So let me try to explain my thinking behind this post. As I read about the past few days of training camp, I got to thinking that overall this Browns team isn't expected to do a whole lot, but individually, many Browns are expected to breakout (think Richardson, Gordon, Cameron, Haden, Mingo, Ward). It seems kind of contradictory, right? How can so many people expect such big things from so many players, but not expect big things from the team as a whole?
So I decided to play a little game with it. Since '99, what players at each position had the highest expectations going into a season? How many of the current Browns fall into this category? Maybe it'll help open some eyes to how big of a step so many Browns are expected to take this year. At the very least it'll be fun to remember back to when we Browns fans were justified in having high expectations for certain players...Without further adu:
Pre-2008 Derek Anderson
This is an easy one. In 2007 Derek Anderson had, by far, the best season of any Browns quarterback since they returned in 1999. With all of his returning weapons (in addition to a newly-arrived and pre-vehicular homicide Donte Stallworth) and another year of Rob Chudzinski's offense, Derek Anderson and the 2008 Browns had massive expectations. Remember when the crowd started chanting "Super Bowl!" at the opening of training camp? The outcome? Well, let's not go there.
Honorable Mention: Pre-2011 Colt McCoy (Note: A surprisingly respectable rookie performance unfairly raised expectations on McCoy in his first season as a starter)
Pre-2013 Trent Richardson
I almost went with pre-2008 Jamal Lewis here. He had over 1,300 yards, for an average of 4.4 yards
Enter Trent Richardson. It seems like it's almost being taken for granted here in Cleveland that Trent will be an animal with the rock in Norv Turner's offense. He's coming off almost a 1,000 yard rookie campaign with 11 rushing touchdowns, all while running with broken ribs and not having a full offseason to recover from knee surgery after his Alabama playing days. With Richardson at 100% (if he's as healthy as he says he is) people naturally expect him to dominate. Let's hope that's the case.
Honorable mention: Pre-2011 Peyton Hillis (Note: I've almost forgotten about Peyton Hillis at this point. Is it me or does he seem like FOREVER ago?)
Pre-2008 Braylon Edwards
He did it in 2007--his breakout third year so many people called for came to fruition. What reason did anyone have to think he'd come crashing down to earth in 2008 and be traded for a bunch of below-average New York Jets less than 24 months later? After almost a 1,300 yard, 16 touchdown season, Braylon was supposed to stay among the elite receivers in the NFL, living up to his #3 overall pick status. Unfortunately, that never happened. Actually, not unfortunately, I never liked Braylon.
Honorable Mention: Pre-2013 Josh Gordon (Note: Suspension aside, many people expect Gordon to thrive in Norv Turner's and Chud's big-play, downfield offense)
Pre-2007 Kellen Winslow Jr.
People forget that Kellen Winslow Jr. threw up 89 receptions, tying the team record with Ozzie Newsome, in 2006. It was also his first full season as a starter after breaking his leg on that onside kick his rookie year and dumping his crotch rocket in a parking lot his second year. I'd say 89 receptions in your first full year set a pretty good bar for 2007, and he didn't disappoint, posting 82 receptions for 1,100 yards and 5 TDs in 2007.
Honorable Mention: Pre-2008 Kellen Winslow Jr. (Note: After years like his in 2007, you just tend to expect similar production)
Pre-2013 Offensive Line (Joe Thomas, John Greco, Alex Mack, Shawn Lavauo, Mitchell Schwartz)
This unit has some big expectations coming into this year. Joe Thomas has a hall of fame worthy track record thus far in his career. Alex Mack is finally starting to get a little bit of national recognition he's deserved for a while. John Greco just got rewarded with a big contract this week and has even been singled out by Pro Football Focus as the Browns' "Secret Superstar." Mitchell Schwartz more than held his own as a rookie last year and it's not too big of a reach to expect him to continue to develop, especially under the tutelage of Thomas. Lavauo remains a weak spot, but with so many solid pieces around him, this unit is arguably the best since the team returned in 1999.
Honorable Mention: Pre-2007 Offensive Line (Joe Thomas, Eric Steinbach, Hank Fraley, Seth McKinney, Kevin Shaffer) (Note: With the arrivals of Thomas and Steinbach, this group had big expectations and lived up to them pretty well)
Pre-2002 Courtney Brown
I was young when Courtney Brown came up to Cleveland, but after looking at some of his college tape this guy was an animal. As was the case with many Browns draft picks, Brown showed us just enough to get our hopes up in his rookie year, with 4.5 sacks, and backed it up with 4.5 sacks in only 5 games in 2001. But in 2002 the injuries mounted and Brown was never able to live up to the potential he flashed in his early days, specifically in 2001.
Honorable Mention: Pre-2002 Gerard Warren (Note: High hopes after 5.5 sacks as a rookie interior lineman compared by many to Warren Sapp.)
Pre-2007 Kamerion Wimbley
Kam Wimbley's 11 sacks as a rookie led to huge expectations for his sophomore campaign.
Unfortunately, he was never able to develop a second pass rush move aside from the dip-the-shoulder-to-the-point-that-I'm-almost-parallel-to-the-ground move.
Honorable Mention: Pre-2013 Paul Kruger (Note: Coming off a breakout season with Baltimore and a fat contract from Cleveland, Kruger's being counted on to at least mirror his production with the Ravens this year)
Pre-2012 Joe Haden
A more than solid rookie season in 2010 and a nice development year in 2011 put Joe Haden on the fast track for a breakout year in 2012. With the positive test for Adderall, however, that was put on hold. Haden would be on this list for 2013, but he played so well when he returned in 2012 that he doesn't have massive expectations from last year to this year, fans just expect him to play like Joe, which is to say lockdown wideouts.
Honorable Mention: Pre-2013 Leon McFadden (Note: Ever remember expecting so much about a 3rd round pick from a non-BCS conference school? A lot of people are expecting McFadden to hop into the starting lineup and solidify the #2 CB spot. I hope he does it, but it's still a tall task)