Derek Anderson’s second chance to revive his NFL career will come against the same team in the same stadium.
In the second game of the 2007 season, he threw for over 300 yards and five touchdowns. He went on to make the Pro Bowl, and many thought the Browns had finally found a franchise quarterback.
Two years later, under a new head coach, Anderson will again have to prove that he can perform at a high level on a consistent basis.
Head coach Eric Mangini’s decision to bench fan-favorite Brady Quinn in favor of Anderson will be the most scrutinized move for the rest of the season. Some thought Quinn should have received more than three games to prove his worth, while others had seen enough. Apparently Mangini was in the latter group.
The Browns will have to contain Bengals defensive end Antwan Odom, who has seven sacks through the first three games. Five of them came two weeks ago against the Green Bay Packers. The linebackers are much improved from last year, with a healthy Keith Rivers, veteran Dhani Jones, and rookie Rey Maualuga, who is fourth on the team with 17 tackles.
Bengals running back Cedric Benson was given a second chance by the Bengals last season and is now fulfilling his potential when he was a top five draft pick in 2005. The former Chicago Bear has 297 yards (4.4 yards per carry, 97.7 yards per game) and two touchdowns so far this season.
Carson Palmer appears to be healthy again after he dug the Bengals out of a double-digit deficit against the Steelers last week.
The Bengals desperately need another receiver outside of Chad Ochocinco to step up. Andre Caldwell is the second-leading receiver on the team with 14 catches for 122 yards and a touchdown. Free-agent pickup Laveranues Coles has only 8 catches for 54 yards and a touchdown. A receiving core minus T.J. Houshmanzadeh could end up hurting them as the season progresses into late November and early December.
The defense has been a pleasant surprise for Bengals’ fans. Three of their top four tacklers are starting linebackers and they have accumulated 10 sacks as a defensive unit. Safety Roy Williams has 23 tackles and the only interception belongs to Jonathan Joseph. The combination of Joseph and Leon Hall are strong along with the safety tandem of Williams and ex-Brown Chris Crocker, who has deflected three passes this season.
The Browns cannot let Benson get going early. They need to shut him down and tackle low, or he will drag Brown defenders all afternoon. Letting Palmer beat them with his arm may not be the best strategy so the front seven needs to collapse the pocket.
The Browns’ offense seems to move the ball more effectively when Anderson is starting. It may be due to the fact that Braylon Edwards is more comfortable with him in there, or he helps stretch the defense.
Running back Jerome Harrison ran strongly against the Ravens last week, and they will need to get him involved early. James Davis will probably see a lot of action as well but has been ineffective in the two games he’s been in.
I am still waiting for Mohamed Massaquoi to see more action in three-wide receiver sets, but it hasn’t happened yet. He was on the field on the opening drive last Sunday but was quickly sent to the sidelines for most of the game.
This may be Anderson’s final chance to start in the NFL. If he can prove to Mangini that he can make plays with his arm and limit the turnovers, he will undoubtedly be the starter for the distant future.