Posted on: August 2, 2009 2:43 pm
Edited on: August 5, 2009 1:47 pm

Training Camp Observations: 8/1/09

Last night, I had the privilage of attending the evening session of the Browns training camp. The practice was open to the public and I encourage everyone to head out to Berea to see the Browns practice. Brady Quinn, Coye Francies, Ryan Pontbriand, Brodney Pool, Josh Cribbs, and a host of others were on hand - mingling with the fans while signing autographs for free.

It truly was a special night.

This Gentledawg has taken note of everything that happened at Saturday's practice. My geniune thoughts are listed below.

Thoughts on Warm Up

  • Derek Anderson needs to look in the mirror before coming out to practice. The Scappoosian passer wore knee-high white stockings with long orange shorts. Absolutely dreadful!
  • Shaun Rogers is a big man. While the vast majority of players wore orange shorts, Rogers was seen in what can only be described as cut-off sweatpants. I guess the shorts didn’t fit him.
  • Kicker Phil Dawson, long snapper Ryan Pontbriand, and punter Dave Zastudil stayed together for the majority of the day. They all looked like BFFs.
  • While the players warmed up before practice started, Derek Anderson sang along with part of the Black Eyed Peas’ song I Gotta Feelin . He sang: “And tonight’s gonna be a good night!”

Thoughts on the Offense

  • Mangini wasn’t kidding when he said we would see elements of Rob Chudzinski’s offense in 2009. There was plenty of motion and formation shifting at the line of scrimmage.
  • Browns quarterbacks spent the majority of the day in three and four wide receiver sets. Whether this was something exclusive to today or not remains to be seen.
  • The tight ends were often times found deep down the field in the passing game.
  • Anderson, Quinn, and Ratliff worked on a unique drill which featured timing routes on play action. The receivers made four sharp cuts and then came back to the ball just as the passer rolled out of play action. Only Ratliff’s receiver caught the ball in bounds.
  • As expected, the Browns’ offense will incorporate several elements of the West Coast Passing system. Running backs often peeled into the flat or ran short passing routes over the middle.
  • The evening practice featured a substantial amount of shotgun offense. The quarterbacks lined up with two receiving options (usually a running back and a wide receiver) in the backfield in addition to the three receivers lined up in the passing game.
  • Daboll and Mangini seem to place an emphasis on throwing the ball away if nothing is there. Brady Quinn intentionally threw two balls at receivers’ feet on blown up screen plays instead of taking a loss of yardage.

Thoughts on Derek Anderson

  • During 11 on 11 drills, Abram Elam picked off a Derek Anderson pass intended for a wide receiver.
  • Anderson completed several deep balls down the field. He showed great touch as every long pass he threw either hit the receiver in stride or required little adjustment on the receiver’s part.
  • Derek Anderson took the majority of the first team reps throughout the evening practice. Eric Mangini personally watched Anderson work with the first team along with quarterbacks coach Carl Smith.
  • Derek Anderson ran a penalty lap for an undisclosed reason.
  • After throwing a caught ball slightly behind a receiver, Derek Anderson apologized. “My bad,” he said.

Thoughts on Brady Quinn

  • Brady Quinn struggled to connect downfield with wide receivers. It wasn’t an issue of arm strength, but one of arm accuracy. Quinn overthrew Martin Rucker on a deep pass pattern by three yards…twice.
  • While working with the second team, quarterbacks coach Carl Smith encouraged Brady Quinn to take shots down the field when available.
  • After the team was dismissed, Braylon Edwards approached Quinn and the two played catch from about ten yards apart. They stayed like that for ten minutes.
  • Brady Quinn and Derek Anderson held light conversation as the two played catch after dismissal.
  • Brady Quinn and Derek Anderson seem to have contrasting styles of quarterback play. Quinn is far more passive and selective in his decision making, taking only what he knows he can complete. Anderson is not afraid to take shots down the field – a far more aggressive approach to quarterbacking.
  • Brady Quinn ran a penalty lap for an undisclosed reason.

Thoughts on Braylon Edwards

  • Perhaps the most peculiar part of practice came at the end when Mangini gathered the team for final instructions and group prayer. Every single person affiliated with the team gathered around the coach except for Braylon Edwards. Edwards stood a good 20 yards away from the team by himself.

Thoughts on the rookies

  • Brian Robiskie might be even better than advertised. In addition to sharp, crisp route running, Robiskie snatched a Derek Anderson lazer out of mid air with his hands coming across his body.
  • Out of all the running backs that took the field for practice, no one stood out quite like James Davis. Davis, the sixth round selection from Clemson, broke off a few long runs in addition to displaying good hands for the reception. He stood out in the position drills and looks like one of the better runners on this team.

