The Cleveland Browns started OTAs last week and were bitten by the injury bug right off the bat. Corner back Daven Holly suffered what has been characterized a "blown out knee" and has already been put on the Injured Reserve for the 2008 season.
At first glance, one might say it's only Daven Holly, but it's easily forgotten that one of last year's starters, Leigh Bodden, was dealt to the Detroit Lions in the Shaun Rogers trade. Couple that with the release of nine-year veteran Kenny Wright, due to his run in with the police in Texas, and the Browns are left very thin at the corner position.
Yes, they have second-year man and starter, Eric Wright, but Easy E is still young, raw and will make mistakes. Last year's other rookie surprise, 5th Round draft pick Brandon McDonald, showed promise in the second half of last year but it may be too much to ask of him to start.
The plan was to have Holly and Easy E start and and then have B-Mac come in for Nickel Packages. Holly would cover the slot receiver, which is considered the tougher assignment while B-Mac would line-up on the outside. Now the Browns are faced with a noticeable gap in their defense.
As a precautionary move, the club re-signed Jereme Perry who played with the Browns in 2006 and the Miami Dolphins last season. Gary Baxter is still too much of a question mark after his double patella tendon surgery two seasons ago and still has not been cleared for contact.
The coaching staff is high on A. J. Davis, a 2007 Lions draft pick who was waived at the end of training camp and spent all of 2007 on the Browns' Practice Squad. To count on any of them in such a crucial role may be too much to ask.
The Browns also have a number of undrafted rookie CBs in camp. Mil'von James of UNLV, Damon Jenkins of of Fresno State, Gerard Lawson of Oregon State, and Darnell Terrell of Michigan are all in camp with the Brownies this summer. The Browns did strike gold with Holly who was a "street" free agent and Bodden who was an undrafted one, but to count on that happening again in unrealistic.
What the Browns do from here will be interesting. They have already stated Ty Law is out of their price range. Do they sign a veteran retread looking for work? Do they trade a 2009 draft pick on a proven veteran when they are already without 3rd and 5th Round picks?
Do they roll the dice with the unproven core they have now? Phil Savage gambled by trading away Bodden to strengthen the Front Seven, but is now is faced with the conundrum of a very inexperienced secondary. Phil has done pretty well so far, but this may be his toughest challenge to date.
The Plain Dealer's Tony Grossi is proclaiming Ghostbuster-esque "cats and dogs living together, mass hysteria"... but I will wait to see how it plays out.
In other injury news, Ryan Tucker's surgery to repair a hip fracture was deemed a success by doctors. He is expected to be back by the regular season barring a staph infection, which seems to be the norm for Browns coming off surgery.
I will admit, I raised an eyebrow when I saw this due to "The Tuckster" being suspended for steroid use at the end of 2006. I hope it has nothing to do with that, and was just a freak occurrence. The Tuckster has admitted he made a mistake by juicing, and did overcome a mental disorder to become one of the pleasant surprises of 2007 with his play at right guard.
This was the reason the Browns signed Rex Hadnot and he is expected to step in until The Tuckster is healthy. With Seth McKinney (everybody loves a fat, redheaded guy!) and National Jewish Sports Hall of Famer Lennie Friedman resigned the Browns have plenty of depth at the interior line on offense.
On a tangent I still can't get the "Who the F#$% Are These Guys?!?" scene out of my head whenever I see Lennie Friedman's name... Rick Vaughn? Willie Hayes? Lennie Friedman? Who the f#$% are these guys?!?
We might actually have an Isaac Sowells sighting as The Tuckster was the back up tackle to Joe Thomas and the Human Parking Cone Kevin Shaffer in addition to being starting right guard.
Mum is still the word on tight ends Kellen Winslow and Steve Heiden. Although Winslow is attending mandatory June mini-camp according to his agent Drew Rosenhaus. As long as he shows up, is healthy and says the right things I think K2 will be just fine. If he de-evolves into "The Soul-jah" then there may be issues. But he has behaved himself since his motorcycle accident, so I will give him the benefit of the doubt.
Heiden is recovering from off-season back surgery and was not cleared for contact in OTAs.
Backs are funny, so I am a little nervous about this one.
Heiden's contribution as the blocking TE last season was often overlooked and the Browns lose a valuable cog without him. If not for Phil Dawson, Heiden would be the best player the Browns have had to date since their reincarnation in 1999.
Other than that, LeCharles Bentley is still a mystery and until he passes a physical I am counting on him for nothing. Sorry to be harsh on LeChuck, I hope he makes it back, but the chances are slim, IMHO. Joe Jurevicius is recovering from a staph infection but is expected to be fine.
It may have been a bad couple of days of news, but it's nice to look forward to football season in May for the first time in many years for Browns fans. The Browns face a tough 2008 ahead of them, let's see how they handle the hurdles and expectations.
Go Browns! Believeland.