Now that free agency and the NFL Draft is a thing of the past, what kind of team identity will the Cleveland Browns have in 2009?
In 2007, the Browns team identity was a high-flying, throw the ball deep to help set up the running game kind of team. This worked very well and led the team to finish the season 10-6, but miss the playoffs.
In 2008 it was a completely different story and all Browns fans still have that fresh in their memory so there is no reason to review it, but it is worth noting that there was no team identity at all.
Now it is 2009 and there is a brand new front office and coaching staff in place. What does this mean for the identity of the team? Will Coach Mangini run a playbook similar to the Jets of the last few seasons or will he adapt it to better fit in the AFC North?
There are many questions that are circling around the Browns training facility in Berea, OH. Specifically questions of team identity and how the offense and defense will look with all the new coaches, new players and new schemes.
The Browns offensive look is still up in the air mostly due to the quarterback position. Once a quarterback has been selected, the new look Browns will be stepping in the right direction to find their identity on offense.
If you look at Brady Quinn's playing style, he is a ball control and short passes type of quarterback. Quinn has also shown strong leadership skills not only on the sideline, but in the huddle in his three starts last year.
Derek Anderson is the complete opposite of Quinn. Anderson has a cannon for an arm, but he is not consistent with the shorter, touch passes.
Brett Ratliff is the biggest unknown between all three quarterbacks, but he is here because he was drafted by Coach Mangini when he was with the Jets.
The information on these three quarterbacks are no mystery so let's move on.
If you look at all the moves that have been made in the off season, the type of scheme Coach Mangini may want to run is somewhat obvious. The Browns want to compete in the tough and physical AFC North by becoming a ball control, possession passing and running between the tackles offense.
This is supported with the additions of offensive lineman Alex Mack, John St. Clair and Floyd Womack to hopefully sure up the center and right side of the line.
Also corroborating this theory is the complete overhaul of the WR position and bringing in players that are all possession style receivers.
The final evidence may be Coach Mangini sticking with running back Jamal Lewis as his work horse. Even though Lewis will be 30 years old when the season starts, he still has some mileage left in his powerful legs and he will benefit from the new and revamped offensive line.
Bringing in rookie running back James Davis will also help Lewis get an extra couple of breathers during the game since Davis likes to run inside of the tackles too.
On the defensive side of the ball in 2008, the Browns had depth issues and problems getting to the opposing teams quarterbacks.
In the five months since Mangini became head coach he has brought over many of his former Jets defenders to fill the depth needs that were on the Browns defense. One of the most important needs for depth in 2008 was in the defensive backfield, but with the additions of Hank Poteat and Abram Elam.
Throw Corey Ivy, from the Ravens, and Rod Hood, from the Cardinals into the mix and all of a sudden there is depth for the defensive backs.
Poteat, Ivy and Hood will most likely compete to be the nickel back and Elam should step right into the starting lineup as a safety. Watch for Elam to take control of the backfield and he could have a huge breakout season as a full time starter.
In 2008, both Wright and McDonald were streaky, but both did show a nose for the ball. Now with Hood in the mix, look for the cornerback position to improve dramatically.
Coach Mangini bringing his former Jets defenders will help the holdover Browns players from last year not only learn the new system, but adapt to it quickly.
Since the 3-4 defense will carry over from last year with new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. He will be looking to get more production out of the D-Line and linebackers. The Browns need to get to the quarterback and create more pressure in the pocket. This should also help create more turnovers.
The offense will concentrate on ball control and run the ball to set up the pass, and the defensive scheme will probably be similar to last year, but look for more pressure on the quarterback with the help of depth at the D-Line and linebackers to keep guys fresh.
(Testing X's and O's #2 assignment)