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Browns season preview: Promising D in Cleveland

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Around the NFL's season preview continues with the AFC North.

Change we can believe in


The Browns added a terror to an already solid defensive front. Danny Shelton has all the makings of a dominant interior lineman who will immediately wreak havoc up the gut. The Browns' line is their strongest unit, and with a big year from rookie Shelton, it could vie for one of the best in the NFL. Desmond Bryant is the team's best mauler and Randy Starks on the opposite side should win in 1-on-1 matchups.

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Cleveland will need its defense to be dominant -- a top-three unit -- to stay out of the AFC North cellar.

Biggest concern


Can we be concerned about the entire offense? Outside of the offensive line, what is there to like? The receiving corps is so lacking in useful non-5-foot-9 targets that the Browns kept converted quarterback Terrelle Pryor without seeing him play much this preseason. The backfield has some positives in Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson, but the rookie running back is still in concussion protocol.

In the end, those playmaking deficiencies could be overcome if Cleveland had a quarterback. But, like the last 20 years, it does not. Starting Josh McCown is like going to a steakhouse and only ordering a tomato salad. It barely works as a salad. It certainly isn't a steak. Johnny Manziel is dealing with elbow tendonitis. This is depressing.

Training camp surprise


The Browns traded Terrance West to the Tennessee Titans on Sunday, clearing the way for Crowell to start. Some initially projected West as the Browns' opening day starter after Cleveland moved up in the third round last year to draft the running back. The trade will provide more opportunities for Johnson to split carries once he's out of concussion protocol. There is good upside with Johnson, so the trade could be a plus for the Browns' consistency in the backfield.

What we'll be saying in February


Like every other year, the Browns still need a quarterback.

Predicted finish: Fourth place in AFC North, No. 16 in AFC, No. 29 overall in Around the NFL's Power Poll.

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