1. The Ghost
Every time Jerome Harrison touches the ball, you can't help to get excited about what might happen. Harrison in the offense was as exciting as Joshua Cribbs in the return game. It was obvious for whatever reason Romeo Crennel did not trust Harrison enough to give him more opportunities.
Harrison is in prime position to become a star in this league. The change in offensive line philosophy of going to bigger, more physical linemen always appears to help the smaller back that possesses vision and balance. With age and injury slowly catching up with Jamal Lewis, there just might be a possible ghost sighting in Cleveland.
2. Alex Hall
Hall has obvious pass-rushing skills and his play against the run is underrated. He must become stronger physically, but he's in great position to have a break-out year.
Rob Ryan has vowed to bring a more aggressive defense to the Browns. Shaun Rogers is going to be turned loose. Kamerion Wimbley is going to be coming from different angles and different positions. We know both Mangini as well as the Ryan family loves the interior blitz. While all these things are going through the minds of offensive coordinators, Hall will often be overlooked and free to beat his man and get to the quarterback.
3. Braylon Edwards
There were trade talks. There is the mystery injury. There is the attitude. There is the contract situation. There were also 16 touchdowns just two seasons ago.
Mangini equates discipline to production on the field. No player on this Browns roster will benefit more from the added discipline than Braylon Edwards. Mangini expects his players to take care of the smallest of detail. Those details have been at times overlooked by the young receiver, and led to last year's mental meltdown in making the catch. With more focus on the details, route-running, minimizing penalties, lining up properly, catching the football and becoming a leader to the young receivers will occur for B-Easy.
Anderson saved Crennel's job just two years ago and that fact is simply hard to overlook. Quinn is far from a shoe-in for the starting job, but he will receive the opportunity to compete and his leadership ability is one of the qualities the new regime is looking for.
5. Shaun Rodgers
The big man was arguably the best defensive linemen in football last year not named Albert Haynesworth. It is hard to believe that Rogers could be even better this year, but with more emphasis on pressuring the pocket Rogers' star could shine even brighter.
With players coming from every angle and with quarterbacks needing more time to read the defense, Rogers will have greater opportunity for success. Remember, the inside blitz is a favorite of the new regime and, with players blitzing alongside Rogers, there is more one-on-one situations and there isn't a center in the game today that the talented lineman believes he cant beat mano-y-mano.
6. Big George Foster
Despite all of his talent coming out of the University of Georgia, Foster has simply failed to live up to the level of talent that he possesses. I am not a fan of excuses, but Foster is more of a victim of circumstance than most believe. He is a straight-ahead mauling type of linemen. He has better-than-average feet, but his main asset was his power. That power was taken away by the zone-blocking philosophy in Denver and the failed communication in Detroit. I am not really sure what scheme was being implemented in Detroit last year and I am not sure if the players did either.
The bottom line is this big man is finally in a system that fits his physical skill set. He is performing for a fan base that loves big guys who can plow their way to success. His signing may have garnered little news, but Big George may very well end up being the biggest signing of the new regime in more ways than one.
7. Jamal Lewis
Lewis may have turned 30. He may have lost a step. He may have a couple of young backs nipping at his heels but the veteran back still brings power, vision and balance to the table. The finesse line simply failed to take advantage of the raw power and brutal rage that made Lewis a great running back.
This year's line is much bigger, more physical and like Lewis, they should be at their strongest in the fourth quarter. The greatest benefit for Lewis will be in short yardage situations. The Browns threw the ball on third and inches because they knew they did not have the bulls to stampede the opposition. That will change with the likes of Porkchop Womack, Alex Mack and Big George Foster opening up the right side.
8. Anyone playing TE
Kellen Winslow was a terrific pass-catching tight end, but his mental mistakes cost the Browns. His inability to practice hurt the Browns and his inability to block hurt the Browns. Getting a second-round pick for Winslow was highway robbery.
The Browns will be employing more two-tight end sets. Steve Heiden has sure hands and can block like an extra offensive linemen. Robert Royal never lived up to his potential but he is a solid acquisition. Martin Rucker has the hands and he is a willing blocker. He is still learning but he has the want-to and possesses the terrific size necessary to be a solid blocker.
9. Phil Savage
Savage has taken a beating in the press. It seemed as if he could do nothing right one year ago. He is criticized for trading away draft picks, trading up in the draft, throwing Crennel under the bus and for his public soap opera with Winslow. No one was surprised when he was fired.
Savage, however, has a chance to redeem himself. If Ryan and Mangini can turn this team around, then Savage may be looked upon in different light. I have always believed the ex-GM was drafting for a Ravens type of defense and not players to fill the bend-don't-break philosophy employed by Crennel. We will have that answer soon enough.
10. The Fans
The Cleveland Browns fan base deserves a team that they can be proud of. A team that represents the blue collar work ethic and attitude that makes the city of Cleveland special. Most fans want the type of defense that is seen in Pittsburgh and Baltimore. When you see missed tackles, you want to see tackling practiced. When you see players jumping offsides and lining up in the wrong position, you expect discipline and corrections.
On third and inches, its a test of will and you expect your team to want it just a little more than the other guy. In a two minute drill, there is an expectation of at least looking like you have run that drill before.
ESPN forgot the Browns in their recent preview of the AFC North. The national media hasn't had a lot of praise nor respect for Mangini and the Browns. Frankly, Mangini and the Browns thus far seem like the perfect combination. Both have endured harsh lessons as media darlings at the first sign of success only to become the butt of jokes during their struggles.
Maybe this regime will get it; so far so good.