Browns moving north in division

Ben Roethlisberger and Carson Palmer are both coming back from injuries and Steve McNair is starting with a new team. As for the Browns, an injury-free young Charlie Frye will get his opportunity to be the man behind center this season. Romeo Crennel enters his second season as head coach of the orange and brown and things are looking bright in Cleveland. In his AFC North preview, SI.com writer Don Banks spotlights the Browns as the “team on the rise” in the division.

They’re not quite ready to give the Steelers and the Bengals a run for the top rung of the AFC North, but the Browns are finally starting to put some pieces together on the personnel front.

Offensively, much depends on what Cleveland gets from second-year quarterback Charlie Frye and two injury-plagued former first-round picks — tight end Kellen Winslow and receiver Braylon Edwards. But Reuben Droughns has supplied a legitimate running game, and the Browns have upgraded their offensive line again with the addition of Pro Bowl center LeCharles Bentley.

On defense, adding veterans Willie McGinest and Ted Washington will definitely help in the locker room, but don’t expect either one to perform as if they were in their prime. The draft, however, supplied two future playmaking cogs in Crennel’s 3-4 defense: end Kamerion Wimbley and inside linebacker D’Qwell Jackson. How quickly they develop may determine the level of improvement of Cleveland’s defense this year.

When speaking of rising stars in the AFC North, Banks declares Kellen Winslow II as a prime candidate.

A phenomenal talent at the University of Miami, Winslow has prototypical tight-end skills in the NFL’s pass-happy era and could quickly emerge, if healthy, as Frye’s favorite target. Until Edwards proves ready to return from his own knee injury, in mid-October or so, Frye’s only proven receiving option figures to be Joe Jurevicius, making Winslow even more attractive as a target.

K2 is finally healthy and has had an outstanding off-season, both in the weight room as well as with Charlie Frye building chemistry. I can hardly contain my excitement and can’t wait to see him on the field again.

As for the team itself, everything looks great on paper now but much of our success this season will depend on Frye. Our improved defense should be able to keep us in every game and it’ll be up to Charlie to manage the game effectively. While he doesn’t have to be a star and win games by himself, he will have to limit his mistakes on the field. After all, opening day will be just his sixth regular season start. Secondly, will he even last the entire season? He bulked up in the off-season in order to prepare his body for the 16-game NFL schedule and if he goes, so will the Browns’ offense.

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