The Browns 2015 preseason certainly wasn’t the circus of the year prior, but it was interesting in its own special way.
A big-time Buckeye came back to Ohio and switched positions.
A veteran wide receiver showed some ludicrous love for his quarterback.
Another quarterback’s elbow was in enough pain to keep him out of the final two preseason games.
A fourth-round pick didn’t make the cut, nor did a preseason producer at wide receiver who made a great impression on his fellow players and fans alike.
Now, amidst preparation for their first game of this season against the New York Jets on Sunday afternoon, the Browns have set their 53-man roster, put the preseason in the past and are ready for another ride.
Though the Browns aren’t expected to have a fantastic finish to this current campaign, some things in Berea won’t be all that bad.
1. Danny Shelton will become a star, amidst a rock-solid rookie season
If there’s been one consistent thought that has permeated the minds of the fans, the media and the team alike amidst this preseason, it’s the thought that the Browns hit a home run with the selection of Shelton in the 2015 Draft.
Shelton shows not only an endearing love for the game each time he steps to the field, but he shows, as well, the ability to make a massive impact when the ball is snapped.
He’ll surely have his learning moments, and he’ll almost definitely rack up more double-teams faced than sacks, but Shelton is going to be a face that opposing centers won’t be thrilled to see.
2. The defense, as a whole, will finally live up to expectations
A year ago, the Browns defense was expected to be a much-improved group, but failed to produce to the predicted levels of hype.
The run defense was the least effective unit in the NFL and the pass defense wasn't all that spectacular, maybe due to the focus on stopping the run.
This season, although it may seem like deja vu all over again, the Browns defensive line— revamped with Shelton and Starks— will dominate the line of scrimmage and allow the defensive backfield to play to their potential.
3. The Browns defensive backfield will end up amongst the NFL’s best
Joe Haden is arguably the NFL’s best cornerback and won’t take a step back any time soon.
Tramon Williams is a savvy veteran, who will only help Haden and K’Waun Williams to continue upon their upward trajectories.
Donte Whitner and Tashaun Gipson seemingly have a firm grasp on not only their opponents, but on their own ability to communicate with each other.
For the aforementioned reasons, the Browns are going to boast a backfield that wreaks havoc on opposing passing attacks.
4. The Browns will have very good special teams
Though it might be a joke to some, the Cleveland Browns most valuable addition this offseason might have been Pro-Bowl punter Andy Lee, who’s foot can change the course of a game, especially when used often.
There’s little doubt that Lee will punt the ball as much as anyone in the NFL this season, thanks to the Browns and their lack of offense, so he’ll certainly be a factor all year long.
While Lee will be important, the growth of Travis Benjamin as a punt returner will prove to be important as well.
His growing ability to return punts will allow the Browns to score points in the return game— something they haven’t been able to do much since the days of Josh Cribbs.
Finally, Travis Coons will prove to be a serviceable kicker, though his services won’t often be needed.
5. Terrelle Pryor will show glimpses of being the Browns wide receiver of the future
It’s been said by just about everyone who’s watched him take the practice field in Berea: Terrelle Pryor’s size and athleticism on display give him the look of a dominant NFL wide receiver.
Heck, Joe Haden said it best.
“He looks like Calvin Johnson,” Haden said, “So if he can play like him…”
The three dots following the word “him” are precisely what Browns fans are feeling. The potential is there, but they need to see the product.
When that product is finally ready for play, Pryor will surely have his bumps and bruises, but he’s going to make some jaw-dropping plays that put the entirety of the NFL on notice.
Though there will be good for the Browns, there will more than likely be plenty of not-so-good.
1. The offense is going to be amongst the worst units in the NFL
From where will the Browns get offensive production?
Josh McCown is a mere game-manager with reckless tendencies.
Isaiah Crowell is a solid back, but the only healthy back on the Browns as of today.
Brian Hartline and Andrew Hawkins have been consistently productive, but with McCown behind center, it’s hard to imagine they’ll be able to make much of a difference.
The offensive line is great, but what good is a great offensive line if they have no one to block for?
That’s a hackneyed phrase, but it is almost certain to become a reality this season.
2. Dwayne Bowe will be a non-factor for the Browns
The Browns signed Dwayne Bowe to be their leading wide receiver this season and, as of this moment, he’s buried on the depth chart behind Brian Hartline and Travis Benjamin.
It’s not to say that Hartline and Benjamin are bad by any stretch, but the Browns didn’t sign Bowe to be a third-string receiver.
From what he’s shown in the preseason, Bowe looks more like an aging tight end than a play-making wide receiver, which is certainly not what the Browns were hoping for.
With that said, he’ll equal his 2014 touchdown total in 2015 for the Browns.
That total: zero.
3. The Browns running back situation will only get worse
They’ve already traded Terrance West.
Duke Johnson has seen minimal preseason action and has yet to live up to any of his lofty expectations.
The running backs coach, Wilbert Montgomery, has already expressed his disapproval of the work ethic of the backs in his room.
Needless to say, things are off to an ominous start for the Browns backs and that will only continue.
Isaiah Crowell will go through a bit of a sophomore slump, leaving the Browns with a combination of Shaun Draughn and an eventually healthy Duke Johnson to be productive.
The word “production” isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of Draughn and an oft-injured rookie.
