1. Brandon Weeden put up solid numbers in the Browns' first preseason game, going 10-for-13 for 112 yards and a touchdown. How much progress has he made as an NFL quarterback over the course of the last year?
The difference this year in camp seems to be having a competent offensive coordinator and offensive system to work with. Seriously -- I wouldn't wish the combination of Pat Shurmur and Brad Childress on our worst enemy. Brandon Weeden is supposed to be a shotgun, down-the-field type of thrower. He was not in shotgun nearly enough last season, but was in that formation on most of his passing attempts against the Rams. He has also made a better effort to get rid of the ball quicker, and we've seen the subtle effects of that already. Some quarterbacks are just flat out disasters (Blaine Gabbert), but Weeden isn't anywhere near that territory -- he will make great strides statistically by the end of the year.
2. With the hiring of Rob Chudzinski as head coach and Norv Turner as offensive coordinator, how high are expectations for the Browns offense this year?
The expectations are quite high. Everything seems to be coming together at the right time. Trent Richardson is entering his second year, and is recovered from the broken ribs that plagued him much of last season. The wide receivers have more defined roles. Greg Little has a great sense of maturity and physical style of play. Josh Gordon (who is out the first two weeks with a suspension) has had a bit of a chaotic offseason, but was probably the best rookie receiver in the NFL last year.
Davone Bess comes over from the Dolphins to be a reliable slot receiver. Travis Benjamin, a guy some people might not know, is one of the fastest players in the league and will stretch the field. The Browns have the most complete offensive line in the AFC North. I already mentioned the improvements that are expected from Weeden. It's hard to put the expectations to words, but this statement seems to fit: several weeks into the season, there won't be any fans in the NFL who think the Browns' offense is a pushover.
3. On the other side of the ball, the hiring of Ray Horton as defensive coordinator seemingly received rave reviews around the league. What are your expectations for the defense in 2013?
Under Dick Jauron, we were used to a conservative, bend-but-don't-break style of defense. We'll do a 180 with Ray Horton. I can't tell you how many times Browns fans have heard the word "aggressive" this offseason, and that is up and down the depth chart. There are a lot of physical individual players on this roster, and Horton is expected to bring the pressure a lot this season. Cleveland rarely blitzed on third downs last season (~15%), but that number is expected to approach ~40% this season.
The Browns put a lot of effort into bolstering their front seven during the offseason, signing Desmond Bryant, Paul Kruger and Quentin Groves, and then drafting Barkevious Mingo at No. 6 overall. With those risks that the Browns take will come consequences. Cleveland needed to upgrade the cornerback and safety position this offseason, and they didn't. Instead, they opted to go with guys who have little to no starting experience. This will be an exciting defense to watch, but could be prone to giving up the big play. As far as expectations go, so much has changed that I'm waiting to find out myself how things unfold during the regular season.
4. What are the main position battles currently taking place in Browns training camp?
There are a few competitions remaining; some of them have been settled already. The Browns did not re-sign their kicker or punter this offseason, and both positions have competitions with no clear favorite yet. Not including special teams, the other primary position battle is at the starting cornerback spot opposite of Joe Haden. Buster Skrine and Chris Owens are neck and neck for the job. Both guys have been known as nickel corners, and when Skrine started last year, he looked awful on the outside. Both guys have done surprisingly well in camp, though, taking a much more physical approach, which has made it a tough decision. Either way, both guys will see a lot of playing time; it just depends who plays the outside and who covers the slot.
5. Tight end Jordan Cameron has been mentioned by many as a possible sleeper in fantasy football. Just how productive do you think he can be this season?
The reason the expectations are so high is that Rob Chudzinski is a "tight end guy." His background is with coaching tight ends, and he's had success with the likes of Kellen Winslow, Antonio Gates and Greg Olsen putting up big numbers. He makes sure the tight end gets involved. Jordan Cameron will have the opportunity to be productive, because he's the team's top tight end by default after Benjamin Watson was not re-signed. Cameron has flashed a lot of athleticism during previous years of camp, but he got off to a pretty bad start to camp this year. Over the past week, he has started to get into a groove a little bit more. He will never be mistaken as a complete tight end, as he's not a very good blocker. His athleticism, combined with Chudzinski's historical usage of tight ends, makes him a nice fantasy sleeper, but far from a guaranteed stud.