In a span of 12 months, the Cleveland Browns went from having a Pro Bowl tight end in Kellen Winslow Jr. to a guy who manned the center position for the three previous seasons.
With Robert Royal and Steve Heiden both nursing injuries, Hank Fraley has been utilized at the tight end spot, primarily for blocking purposes.
Head coach Eric Mangini has been starting rookie Mohamed Massaquoi since Week Four and Brian Robiskie has seen more reps as well.
No wonder Derek Anderson and the offense is frustrated right now. Chansi Stuckey hasn’t caught a pass since he arrived in Cleveland, and has been the target of several drops.
Royal has been slowed by a hamstring and finger injury, which hasn’t been helping him in the receiving game. On the season, Royal has eight catches for 93 yards, but his season lowlight is probably the dropped would-be touchdown against Buffalo.
Last week, the Browns picked up Michael Gaines, who was released by the Chicago Bears. He ended up being the Browns’ leading receiver last Sunday against Green Bay with two catches for 30 yards. Not the best sign when a guy who was picked up in the middle of the week is your top pass catcher in the next game.
The team right now is in search for an offensive identity (where have we heard this before). Derek Anderson was firing the ball all over the place against the Bengals with Massaquoi breaking out in his first start.
The next game against Buffalo, it was running back Jamal Lewis where he collected his first 100-yard rushing game since 2007. Josh Cribbs was the star against the Steelers in the Wildcat formation.
That’s what happens when the offense doesn’t have one consistent player it can rely upon week after week. It used to be Braylon Edwards (if you want to consider him consistent) and now they have two rookie wide receivers starting, no receiving threat at tight end, and a 30-year old running back.
Today, Mangini said that Jerome Harrison needs to improve on his pass protection in the backfield, a problem that has slowed him for his entire tenure with the Browns. When you’re not a complete player, it’s difficult for the team to count on you every game.
Maybe this is the week the offense starts to show some promise, maybe not. Mangini stated the reason Anderson remains the starter is because the team is able to move the ball when he’s in there. They just can’t punch it in the endzone when given the opportunity. The offense had the ball inside the five-yard line late in the game and were unable to advance it any further.
Right now, players are just auditioning for next season. They are auditioning for Mangini, as well as for other teams that may find some interest in them. It looked like the team had given up early last week against Green Bay when the Packers fullback scored on a 40-yard touchdown pass.
If that’s the case, it’s going to be a long final two months of football.