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CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora breaks down the Browns

Posted Jul 29, 2014

Football analyst sees better record for Cleveland

Jason La Canfora shares his thoughts on the 2014 Cleveland Browns.

JLC on the quarterback competition:

“I think it’s a competition in the sense that if (QB) Brian Hoyer somehow loses this job, the other guy starts. You’re trying to develop (QB) Johnny Manziel more for long term than short. There isn’t a pressing need for him to be ready by week one. I have a hard time thinking anything short of catastrophic injury, Brian Hoyer keeps his job. I love the guy. There’s nothing not to love about the guy. Is he the most gifted quarterback in the world? No. Will he maximize his talent? Yeah. He’s efficient. He’s smart. If you lose, it’s not going to be because of him. He can operate this offense. I look at speed of thought. He’s so much faster than Johnny Manziel in speed of thought, and for that reason alone, you don’t need to have that kid on the field week one. I think (offensive coordinator) Kyle (Shanahan) will have a wrinkle or two. I think third and short, goal line—they’ll find ways to get him on the field. You don’t need him throwing the ball 35 times a game.”

JLC on who’s going to step up for this team on wide receiver:

“It’s hard for me from a health standpoint to vouch for (WR) Miles Austin or (WR) Nate Burleson. I liked them both when they were in their primes. If they’re can add something, but at this stage no one has the explosion (WR) Josh (Gordon) has and no one has the size Josh has. He’s a different animal. I like (WR) Anthony Armstrong a lot. He can help with special teams. He can be an occasional deep threat. People aren’t going to double Anthony no matter how well he’s playing every time he’s on the field. There’s only one of those guys. I’m interested to see what this means for your tight end because I talked to other teams and they’re saying, ‘we’re going to bracket the heck out of him and if anybody else can beat us one-on-on then Godspeed.’”

JLC on how he sees the running game playing out:

“I think (RB) Terrence (West) is going to get on the field. I do. I think it’s more of a competition than the quarterback is in that it really is open. I don’t think it’s any guy’s job to lose. I think it’s one guy’s job to win. The quarterback position really is one guy’s job to lose. I want to see Terrence in preseason games. He’s assuring me that he’s in this playbook and he can pass protect like a beast. I want to see it because that was a big issue when I talked to a lot of teams that were investigating him after the draft. Can he, at this level in a dynamic offense, always know where he has to be right off the bat? If he can, I think he’s going to be on the field in passing downs and running downs.”

JLC on how good this defense can be with the additions made this season:

“It can be very good. I want to see them stay healthy along the d-line. I want to see (DL) ‘Big Phil’ (Taylor)—get 16 games out of him. They have the potential to have a really good rotation there up front, but you start losing a guy or two here or there and that changes the dynamic. I certainly think that guys like (DB Donte) Whitner and (DB Karlos) Dansby are more at the tail-end of their career than the beginning, but I think they’re bridge guys. If you get a couple years out of them while you continue to replenish through the draft, that’s all that you’re looking for, and they add leadership. (Former Cleveland Browns LB) D’Qwell (Jackson) was a big loss. You want somebody who can step up and immediately be that man who you can turn to for help. I think they certainly have that in the linebacker position with Karlos Dansby. So yeah, it has the potential to be a very hard-hitting, aggressive defense. Obviously, it’s going to be about turnovers. Offensively, I think they’re a little limited. Give them a short field. Give Hoyer downs and distances that play to his strengths and you’re a competitive football team.”

JLC on where the Browns fit in the AFC North:

“I think they jump at least from the fourth lily pad to the third. If they had Josh, I would jump them to the second, maybe the first. It’s a tough division for me to handicap right now. Baltimore and Pittsburgh—their last couple draft classes, those guys need to step up now and be players. Not just on the roster, they need to be starters. They need to be top guys on that football team. If that’s the case, and traditionally those teams have drafted well, then I think there right there again. Then Cincinnati, can they do it four straight years? I’m a little bit of a skeptic. They lost both of their coordinators. People are down-playing that. I’m not. (Cincinnati QB) Andy Dalton is in a contract year. How is he going to handle that? I think it’s a somewhat up for grabs division, but I can’t pick the Browns yet. If they had Josh, I’d consider it more seriously.”

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