Thoughts on everyone else

  • Josh Cribbs did not look like a natural receiver, catching several balls with his body. He still has some work to do.
  • Steve Heiden was in a red shirt, and did not do much on the field. He stayed after dismissal and worked the jug machine in impressive fashion. Nice hands.
  • Kamerion Wimbley is strong. He seems to have developed a nice bull rush technique.
  • Jerome Harrison had a disappointing day of practice. Harrison dropped two easy passes coming out of the backfield.
  • Still on Harrison, he was completely man-handled in a one-on-one pass protection drill by Beau Bell.
  • Lawrence Vickers was beaten twice in one-on-one drills by quicker practice squad linebackers. He looked terrible and was visibly and audibly frustrated.
  • Jamal Lewis does not possess natural hands for making the reception. He is body-type receiver.

Thoughts on Player Chatter

  • I asked Brian Robiskie which position we can expect to see him play this year. “All of them,” he responded. Robiskie has spent time as the X,Y, and Z receiver.
  • While signing autographs for the fans, I asked Charles Ali just how big he really is. He laughed, and then asked the fans to guess. Ali began a Price is Right style game when fans began shouting out different numbers for his weight. The winner, without going over, guessed 248 pounds. He won Ali’s left glove.
  • Brodney Pool took time after practice to meet and greet with the fans. Pool was asked how many tackles he expected to make this year. “I’m looking for those picks,” he said.
  • Still on Brodney Pool, I approached him and inquired about his choice of hairstyles. “What’s going on with the waves?” I asked. He laughed. “Nah, I don’t care about stuff like that,” he said while smiling.
  • After the team was dismissed, Coye Francies came over to sign autographs. I asked him why he, unlike many of his defensive back teammates, does not use Twitter. “I can barely figure out the internet,” he said.
  • Brady Quinn came over to sign autographs for the fans. Francies saw this and said, “you guys better go get one of those. That’s where the real money is.”
  • After chatting it up all day with the players gracious enough to stop by, I stood face-to-face with Brady Quinn. I took a few pictures, but strangely, I had nothing to say.
  • After spending close to 15 minutes signing autographs, Brady Quinn left to attend the players’ meeting. A father stood there comforting his little 7-year-old boy. The kid idolized Quinn and was crying because he was unable to get a Brady Quinn autograph. As Brady was jogging back to the building, tight end John Madsen called out to Quinn in hopes of having him sign the kid’s jersey. Brady never came back.

Category: NFL
Posted on: July 17, 2009 2:53 pm
Edited on: July 17, 2009 2:59 pm

25 Reasons Football is Better than Baseball

One of my fellow community members, oldstyle14 , posted a list of 25 reasons why baseball is better than football. It was a great read, and I encourage everyone to take a look at it by clicking here .

While I agree with many of his points, I'm here to argue the opposite.

Football is better than baseball, and here's why...

1. Football is the ultimate team sport. All 11 players are involved on every play.

2. Football can be played by anyone, anywhere. All it takes is at least two players, and a $15 dollar ball. Baseball requires two $40 gloves, a $7 ball, a $50 bat, and so much more.

3. Football statistics are simple and involve little mathematics to compute.

4. The average fan can pick up and understand football. In baseball, the average fan cannot tell the difference between a two-seam, a four seam, or a cut fastball.

5. Baseball is hyper-sensitive to the elements. Football players play through rain, snow, and everything in between.

6. Every baseball player is presumed a cheater until proven otherwise. Football has no such problem.

7. The individual baseball games are meaningless. Game 34 means just as much as game 134. What you're watching has no bearing on the season.

8. In baseball, a team can effectively remove the opposition's best player from the game through the intentional walk. Football has no equivalent.

9. In football, playoff games actually mean something. That one game decides who progresses and who stays home.

10. Football rules make for dramatic combacks. A team down by two scores can easily make up ground in the final period of play.

11. Football games are lively, upbeat, and exciting. In today's world of instant gratification and limited attention spans, many cannot appreciate the finer points of baseball.

