Mario Duranstante II: Where do you realistically see the Browns finishing this year? What would be considered a successful Browns season if we don't make the playoffs? Thanks!
Kevin Jones: I've said from the moment I was hired in April, the Browns are capable of going 9-7; this season. For that to happen, many things would obviously have to go right.
First, and foremost, Brian Hoyer has to play like the quarterback he did last season against the Vikings and Bengals in 2013. He has to be more decisive with the football and he has to trust his arm – the veteran has very underrated arm strength and can make more difficult throws than you'd think. But Hoyer can't do it all by himself. Jordan Cameron, Miles Austin and at least one of the speedy receivers has to prove they can get open consistently throughout a whole game.
Secondly, if Ben Tate can put up Alfred Morris type of numbers (1,300 yards, 10 touchdowns), the Browns offense will not only be dangerous, it'll be downright feared. And on paper, why couldn't Tate at least come close to those numbers? He and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan have never had a potential elite offensive line working for them in the trenches. Further, Tate and Shanahan both are out to prove to the NFL world they can succeed in different scenarios. For Tate, it's being the main guy. For Shanahan, it's returning to commanding an offense without his father on looking.
The part I'm not worried about is the defense. I'm confident this unit will not only be in the top 10 in most statistical categories, but even potentially top five in the ones that matter – sacks, turnovers and third down percentage. The development of Armonty Bryant is truly an added bonus to an already stacked defensive line. If Barkevious Mingo translates his strong preseason into the regular season, watch out. Name another secondary in the AFC as complete as the Browns'? It's tough. Joe Haden, Donte Whitner, Tashaun Gipson, Buster Skrine and even Justin Gilbert will be put in one-on-one situations to get the football. Watch for Skrine especially to have a big season.
Couple all of the above with the fact that the AFC North's balance for power is completely up for grabs. The Bengals lost both of their coordinators. The Ravens have lingering question marks about their running game and at the cornerback position. The Steelers still have issues on the offensive line and are coming off back-to-back 8-8 seasons.
Mike Pettine has said many a time he knows this team will be judged on wins and losses. But if there is marked improvement on both sides of the football, and strong performances from rookies like Chris Kirksey and Joel Bitonio, I can envision scenarios walking away from this season satisfied, even without a playoff berth.
Kristen Jerry: What was the reason for releasing Rex Grossman?
Kevin Jones: This move had me puzzled when it first happened, too. I didn't understand releasing a veteran player with six years experience in offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan's complex system. Brian Hoyer, Johnny Manziel and Connor Shaw all had been quoted saying that Grossman was giving them real-time advice on the practice field, which was coming in helpful.
The reason Grossman was released, though, is that he wasn't one of the best 53 players available to the Browns. Cornerbacks like K'Waun Williams and Robert Nelson might be unproven, but they will likely see the field at some point this year, while Grossman wouldn't.
As Mike Pettine has continued to say, the roster is a fluid thing. There is a chance that Grossman is brought back – quite possibly in the very near future. But for now, the Browns decided they could live without him.
Doug Snyder: The whole 20 something undrafted free agents on the roster. Does that scream change the culture to you?
Kevin Jones: The number of undrafted free agents is a part of the culture change. The bigger part is that the Cleveland front office isn't afraid to admit they made an error. The Browns didn't hesitate to cut cornerback Leon McFadden. The third-round pick in 2013, struggled mightily in the preseason.
"If you feel like you made a mistake drafting a guy don't hold onto him," said Pettine. "I've seen that mistake made over the years. You evaluate when you're putting that roster together – very narrow focus. Who are our best player and who can help us win?"