterback the Cleveland Browns should move forward with beyond 2015. Coach Mike Pettine continues to maintain that Josh McCown will be the Week 1 starter but however improbable anyone thinks it is that Manziel can provide stability to the quarterback position in Cleveland, the Browns and everyone under the sun should be aware that wasting live snaps on the journeyman McCown is a mistake. After only managing to start 50 games in his first ten seasons as a pro and amassing a 37-to-45, TD-to-INT ratio it only took an 8-game stretch where McCown played over his head (13-to-1, TD-to-INT ratio) to become the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ un-questioned starting quarterback (face-plant; 1 dreadful season) and now the Cleveland Browns’ staring QB (his SEVENTH team). If Pettine is using McCown as a motivational ploy for Manziel than sure, I suppose it makes sense to continue to support McCown despite the fact that the 36-year-old clearly isn’t the answer. But considering the Browns won’t be a playoff team in 2015 and the sooner you can confirm whether or not Johnny Manziel has truly dedicated himself to his craft, and is a viable option at QB, the sooner your franchise can move forward. With that being said, if healthy, Johnny Manziel should start all 16 games for the Browns in 2015.
You can’t coddle Manziel. I understand that there is a dearth of talent at receiver. I appreciate that he is less than a year removed from rehab (alcohol). I am all too aware that he entered the league with an unwarranted sense of entitlement and foolishly expected to simply “show up” and perform with little to no preparation. Yes, he’s taken steps in the right direction recently and yes he has yet to demonstrate any behavior other than that of a petulant child in the face of adversity but he still has more talent than Josh McCown. Time will tell if he has truly humbled himself, if his mechanics have improved, his command of a professional offense has progressed, and whether or not he can handle the pressure that comes with the ups and downs of being a professional quarterback. But, as I have stated before, now is the time to find out. The Browns need to “drop kick” that tire. Challenge him. Even if Manziel doesn’t start Week 1 I’m certain he will be named the starter by midseason. All that will do is limit the amount of film you have on Manziel to evaluate him and determine whether or not you should be looking for a starting quarterback in 2016.
Don’t get me wrong the Browns have a good offensive line. They have a group of talented young ball-carriers with Isaiah Crowell, Duke Johnson and Terrance West. And their defense is a legitimate strength, but neither of those position groups individually or collectively are good enough to support Josh McCown and compete in the AFC North. As far as I’m concerned, success for a team in search of their franchise quarterback is determining whether or not he is on the roster. Which means success in Cleveland in 2015 is one of two things: Manziel proves that the Browns’ organization should continue to build around him or the Browns hit the reset button and cut ties with Manziel. Anything in-between is a failure.
Danny Shelton – One of two first round selections for Cleveland in the 2015 NFL Draft, Danny Shelton is the all-important nose guard in Mike Pettine’s odd-man front. The Browns’ were the league’s worst rushing defense last season. That’s 32nd out of 32 teams. If nothing else, Danny Shelton’s 330+ lbs. will help clog running lanes in the heart of the Browns’ defense. However, whether he’s a two-down run stuffer extraordinaire or demonstrates the ability to create a pass rush from the interior Shelton’s presence on the field should certainly get Cleveland out of the basement in terms of run defense. Shelton, the 12th overall selection in the 2015 draft is a unique talent. Despite a playing weight north of 340 lbs. he was an effective every down interior defensive lineman. He led an impressive group of Washington Huskie defenders including fellow first round selections Marcus Peters and Shaq Thompson. As well as second round selection Hau’oli Kikaha.In 2014, Shelton’s production was staggering and somewhat reminiscent of Ndamukong Suh’s dominance in his last season at Nebraska.
- Ndamukong Suh – 2009 – In 14 games played 85 tackles; 20 tackles for loss; 12 sacks;
- Danny Shelton – 2014 – In 14 games played 94 tackles; 17 tackles for loss; 9 sacks;
Certainly not an apples-to-apples comparison as both players were asked to do different things. Also, I am not suggesting Shelton was as dominant a player as Suh (Suh is the highest paid defensive player in NFL history). But the totals above are incredible for any interior defensive lineman no matter what the scheme may be. It’s a testament to Shelton’s unrelenting motor. Something you simply cannot teach and is rare for a man of his size. The Browns have enjoyed little to no success throughout the duration of the franchise’s history so apathy among its players is not uncommon. Stopping the run has as much to do with grit and determination as it does run fits and technique. Shelton’s drive, sideline-to-sideline hustle and girth should go a long way to creating a more tenacious attitude among his teammates in terms of stifling the opposition’s running game. Besides the Browns’ run defense only has one way to go. Up!