12. Myron Cope. Anyone in baseball ever come close?

13. The NFL Draft is actually relevant.

14. College football matters.

15. Every football team has a specific philosophy on offense AND on defense.

16. The American and National Football conferences play by the same rules.

17. Coaches spend more time coaching in football. Baseball managers only manage.

18. Football plays can be diagramed and discussed. Baseball only uses sequences.

19. The climax of a football game always comes at the end. A baseball game can be over by the second inning.

20. A baseball game can theoretically go on FOREVER.

21. In football, team depth matters. The third best wide receiver matters where as the third best shortstop does not.

22. Football features team cheers and slogans: "Here we go Brownies, here go! Woof! Woof! " "J-E-T-S Jets! Jets! Jets! "

23. Football rivalries are bitter and plentiful.

24. There is parity in football. You can stink today and win it all tomorrow.

25. There is a salary cap in football.

Category: NFL
Posted on: July 6, 2009 11:23 am

Cribbs Versatility Sparks Comparison to Legend

When Browns head coach Eric Mangini looks at return specialist Josh Cribbs, he must experience an overwhelming sense of déjà vu.

Mangini has seen this before.

In Cribbs, the Browns have a dynamic return man capable of changing the flow of the game when the ball is in his hands. They have a versatile athlete—able to line up in multiple positions and fulfill different roles on the team. They have an unselfish athlete willing to sacrifice personal achievements for the greater good of the team.

Where has Eric Mangini seen such an athlete?

In New England.

His name was Troy Brown.

The similarities between the two players are uncanny. A standout wide receiver from Marshall, Brown was selected with the 198th selection in the 1993 NFL Draft.

After narrowly making the Patriots' roster as a return specialist, Brown took advantage of the situation and carved out a distinct role with the team. He went on to enjoy an outstanding career as one of the most prolific receivers in Patriots history.

As an undrafted free agent from the similarly small Kent State, Josh Cribbs also made the Browns' roster due to his contributions as a return specialist. His unique combination of speed and strength produced six combined return touchdowns as well as a Pro Bowl trip in 2007.

Cribbs has yet to make a significant impact on the offensive side of the ball, but all signs point to that changing in 2009.

“We’ve been using him as a receiver right now,” offensive coordinator Brian Daboll said of Cribbs.

“Right now, he’s been playing receiver. That’s where he has been slotted. As far as how we use him, that will depend each week on the game plan.”

If last season’s 19 solo special teams tackles are any indication, Cribbs' career could mimic Brown’s in another very special way.

In 2004, the New England Patriots secondary was ravished by injuries. As a last resort, the Patriots asked Brown to fill in as an emergency corner back. The versatile Brown responded—finishing the year with three interceptions, several of them coming in key playoff situations.

Ironically, the young secondary coach that aided Brown's conversion to defense was none other than current Browns head coach Eric Mangini.

When asked of Cribbs' potential contributions on the defensive side of the ball, Browns assistant head coach Brad Seely was hesitant to rule anything out.

"I'm not against anything that would help us win," he said.

"If that can help us win, then great."

Brown finished his career with the Patriots' as the all-time leader in receptions (557) and second all-time in receiving yards (6,366). The 26-year-old Cribbs has a long way to go before approaching such lofty totals, but he can take a large step toward doing so this offseason.

Braylon Edwards aside, the Browns' depth chart at wide receiver is completely open for competition.

Free agent and 13-year NFL veteran David Patten is the likely candidate to fill the position, but at 34, his speed, durability, and agility would undoubtedly come into question.

Donte Stallworth is unlikely to contribute this season and journeyman receiver Mike Furry has traditionally performed well in the slot.

Second round draft picks Brian Robiskie and Mohamed Massaquoi have shown great promise, but are still too young in their development to be counted on with any consistency.

All signs, including the ones given by the head coach himself, point to Cribbs emerging as one of the Browns' go-to guys in 2009.

"I love special teams players," Eric Mangini said in an earlier press conference.

"We had Jerrico Cotchery who was a core teams player in New York. He hadn't played much offense at that point, [but] he ended up emerging into a starter."

Cribbs could do the same thing.

Not even Eric Mangini knows what the future hold for Cribbs. Mangini has, however, experienced similar situations with similarly great players in the past.

And just maybe, that past will coincide with the present.

Category: NFL
Posted on: June 25, 2009 4:43 pm

Shaq Will Taint LeBron James' Legacy

He’s been known as “the Big Diesel.”

He’s been called “Superman,” “Shaq-Daddy,” and most recently “the Big Shaqtus.”

Now that former Suns center Shaquille O’Neal has been officially traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers, fans can add another nickname to his growing list of many:

"The Big Crutch."

Whether he chooses to acknowledges this or not, Shaquille O’Neal will be forever remembered as a great big man who can only win with the help of a bona-fides superstar.

Dating back to his early years with the Orlando Magic, Shaq has never won anything by himself. He won three rings with Kobe Bryant in Los Angeles and another with Dwayne Wade in Miami.

