Lets look at the defense first. I agree they looked pretty bad against the Lions but there have been times when they have played pretty well. The main problem has been consistency. Losing both inside linebackers has hurt as well. Robaire Smith has had a nice season at defensive end and so has Shaun Rogers at nose tackle. In fact the entire defensive line has played reasonably well this year. Kameron Wimbley has been solid at outside linebacker and David Bowens has too. I do think we need to upgrade at safety and maybe at cornerback. Eric Wright has been solid and Brodney Pool has made some plays, but help is needed in this area. I do believe another year in Rob Ryan's system will show a lot more consistency.
Offensively, I was extremely encouraged by Brady Quinn's play against the Lions. If Quinn can continue to prove himself the rest of the season, we will not have to draft a QB high in the draft. That's huge. We already have our left tackle in Joe Thomas. Our center, Alex Mack, continues to improve. Our wide receivers are young and will take some time but they have talent. The biggest needs on offense, if Quinn continues his good play, are at right tackle and tight end. I really liked rookie running back James Davis. Hopefully he can return healthy next year. I need to see more of Chris Jennings, but Mangini seems impressed with him. We also have Josh Cribbs, who I feel needs to see time at running back.
I know a lot of people want to get rid of Mangini and that may very well happen. The bigger need as I see it, is at the top. Randy Lerner needs to hire his "football czar" to oversee the football operations and limit Mangini to coaching only. That in itself would be an improvement.
When looking at this team, I am always optimistic. I can't help it. If Quinn can show he's our franchise QB and with the right football czar in place, we are on our way to being a good football team. With a good draft, the trip may not be as long as some might think.