Cleveland Browns: The Elephant In The Corner?
The last thing anyone needs is another Cleveland quarterback article.
Having said that, it takes the wind out of your comment sails doesn't it?
The phrase moving on, is the theme of the 2009 Cleveland Browns this season. After coming in, Eric Mangini started cleaning house. Trading away the often injured, attitude plagued superstar, Kellen Winslow for a second and fifth round pick. Drafting a replacement center, Alex Mack, for the aging Hank Fraley.
Drafting a replacement for thirty year old Jamal Lewis, in the form of James Davis. And releasing Shaun Smith, the man who caused so much drama in the locker room.
We keep moving on, but what we've yet to move on from, is 2007 Pro Bowler Derek Anderson.
I'm not saying Derek Anderson is a poor quarterback, he just isn't in the right system. Anderson's play-calling and decision-making are better suited for a west coast offense, a series of slants and long ball options. Somewhere in the NFC West perhaps, where the defenses are a lot more weak.
In the AFC North, the black and blue division known for their hard hitting lines and even harder hitting secondaries, these kind of decisions just aren't possible. The North boasts some of the best safeties in the league in players like Troy Polamalu, Ed Reed, and Roy Williams. This just isn't the division you can thread the needle 30 yards down field on into double coverage.
Which leads me to Brady Quinn. Is he Joe Montana, no, and he probably never will be. Sure, he's from the same system and alma mater, although that's where the similarities end. Brady Quinn may never be an elite passer, but that's not what we need, not in the North.
Quinn commands a great huddle presence, has the leadership ability to play when behind, doesn't turn the ball over, and makes smart plays.
He doesn't have the big arm, but this isn't Green Bay and it isn't Denver. This is Cleveland, in the North division. Here, with the exception of Carson Palmer, quarterbacks are simply expected to move the chains and avoid turnovers, while the defense smashes the opposition's offense into picks, fumbles, and punts.
Players great at moving the chains, were and are Joe Flacco, Ben Roethlisberger, Neil O' Donnell, Trent Dilfer, and Jon Kitna. With the exception of Ben, probably not a hall of famer in the bunch, but they moved the chains and got their teams to the playoffs and Superbowl.
This brings us to the elephant in the corner, defense. It's easy to say the quarterback is the missing piece, the reason Cleveland remains in the cellar year after year. This isn't the case.
Historically all great teams have a great defense, the '76 Steelers, the '85 Bears, the '00 Ravens, the '71 Vikings, the list goes on and on. If they expect to win and become competitors, it comes down to defense. Like every great war, it has to start in the trenches.
The middle isn't the problem, Shaun Rogers is potentially the best in the game at nose tackle. He's backed by top 15 NFL leading tacklers D'Qwell Jackson and Eric Barton, very little will get through this season. The starting young corners, McDonald and Wright have been causing turnovers all preseason and are tight in coverage.
The edges, pass rushers, and safeties are where the work needs to be put in. If any success is to happen, the defensive ends need to become dominant, the outside linebackers need to constantly get into the backfield, and the secondary needs to be lock-down and threatening.
The potential shown by the new rookie class is a step in the right direction. David Veikune, Kaluka Maiava, and Coye Francies are hard hitting bruisers, and will be impact players in the coming years. Maiava is already a threat on special teams, Veikune is always on the play, and Francies has been almost lights out at corner this preseason.
The work needs to continue to be done, building through the draft and avoiding the temptations of free agency. This off-season was solid, but for now Wimbley, Hall, Williams, Coleman, Elam, and Pool need to step up.
If they don't, it doesn't matter how well Quinn, Anderson, Ratliff, or Bartel does. If the chains are going to be moved, it has to start with the defense and special teams first.
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