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October 25, 2011 - Zach Baker
Aside from family members and Van Morrison music, there's very little I hold as dear to me as much as the Cleveland Browns. Whenever I write about them, though, I am usually taken back in time, before the move, before Bill Belichick, before the 1990s.
It hit me recently that I've been following the new Browns for longer than I followed the old. I was 15 when the Browns skipped town. I didn't really start following the Browns until 1986. But when I think about what made me a Browns fan, it was a stretch between 1986 and 1989. What amazes me now is how many Browns fans I see that are much younger than me. Their only version of the Browns has to be the one that started in 1999, and they still love them.
And as the last three weeks have shown us, there's not a whole lot to love. Then again, for the first time since 2001, the Browns have a defense I actually enjoy watching. People like quarterbacks and passes and scores in the 40s. But give me an aggressive, tenacious non-Ravens defense any day of the week. And the guy I like the most on the defense?
Jabaal Sheard. I honestly believe the rookie DE will surpass Phil Taylor and be the beast up front the Browns really haven't had since Michael Dean Perry. I remember (here we go, another 1980s flashback) announcer Casey Coleman saying of Michael Dean "right now he's playing better than his brother could ever hope to play."
This was big, because William Perry was still a star in the league.
Of course, I love Joe Haden and T.J. Ward as well. I really think that Mike Holmgren and Tom Heckert got together and decided the fastest way to make the Browns competitive was to build the defense first.
While I can't call any of the Browns wins pretty, they are .500. So it's worked on some level.
The offense still is a mess. Colt McCoy is tough, he has a lot of leadership qualities, and he's smart, but I'm just not sure he has the talent to be a top-level NFL quarterback.
Peyton Hillis? I don't see him being with the Browns beyond this year. The best thing about Sunday's 6-3 win is that Montario Hardesty ran 33 times and didn't get hurt. The bad thing is he didn't exactly break many big runs.
The most troubling part of the Browns? Special teams. A bad call negated what would have been the second return for a TD in as many weeks. Two blocked field goals don't inspire confidence either.
But I do think the team will get better as the season goes on.