Going into the 2016 season, many experts project that the Cleveland Browns will be the worst team in the NFL. Over the weekend, ESPN's Bill Barnwell ranked each team's best offensive and defensive triplets. Now you may be asking yourself "What's a triplet?" Here's the clarification for what the triplets could be:
Offense: For each team, a quarterback was automatically slotted for one of the three triplets. The other two players could consist of any of the team’s wide receivers, running backs, and tight ends.
Defense: While there was a common template on offense (i.e. one quarterback, then two of a wide receiver, running back, or tight end mix), the defense could range from three defensive lineman for one team to three defensive backs for another.
On offense, the Browns triplets are quarterback Robert Griffin III, wide receiver Corey Coleman, tight end Gary Barnidge.
This won't be the only time the Browns finish last in a list this year, and finishing at the bottom of this one won't qualify them for future draft picks. The nicest thing you can say about Cleveland's woeful collection of skill-position talent is that it's relatively young and with upside. RG III is just 26, having been born the same year (1990) as the still-blurry picture of Brock Osweiler, so it's fair to say his long-term fate as a professional quarterback remains unresolved.
Coleman, the first of five receivers the Browns drafted this year, seems to be the one decision Cleveland made during draft week that everyone agrees upon. And while Barnidge is already 30, he quietly produced a stretch of Rob Gronkowski-esque play last season despite some of the league's worst quarterback play. What's most amazing, perhaps, is that the Browns have significantly upgraded their skill-position talent from a year ago and are still last.
On defense? Cornerback Joe Haden, defensive tackle Desmond Bryant, and linebacker Paul Kruger.
And so, sadly, the Browns finish at the bottom of the offensive triplet rankings and the bottom of the defensive triplet rankings. Years of disappointing first-round picks and questionable free-agent signings have left the Browns bereft on the defense. They have a legitimate No. 1 cornerback on the roster in Haden, but the former Florida star was riddled with injuries last season and may not be ready for the start of the 2016 campaign. There's still time for players such as Danny Shelton and Justin Gilbert to develop under a new coaching staff, but there's little to be enthused about on defense for Cleveland.
The Browns are in rebuilding mode—again. If it feels like they have been every season since their return in 1999, well—they have been. But, to be ranked dead last on both sides of the ball shows how much work head coach Hue Jackson and the rest of the front office has to do in order to turn this city around.
The brown and orange (oranger?) may struggle this upcoming season, but things look to only be going up at this point. They have to, right? With such a young team that has plenty of talent, the new coaching staff will likely be able to distill their winning nature into a team that is so used to win.