Mid-Season Report

TheOBR's senior Browns reporter Fred Greetham hands out his grades for the Browns first nine games, as the team — in the thick of the AFC North race — now begins preparation for their final seven.

BEREA--The Browns are within one win from their season total of 2012 and find themselves in the hunt in the AFC North. The bye week comes a little past the midway point of the season, so we're going to break down each position and assign a grade to each.

Quarterback--If Browns fans were told they would've started Brian Hoyer and Jason Campbell in five of the first nine games, most would assume the team was on it's way to another four or five win season. Hoyer started the season as the third team quarterback and was 3-0 as a starter. Campbell started as the second teamer and replaced Brandon Weeden, who was 0-4 as the starter. Weeden was hurt in the second game and returned when Hoyer went down and was at the helm for losses to the Lions and Packers before being replaced by Campbell. Campbell is 1-1 as a starter and was named AFC Player of the Week for his performance last week against the Ravens. Overall, the quarterbacks rating is a combined 79.8, but Campbell is 106.6 and Hoyer was 82.6 before his season-ending injury. This season was about seeing if Weeden was the answer at quarterback and the question has been answered. Overall, we'll consider the group as a whole: B

Running Back--Way back in the spring during OTAs and minicamp, it appeared one of the Browns strongest positions was running back. Trent Richardson was billed as the workhorse back who was being projected to touch the ball over 300 times with Dion Lewis the change of pace back, Montario Hardesty the backup to go along with Chris Ogbonnaya and Brandon Jackson. Rob Chudzinski was asked why the Browns signed Jackson as a free agent with the stable of backs already under contract and he prophetically said "You can never have too many running backs". Lewis suffered a season-ending injury in training camp and Hardesty had numerous injuries, including a knee injury that resulted in surgery. He was subsequently waived. Jackson was released in the final cuts. Richardson was traded after two games and the Browns have been using a running back by committee. Thirty two year old Willis McGahee was added, as was Fozzy Whittaker. Ogbonnaya has been used as a fullback and has had some rib injuries. Chudzinski and Norv Turner hinted that Ogbonnaya might be used more as he has the best average per carry among the backs at 5.3 per carry. McGahee is averaging just 2.6 per carry and the group as a whole has just one rushing touchdown: C-

Wide Receiver--After serving his two-game suspension, Josh Gordon has shown he has the potential to be a big-time play maker. Gordon is averaging 17.9 yards per catch and has three 100-yard games receiving. Greg Little did little (pun intended) until his breakout game against the Ravens last week with seven receptions for 122 yards. Davone Bess had trouble hanging on to the ball until last week when he came up with three big catches in the win over the Ravens, including two for touchdowns. With the loss of Travis Benjamin for the season, the trio needs to continue to play more consistently: B-

Tight End--The Browns were hoping that Jordan Cameron would be able to emerge and be a play maker for the Browns in Turner's offense. In the first nine games, Cameron had 50 receptions for 600 yards (12.0 avg.) and six touchdowns. However, teams have slowed him down in the let couple of games and they need to continue to find a way to get him involved. Gary Barnidge has been an under-the-radar backup, who scored a touchdown last week. MarQueis Gray is just learning the position and is utilized as the 'wildcat' quarterback: A

Offensive Line--The line has given up 31 sacks, but 21 when Weeden was under center. It's hard to know if it was the line's fault or Weeden's or a combination of both. The running game has been virtually non-existent with just one rushing touchdown and an average of just 3.7 yards per carry. The top two right guards, Shawn Lauvao and Jason Pinkston, missed the start of the season and the Browns had some early season troubles with the domino effect of switching backup tackle Oniel Cousins to right guard. Lauvao missed the first five games and the line has stabilized since. Pinkston was activated this week and is expected to play his first game against the Bengals. It is assumed that Lauvao will continue as the right guard. Joe Thomas has had a solid season and Mitchell Schwartz had problems at the start of the season, but in part of having Cousins next to him. Alex Mack and John Greco have been steady: B-

Defensive Line--The trio of Phil Taylor, Desmond Bryant and Ahtyba Rubin have been very good. Bryant had 3.5 sacks and Rubin and Taylor have combined for three more. The group has been stout against the run, ranking seventh in the NFL in that department. John Hughes, Armonty Bryant, Ishmaa'ily Kitchen and Billy Winn have given the front solid depth: A

Linebackers--The Browns added Paul Kruger and Quentin Groves in free agency and drafted Barkevious Mingo with the sixth pick in the first round of this year's draft. Kruger has 43 tackles, but just 2.5 sacks. However, he has had a sack in the last two games. Mingo had sacks in his first three games and has a total of four to lead all NFL rookies, as well as the Browns. Groves has been productive, when healthy, as he has two sacks, but has missed four games with ankle injuries. Jabaal Sheard has made the adjustment to linebacker and has 2.5 sacks, despite missing three games with a knee injury. As a group, the outside linebackers have combined for 11 sacks. On the inside, D'Qwell Jackson leads the team with 81 tackles and 1.5 sacks. Craig Robertson is third with 68 tackles and three sacks: B+

Defensive Backs--Joe Haden and T.J. Ward were the only proven starters coming into the season. Both are playing well. Ward is second in tackles with 72. He also has 1.5 sacks and two interceptions, including one for a touchdown. Haden has 40 tackles and picked up his first interception last week. He has 12 passes broken up. Buster Skrine was picked on often in the early part of the season, but has improved and is hiding his own. He leads the team with 17 passes broken up. Skrine has 49 tackles, including a sack and an interception. Gipson has 62 tackles, with two interceptions and 11 passes broken up. Chris Owens has 2.5 sacks and three passes broken up. Third-round draft pick Leon McFadden has not been able to get on the field thus far, but Ray Horton said he is confident in him and sounded as though he is getting close to being in the rotation: B

Special Teams-- Billy Cundiff has made 13-of-15 field goal attempts and all 18 of his PATs. Spencer Lanning has averaged 45.7 yards a punt. The punt return game was good until Travis Benjamin suffered a season-ending tear of the ACL. Fozzy Whittaker seems to have settled the kickoff return. Chris Tabor's unit has allowed a season long of just 34 yards on kickoff returns and 36 on a punt return: A-

Coaching Staff-- Chudzinski has done a good job with the turmoil the team went through in the first half of the season. The Richardson trade was a huge deal so early in the season and Chudzinski kept the team united. He has handled the quarterback position well with three different starters in the first eight games. For a rookie head coach, he has the team playing as good as could be expected. He has been aggressive, especially on fourth down: A-

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