The Barber brothers took over CBS Sports Radio on Monday, as FOX Sports NFL analyst Ronde Barber dropped by Tiki and Tierney to discuss the upcoming NFL season.
Ronde is big on two teams that finished 7-9 last year. One of them, the Minnesota Vikings, should come as no surprise. After all, second-year quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is a year older and will have Adrian Peterson and Mike Wallace at this disposal. For those reasons alone, many analysts see Minnesota as a legitimate Wild Card team.
Ronde’s other sleeper team, though, is a little more comatose. That would be the Cleveland Browns, who got off to a surprising 7-4 start last year before losing five straight to end the season. The Browns haven’t finished with a winning record since 2007 and haven’t made the playoffs since 2002.
And yet, Ronde has hope.
“In the AFC North, they might create a little bit of noise,” Ronde said. “Josh McCown is their quarterback now. Mike Pettine and that crew, I think, have something going for them in his second year.”
But what have the Browns done to legitimately compete in a tough division?
“I’ll give you three names,” Ronde said. “One of them is their first draft pick: Danny Shelton. The guy’s a monster. I heard stories and then I saw him on film and it’s very evident they hit a home run with that defensive tackle in the draft. Second, they went out and got Randy Starks, an 11-year vet (who) played at Miami, to help that defensive line. (The Browns) were very poor in run defense last year. Those two guys alone, with some of the guys that they have on the roster now, I think significantly help that defense. And lastly, they got Tramon Williams, the corner out of Green Bay who was a free agent, (to replace) Buster Skrine, who left to go to the Jets.
“(With Williams) in that secondary – I mean, you can rightly put them in the conversation of one of the best in the league,” Ronde continued. “They’re not the Legion of Boom because they don’t carry the moniker like that, but they were second in the league in interceptions last year (and first in) passer completion percentage. These are a lot of good things going on on defense last year on the back end, and I think they shored it up a little bit this year on the front end. So that side of the ball is going to be good.”
Of course, the Browns were good on that side of the ball last year, allowing 21.1 points per game – ninth best in football. The offense, meanwhile, averaged just 18.7 points – 27th in football.
Can journeyman quarterback Josh McCown really put this team over the top? Ronde thinks it’s possible.
“If they get a quarterback that can play well and not create a bunch of turnovers like Josh unfortunately did last year in Tampa, I would be excited about Cleveland,” Ronde said. “They’re in a tough division, but they have a chance.”