Monday, July 7, 2008

10 Browns Who Could Surprise in 2008

With the Cleveland Browns kicking off training camp in Berea, Ohio on July 27th it is time to take a look at some of the players, games and storylines for the upcoming 2008 NFL season.

Last month I examined ten players on the Browns that have something to prove in 2008. Today, I look at ten players who could contribute a little more than expected in the upcoming season. (Players listed in alphabetical order.)

DB – Gary Baxter
If Baxter makes it back it would be a miracle after his failed attempt last year to return from two torn patella tendons. But if he does it could provide the Browns with some much needed depth in the secondary even if only in specialty packages. If he just sets foot on the field again it would be amazing.

LB – Beau Bell
Bell has gotten a lot of press because he was the Browns’ first draft pick this year. But he’s still a 4th rounder and to ask him to contribute right away is a lot to ask of second day pick. He comes with a rep as a more than solid tackler, something the Browns’ linebacking corps sorely need.

CB – A. J. Davis
A second day draft pick of the Detroit Lions last year, Davis spent 2007 on the Browns’ practice squad. The Browns caught lighting in a bottle with unsigned rookie Leigh Bodden in 2003 and hope to do the same with Davis. With Bodden now in Detroit, as part of the Shaun Rogers trade, it would be ironic if Davis could step up and help fill the void that is left.

OG – Rex Hadnot
Hadnot is already earning his keep working with the first team at RG after Ryan Tucker’s hip surgery. Just like Tucker stepped in for an injured Seth McKinney in 2007, Hadnot has the opportunity to repeat the feat this year. He has started 16 games for three consecutive seasons. Cohesion is always key for offensive line play and Hadnot might end up being a big part of it.

RB – Jerome Harrison
Harrison is a NFL Pre-Season all-star, often shining against the oppositions’ B squads. He has shown flashes of brilliance on screens and draws when he has opportunities but did not dress at times in 2007. Is this the year that he could be a change of pace / specialty back to spell Jamal Lewis from time to time and add yet another wrinkle to the Browns’ offense?

DB – Mil’von James
The Cleveland Browns are quickly becoming the Midwestern Campus of UNLV. After drafting Eric Wright last year and Beau Bell this year, James was signed as a rookie free agent after they discovered him scouting Bell. As mentioned with Baxter and Davis above, the Browns’ lack depth in the secondary, especially corner. And, as with Davis, they hope to find another free agent/waiver wire steal.

LB – David McMillan
Another Pre-Season stand-out, McMillan’s opportunities in the regular season are few and far between. With Willie McGinest entering his final year before retirement and Antwaan Peek yet to show he can stay healthy for 16 games it would be nice to see McMillan be able to step up and do something when it matters. Shawntee Orr and Kris Griffin being primarily special teamers, McMillan’s time to step up is now if he can.

QB – Brady Quinn
Was there anyway “The Golden Boy” wasn’t going to be on this list? Derek Anderson is going to be, and should be, the starting QB barring injury or a complete derailment. There is no debating that. But injuries to the QB are all too common in the NFL and you never know what hand fate will deal you.

WR – Travis Wilson
Travis Wilson is my least favorite player on the Browns right now by far. Really far. We are talking in the genre of Kevin Johnson, Quincy Morgan, Andre Davis and my nemesis, Dennis Northcutt. Wilson declared himself the “best receiver of the 2006 draft” and proceeded to hold-out and register a whopping 2 receptions for 32 yards. To top that, he was inactive for all 16 games in 2007. All 16 games.

He wasn’t injured, on the practice squad or the third QB. He was just inactive for all 16 games. He couldn’t even beat out Tim Carter for the third WR spot and Carter caught 8 passes… all year. With Carter not retained, Josh Cribbs still focusing on special teams and Joe Jurivicius’ future uncertain after a fourth knee surgery Wilson once again has an opportunity to prove himself. Whether he can or not will determine his future with the Browns and, most likely, the NFL.

P – Dave Zastudil
A punter, you say? Yes. While with the Baltimore Ravens, Zastudil was one of the most consistent, reliable punters in the NFL. Back problems sabotaged his season in 2007 as he was plagued with shaky efforts now and again while Browns Fans were subjected to “The Paul Ernster Experience” and Scott Player’s single-bar facemask and porno ‘stache. We need not be privy to those things again.

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All Bleacher Report articles are also concurrently posted on my blog: A Clevelander in Exile.