Well Cleveland sports fans, you have been through another tough year for Cleveland sports. There was another playoff disappointment with the Cavs and wash away of a baseball season with the Indians.
Congratz to you! So what is your reward? You get to see some of the most asked questions about the new era of your favorite football team answered.
Cleveland Browns training camp 2009 is upon us. There are many questions to be answered with this team so it promises to be a very interesting one.
Let's take a look at some of the storylines going into this year's camp. Well, the ones I will be paying particular attention to at least.
Derek Anderson vs. Brady Quinn
Towards the end of last season, we were lead to believe by former head coach Romeo Crennel that Brady Quinn would be the starter of this football team. Then, Crennel was given the axe.
Enter new head caoch Eric Mangini who declared open competition for the job. So now all you fans who just could not get enough of the Tim Couch vs. Kelly Holcomb angle, here is a brand new QB controversy just for you. Or something like that at least.
Last season Brady wowed all of us with a terrific performance in week 9. Then, he sustained an injury in his next game in which he looked mediocre at best. He of course then played hurt the next game.
Also do not forget that last season was for the most part Anderson's sophomore year. Not many athletes have great second seasons and Anderson was no exception.
This will be a make-or-break camp for him with this team anyways. That is not to say that he could not catch on somewhere else if he does not make it here. Believe me, he will not be here if he does not win the starting job this camp.
Remember, it was just a couple years ago Anderson made the Pro Bowl as an alternate after throwing for 29 touchdowns in 2007. He should be given every chance to prove he can return to that form and keep his job.
Here are some of my observations about both DA and Brady.
What I have noticed about Brady from exhibition games and the few regular season games is this. Brady seems to look natural at the position. He maintains his cool regardless of how pathetic the guys blocking for him may be.
He also has a good grasp for what an opponent's defense tries to do and has the ability to make appropriate adjustments before the ball is snapped.
He may not have a strongest or the most accurate arm, however, he can move around in the pocket and make things happen with his feet.
His ability to keep calm allows him to make smart decisions and throws. Finally (and this is the biggest difference to me) with Quinn not only does the ball get moved at a smoother pace, the offense scores touchdowns.
As far as Anderson goes, sure he has leadership qualities just not the one's Quinn possesses. He can sustain long drives, and while some of those drives have resulted in touchdowns, most of the them end with field goals, and that's if the offense scores at all.
He does not seem to be able to make adjustments on the fly and he seems to get jumpy which results in poor decision making, and as a result of poor decisions the ball ends up on the ground a lot or in the hands of a defender. He is also not very mobile and cannot aviod sacks on his own.
This battle will be long and will most likely come down to the last practice before a decision is made. The job will go to whoever can show the ability to move the ball down field, can make the best adjustments, and can lead the team on the field. Scoring touchdowns should play a big part in Mangini's evaluation process as well.
For reasons already mentioned, I think Quinn has the edege. but Anderson will have every opportunity to show us why he is still worthy of being the starter of this team.
Wide Receiver Battle
One thing that we do know about this posistion is that desipte Braylon Edwards lack luster season he will still be one of the starters. Braylon had a season to for get last year as he dropped way more then his fair share of passes and had a sour adittude towards the end of the season. He still stands as a source for big play making, he has recommitted himself this season and vows to return to his 2007 form. Only time will tell how that will play out but for now Braylon will get a starting spot.
Gone are Joe Jurevicius and most likely Donte Stallworth. This leaves the question who will start next to Braylon?. This is could be one of the deepiest area's on the team. There are a vast array of options but there are at least two senarios that seem to make the most sense.
One of those senario's would be putting Joshua Cribbs along side Braylon, why not? He has explosive speed and with a few exceptions could out run most cornerbacks and safties in the NFL. He is very athletic. He can catch the football which would make him very useful on third down and other situations in whcih the Browns would really need someone in the game to catch the ball. This may seem basic but if you have watched the Browns at all over the past few years you know that catching the football is something that they are anemic at. No pun intended.
Eric Mangini has said that Cribbs will get a look at reciever during camp, however there has also been talk about him playing other roles as well perhaps at the DB. If that happens then that would open the door for rookie Brian Robiskie to get a look at the 2 reciever spot.
Ohio State Buckeye fans know Robiskie as a very reliable reciever. He is considered the most NFL ready of all the rookie recievers and many where surprised when the Miami Dolphins chose to pass on him even though he was on the board when they picked late in the first round of this years draft. Robiskie is an excellent route runner he also has the size and the speed to make things difficult for opposing teams DB's. He is also a deep threat that can stretch the field. His back ground of having a father that coached the posistion and helped him study it also helps. All of this makes Robiskie my personal favorite to land the job. He has all the tools to be a starter in the NFL, he will have to prove that during camp. I think he will.
Even if Robiskie can not make the roster as a starter still look for him to play a big role in the Browns offense.
Former Georgia stand out Mohamed Massaquoi is also in the mix. He had a excellent career at one of college football's most prestigous programs recently and could figure to have some role to play in the Browns offensive scheme this year.
Then you have the veterans David Patton and Mike Furry. Both are probably on the downs side of thier careeers. Nethier are very flashy. What they can do is catch the football and provide some much needed leadership that the team lacked so much this past season. Patton is in his second tour of duty with the Browns and almost gave football up entierly after last season. He still feels like he can help a team and like he has some gas in the tank though so we will so how things shape up for him.