With an offense based upon the running game, none of this bodes well for a good season behind the line.
4. Cleveland’s QB carousel will certainly continue
As was previously mentioned, Josh McCown has proven to be a bit reckless in his play, which will only start the QB carousel once again.
McCown’s production won’t force him to the sidelines— the Browns don’t expect him to be a game-changer— but if he’s injured on one of the brutal hits he’s seemingly been willing to take, Johnny Manziel would have to take over.
That shouldn’t be a problem, but it will once again hinder Manziel’s ability to develop into an NFL quarterback. Though he might be more prepared than a year ago, he’s still going to struggle and be privy to more hits, which won’t be good for his smaller frame.
With that being said, the Browns will be forced to use three quarterbacks throughout this season, if only because of McCown’s recklessness and Manziel’s frame.
5. Justin Gilbert will prove to be one of the 2014 NFL Draft’s biggest busts
Justin Gilbert appeared confused, daunted and devoid of all confidence on the football field throughout this preseason, leading many to wonder what prompted the Browns to pick him in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft.
Those thoughts have echoed around the league and will only continue to do so as Gilbert fails to turn things around this season.
It might not be fair to Gilbert, nor to the Browns, but if the corner can’t show any signs of growth, he may be considered amongst the worst draft choices by a franchise that boasts plentiful busts.
After going through all of the predictions above, without further ado, here is what will come of the previous prophecies.
Game 1: @ New York Jets
The Browns defense will keep the team in it until the very end, but the offense won’t be able to do enough against a stout Jets defense. It won't be the start that the team is hoping for.
Game 2: Tennessee Titans
The Dawg Pound will give the Browns the energy they need to get up for a game against a sub-par opponent. It'll come down to the wire, but First Energy Stadium will go crazy when Marcus Mariota throws a late interception to seal it for the home team.
Game 3: Oakland Raiders
Oakland is a sleeper with a great deal of young talent, but that talent won’t be clicking on all cylinders when they arrive in Cleveland. Though that may be the case, the Browns are devoid of offensive talent, leaving them with another loss.
Game 4: @ San Diego Chargers
The Browns will keep this game close against Philip Rivers and company, but the offense will let them down once again. The trend is apparent, but it’s real.
Game 5: @ Baltimore Ravens
Though he may be elite to some, Joe Flacco will toss a pair of interceptions in this one, but his defense will bail him out by holding the Brownies at bay
Game 6: Denver Broncos
Denver’s defense will be more porous than expected, allowing the Browns to do some damage in the Dawg Pound, but Peyton Manning is too much for Cleveland and for just about any team in the NFL.
Game 7: @ St. Louis Rams
This is one of those games that the defense will be able to win. Nick Foles will feel the pressure all afternoon and make some throws he’ll wish to have back. On top of it all, the Rams ability to run the ball will be thwarted by Danny Shelton’s best game as a pro to that point.
Game 8: Arizona Cardinals
Arizona is a bit of a mystery, but they’re well-coached. A couple of schematic moves prove too costly for the Browns, as they allow Carson Palmer to orchestrate a late TD drive that seals their sixth loss of the season.
Game 9: @ Cincinnati Bengals
The Browns went into Cincinnati last season and demolished the Bengals. The Bengals came in to Cleveland and demolished the Browns. This season, things will be much the opposite, as the Bengals cruise in the matchup in The Jungle.
Game 10: @ Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers offense will prove prolific, but their defense will be deemed desolate. The Browns will score more points in this game than any throughout the season, but the Pittsburgh offense will be too much to handle.
Game 11: Baltimore Ravens
At this point, the Browns are looking to play spoiler, but aren’t yet able to do so. The Ravens will be pressing for the playoffs and the Browns won’t have an answer.
Game 12: Cincinnati Bengals
The Browns return the favor, as they too remember Johnny Manziel’s first start in the NFL. Johnny will once again be suiting up for the Browns to start against the Bengals and he’ll have a much better afternoon this time around.
Game 13: San Francisco 49ers
Five field goals from the Browns hinder their ability to take down a hapless 49ers team. Johnny makes a couple of red-zone mistakes that cost his team a win at home.
Game 14: @ Seattle Seahawks
The Seahawks will prove quickly that the Browns are no match for them, especially in the home of the 12th Man. Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch have big days against a tired Browns defense, as the Cleveland offense sputters towards the finish line.
Game 15: @ Kansas City Chiefs
We’ll call this the “Austin Davis” game, although it might be difficult to prognosticate that Davis will be the Browns quarterback at this juncture in the season. Be it Davis or someone else, the Browns third quarterback will be ready to play and will rejuvenate the offense enough to give the Brownies their final win of the 2015 season.
Game 16: Pittsburgh Steelers
We’ve seen this movie before. Coming off of his big win, Austin Davis, or whoever the third QB may be, will walk into the Browns-Steelers rivalry with his spirits high…until the Iron Curtain quickly demolishes those dreams with a couple of big sacks. Then come the interceptions and, all of a sudden, things turns nightmarish for those watching at frigid First Energy.
2015 Browns Final Record: 4-12.
Mercifully, the 2015 season ends with the Browns near the bottom of the league, but near the top of the 2016 draft, thus continuing the never-ending cycle that is the Cleveland Browns.
Follow Hayden on Twitter or Instagram: @H_Grove.