The addition of Jamie Collins is seen as a huge one for the Cleveland Browns. In a time when the Browns were expected to tear down, they instead inserted a foundational piece directly into the heart of the defense.
With the expectation that Collins will either get a big contract extension from the Browns or be Franchised Tag, that is one important piece the team doesn't have to worry about long-term. With that out of the way, what else is missing between the Browns as losers and winners?
There are two ways to look at the team. First, we can go by the eye test, what we see on film about the talent, or lack of, currently on the roster. Second, we can look at the games so far this year and what players could have made the differences between winning and losing.
For the fans of the team, the Browns seem bereft of talent. Most don't believe in Cody Kessler as the quarterback of the future. The offensive line has gotten every QB, except for Kevin Hogan, hurt or injured this season and has struggled getting a push in the run game as teams have gotten film on them.
The defense has struggled to stop the run and pass. There is little pressure being put on the QB, with only 14 sacks, while the secondary looks to be the worst in the entire NFL. The Browns are in the bottom six of the major defensive categories: overall, passing and rushing yards as well as points against.
The eye test does tell us that there is talent on the roster. Terrelle Pryor, Corey Coleman, Isaiah Crowell, Duke Johnson, Joel Bitonio, Danny Shelton, Carl Nassib, Emmanuel Ogbah and Christian Kirksey all have given reasons for excitement. All young players that should join Collins as a part of the foundation of the team.
Veterans like Joe Thomas and John Greco are their usual solid selves while Joe Haden has dealt with injuries, motivation murmurs and trade rumor issues but still could be a low-level #1/very good #2 corner.
On a 53 man roster, that just isn't enough players to make for a great team but is it enough to equate to wins? So far it has not but it has been enough to make the games competitive and give fans hope that wins could be close at hand.
Adding another 8 to 10 good young players while bringing in 2 veterans in free agency or through trades, and the Browns will be in position to compete on a regular basis but the eye test says they are not close to winning.
Game by Game Evaluation
Week 1 and Week 5
The Browns lost to the Eagles 29 - 10 in Week 1 and 33 - 13 to the Patriots in Week 5. The team was outplayed in almost every phase of the games. Similar to the eye test, in Weeks 1 and 5 the Browns seemed to need at least double digits of players to be competitive.
Few teams would have had a chance against the returning Tom Brady in Week 5 but the Browns made rookie Carson Wentz look like Brady in Week 1 as well. Neither of these games were competitive, with each seeming to put huge rifts into the hopes of Browns fans.
In their home opener, the Browns took a big lead on the Ravens but had a huge turning point when they had an extra point blocked and returned for 2 points. After that, the Ravens popped off 23 more straight points and left the Browns reeling.
In this game, another defensive back alone could have made the difference, with Mike Wallace scoring two touchdowns, but another offensive lineman to help the run game bleed the clock would have been of great help. Another solid offensive lineman could have helped keep Josh McCown upright in a game that he was injured.
Against the Dolphins, the Browns would have won the game if they hadn't had to replace their kicker right before leaving for Miami. Cody Parkey has been very good since this game but with little time to work on timing, missed 3 field goals in a game that went to overtime.
Since then, Parkey has not missed a field goal and hasn't missed a single extra point.
The Browns were just a few days with their kicker away from winning this game.
Against Washington, Jordan Reed destroyed the Browns early in the game with two touchdowns and overall was the star of the game. The Browns still led by 3 going into the 4th Quarter. Reed's receptions, and the threat of Reed, opened things up for Washington and led to the 31 - 20 loss.
Having Jamie Collins to cover Reed would have changed the game. Played again with Collins and the Browns win this game.
Instead of blowing a lead this time, the Browns made a valiant effort in their comeback loss to the Titans, 28 - 26. Once again, the Browns pass defense was destroyed. QB Marcus Mariota threw for 284 yards with Kendall Wright and Rishard Matthews combining for over 200 receiving yards.
Like Week 2, another good secondary player, either a corner or free safety, could have been the difference in this game. Like Week 2, the offense struggled to establish the run and could have benefitted from another offensive lineman as well.
Against their division foe Bengals, the Browns were done in by two big plays. First, after Hue Jackson tried to get another score before half, A.J. Green skied to pull in a Hail Mary pass as time expired in the 2nd Quarter. Second, Jeremy Hill gashed the Browns for a 74 yard touchdown run, one of a few long runs in limited chances for Hill.
Not noted yet but the lack of pass rush has made it tough on the Browns secondary but Ogbah had 2 sacks in this game as he and Nassib put more pressure on Dalton than in weeks past.
Collins would have been very helpful against the run, helping to fill gaps appropriately as well as hold the edge. A corner or free safety, once again, would be huge in pass defense.
Last week, the Browns once again blew a big lead. Up 20 - 7 on the Jets, the Browns couldn't close the deal. They couldn't stop the run and were burnt by young size, speed, little known Quincy Enunwa.
Once again, Collins should be helpful in both areas of concern. When Ryan Fitzpatrick is only sacked twice and not forced into any turnovers, the Browns were clearly lacking playmakers on defense.
Game to Game
If the Browns had Collins all year, he alone could have led to a victory or two based on how games played out. Parkey being signed earlier in the week or had kicker Patrick Murray not gotten hurt, another victory would have been the Browns.
Replay the season with the team that takes the field for Week 9 and they could easily be 3 - 5 or 4 - 4.
Add another edge rusher, a secondary player and a strong offensive lineman and 5 - 3 or even 6 - 2 seems very possible.
The eye ball test says that the Browns are about 10 players short of playing winning football. Looking at each game, the Browns were between 1 and 3 players away from winning six of their eight.
How many players away are the Browns from being a winning football team? The answer probably lies somewhere in between. Thankfully, Collins has already been added, they have the cap space to add a couple good veterans in free agency if they want, their young players are bound to develop and they have a ton of draft picks to use to add talent.
The Browns are 0 - 8 but they are not that many players away from turning things around.
How many players do you think are the difference this season between 0 - 8 and a winning record?null