Furry is coming from a awful Detroit Lions team. He can still be productive and play a big part in this offense. Just don't expect a total revival of his career here. He was one of Detroit's better recivers so he is a good add.
Syndric Steptoe could also get some looks although he will mostly lkely be no more then a special teamer. Guys like Paul Hubbard and Lance Legget who where on the practice squad last season will get a chance but don't expect a lot from them. Jordan Norwood a undrafted rookie signee could play some what of a wild card but will probably be on the practice squad if he makes the team at all.
Another very deep posistion on this team. It looks to start like you will see Kamerion Wimbley and Alex Hall as your outside linebackers while D'Qwell Jackson and Eric Barton start on the inside. Look for a Rob Ryan and Eric Mangini do a lot of shuffeling and moving the players around in order to maximize what this unit can do and play to it's strengths.
This will be a very telling year for Kamerion Whimbley. He really needs to show that he can be consistiant and provide the outside pass rush that the Browns saw when he drafted him. I have heard talk of the moving him around which makes me wonder if the Browns plan on using him the same way that the Steelers use Jerome Harrison. It could be a good idea since he has the speed burst to evade most left tackle's. It will be intresting to see how they can transform him and get him to be the best he was meant to be.
Eric Barton and D'Qwell Jackson have been working out together and have bonded so hopefully that will translate to good things happening from the middle linebacker slot's. Last year Jackson was the unoffical leader in tackles 154 total 95 solo tackles and he helped out with 59.. Eric Barton was also amoung the leaders for tackles last season finishing 14th with 119 all together 93 of which where his own and he assisted with 26 of them. That's a lot of tackels and hopefully they will be able behind a revamped defensive line to get even more, especially behind the line of scrimmage. Their big task will be stoping the running game and working teams into must throw situations. Jackson insists that Barton is making him better at his posistion so I would expect to see a lot of improvement from him.
If Barton and Jackson can stop the run then they will be able to get the most out of Barton's teamate with the Jets David Bowens. Bowens is a pass rusher by trait so that will help Kamrion Wimbley out. He is very versatile and could also be used agianst the run if Jackson or Barton are not getting the job done, or when one of them needs a break. Bowens is already a solid player so I would expect to see good productive things from him.
Leon Williams seems to be forgotten about in all of this as well. He is a fourth year player out of the University of Miami. He is big, fast and strong and if the Browns want to attack like they say they do on defense he could be very valuable. It will also be intresting to see what last years fourth round pick Beau Bell is able to do. He was hurt for most of last year so this will pretty much be his rookie year.
Also look for another one of the Browns second round picks from this year's draft David Veikune to be in the plans of Rob Ryan as well.
Brandon McDonald and Eric Wright must continue to show improvement this season. Both of them had highlight real moments for plays that they made, they also had some for the assignments that they blew as well. They should both benefit from having veterans like Corey Ivy, Hank Poteat, and Rod Hood with them. They will have a tough task in the first few weeks of the season though as they will be going up elite recievers such as Chad Ochocinco, Terrel Owens, Brandon Marshall, Eddie Royals, Lee Evans, Santonio Holmes and Hines Ward. If they struggle they could be replaced by one of the others.
Don Carey who was a sixth round pick of the Browns looked good in the spring and could get involved some how if McDonald or Wright struggle. Coy Francise who was also taken by the Browns in the sixth round of this years draft has the hieght and athleticisim to be succesful at the CB spot but that will most likely be sometime down the road.
This will be Brodney Poole's second year of starting for at the free saftey . Poole is in his fith year so he should be ready to make a big impact on this unit and be a big leader. Ofcourse like anyone else the key to Poole's succes will be to stay healthy as he did struggle with some injury problems early on in his career, he has been healthy the past two seasons. Last season Poole managed 3 int's and had 65 total tackles 26 of which where for loss. Pretty respectable numbers and it shows that he is making plays.
Gone is Poole's fellow saftey Shaun Jones, but the Browns went out and made a draft day trade that brought them strong saftey Abram Elam. The Browns are very high on Elam. He is a hard noised player that can make plays and is very atlectic. He should help to compliment Poole and should play a big part in the run defense.
Don't forget about Mike Adams who the Browns re-signed. Adams is very valuable to this unit because he brings experience, and has a fire inside of him everytime he goes out on the field. He may be a bit undersized but he makes up for that with his athletic and can contribute in big ways. Nick Sorensen should get some looks on special teams as well as be a reliable back up look for him to be part of the team in some way.
New additions Rod Hood, Hank Potaet and Corey Ivy all bring some experience that the Browns need and as mentioned are more then capable of producing should Brandon McDonald or Eric Wright struggle. In fact Rod Hood played in the super bowl as a starter last year with the Cardinals so the Browns can defenitaly benefit from having a his presence ast this particular unit.
Of course there are many other big story lines that will play out during the camp but these are just a few of the area's that I will be especially looking at and find to be the most intrigued.
This will be a very interesting first year for the Browns and new head coach Eric Mangini. I think they have done a decent job adding talent and depth to this roster but we really need to see what looks good on paper look good on the feild. This season should not be a season reflected on what is the record so much as it is how is the team looking on the feild. Can they answer the questions that have plagued this franchise since it's re-birth? Or will Mangini and Kokinis feel the same headache that others who have run this franchise have after the first year and for many after that?
The journey begins this Friday when the Cleveland Browns being a new chapter in their history on the practice field in Berea.