Johnny Manziel. OK, now that we’ve gotten that out of the way …
Seriously, though, it’s going to be all about Johnny Football for the Browns this year, regardless of whether he’s holding a clipboard or imaginary dollar bills during a post-TD celebration. The Browns knew exactly what they were getting in that regard when they selected Manziel in May. What they don’t know for sure is whether Manziel’s style of play will translate to the NFL level. Figure them to find out sooner rather than later, even if Brian Hoyer winds up being the Week 1 starter.
Truth be told, there are lots of other intriguing story lines on this Browns team, not the least of which is a very quotable and opinionated head coach in Mike Pettine. And though the search to get Pettine was a near-disaster, the truth is the Browns have themselves a guy many around the league believe will be a good head coach. Pettine’s personality, combined with the Manziel factor, should make for great theater.
Whether it’s Manziel or Hoyer under center, the quarterback figures to be without his top target in wide receiver Josh Gordon. The NFL hit Gordon with an indefinite suspension in the spring because of another violation of the substance-abuse policy. And there isn’t much optimism on Gordon’s side that he will get the suspension reduced. In other words, it doesn’t seem likely he’ll be playing this season.
That means the Browns will need stellar play from a defense that got a bit of a makeover this offseason with the additions of free agents Donte Whitner and Karlos Dansby. Pettine, who spent time as the New York Jets’ defensive coordinator under Rex Ryan, has borrowed Ryan’s tactics for creating chaos up front and putting his players in position to make plays.
"I’ve never seen this many plays put in during OTAs and minicamp. I can’t say too much, but the scheme is perfect," Dansby told FOX Sports with a laugh recently. "It’s right on time for everybody on the defense and for me, where I’m at with my career."
The 32-year-old Dansby has never made a Pro Bowl.
"Time to shed that underrated label," he said.
Disagree with our ranking? Vote for your own rankings right here and visit our 32 to 1 index page to keep track of the teams as they are revealed.