Of course in today’s self-serving world of professional sports, Shaq won’t be remembered as the man who needed a superstar help him win a ring.

Shaq will be remembered as the man who helps superstars win rings.

Which brings us to an all-world superstar in LeBron James.

Yes LeBron James – the man who desperately needs a championship to solidify himself among the games’ greats. The man who has single-handedly carried a franchise on his shoulders in pursuit of NBA glory.

The man, who has never played with a comparable NBA star.

All that has seemingly changed with the arrival of the Big Aristotle.

Now LeBron is paired with Shaq, he will be expected to win an NBA title. There will be no more excuses, complaints, or long stories. James finally has that elusive big man that helped Dwayne Wade and Kobe Bryant win championships, so James should have no problem winning a ring of his own.

There’s just one problem: this isn’t the same Shaq.

“LA Shaq” is different from “Miami Shaq” who was slightly better than “Pheonix Shaq” who looks nothing like “LeBron’s Shaq.”

Shaquille O’Neal, who will turn 38 before next years’ playoff series, is exactly what he is – a 38-year-old NBA center. As great as he has been over the years, neither Cleveland or LeBron James should realistically expect a 38-year-old center to take them where they could not go before,

For James and the Cavaliers, Shaq’s arrival creates a two-sided dilemma.

If by some change a healthy and motivated Shaq does help LeBron James win a championship, he will immediately receive the Kobe Bryant treatment. Shaq will be forever associated with LeBron as the crutch James used to attain the greatness he could not achieve on his own.

There will be talk of LeBron “never winning the big one” by himself, which will tarnish his image and further talks of his inferiority to one Kobe Bryant.

If LeBron is not able to win a ring with Shaq, he will be viewed as the lone superstar who couldn’t get the job done with a hall of fame center in Shaquille O’Neal.

There will be talk of LeBron’s failing where others have succeeded, which will tarnish his image and further talks of his inferiority to one Kobe Bryant.

Regardless of how next season turns out, LeBron James will face criticism. Win or lose, James will forever be associated with Shaquille O’Neal, and his legacy will be forever tainted because of it.

By asking management to go after Shaq, LeBron has sealed his fate for the next few years.

An that in and of itself is a “Big Mistake”.

Posted on: June 9, 2009 1:24 pm
Edited on: June 9, 2009 5:39 pm

Derek Anderson Should Start For The Browns

Admit it, you’re in love.

You just can’t stop thinking about him . You’ve seen his commercials, watched his press conferences, and even purchased some of his merchandise.

Like our King, he is one of Ohio’s native sons, with the dashing good looks and charisma to warrant coronation himself.

He descended from the holy grail of academic institutions, Notre Dame, and was even blessed with a recommendation from the esteemed offensive guru, Charlie Weis.

Admit it, you love Brady Quinn.

And I don’t blame you. His golden-boy image and persona represent everything good in the world of sports, and you can’t help but love him for that.

If left up to you, Brady Quinn would be named the starting quarterback for the Browns tomorrow, and all would be right in the dark, gloomy world of Cleveland sports. The crown prince would rightfully take his seat at the helm of this offense, and the Cleveland Browns would be a better team for it.

There’s only one thing standing between Quinn and his inevitable succession to the throne—a Scappoosian pocket passer named Derek Anderson.

Ah yes, Derek Anderson. You remember him, don’t you? He’s that clumsy 6'6" passer from Oregon State who started for the Browns in 2008. He’s the awkward quarterback with the goofy smile who seemingly wasn’t able to get the job done. With scruffy facial hair and a disheveled mop of brown hair, he’s the pauper attempting to steal the spotlight away from the publicly crowned prince Quinn.

Despite his outward appearance and statistical incompetence, Derek Anderson is in fact the right man for the job and should start for the Browns come opening day.

And you should love him too.

Before I get into why Anderson is the clear-cut choice for Cleveland this fall, there is a common misconception that must be cleared up immediately.

Read my words closely: Derek Anderson was not the reason for Cleveland’s anemic offensive production last season. Far from it. Injuries ravished the 2008 Browns like the plague—hitting virtually all facets of Cleveland’s seemingly explosive offense.

Preseason injuries limited wide receiver Braylon Edwards and scratched Donte' Stallworth from the season opener. Game-changing return specialist Josh Cribbs missed time with a bad ankle. A revolving door of offensive lineman created a mix-and-match group void of chemistry and lacking in talent.

Oh yeah, and Anderson began the season with a concussion.

All of these factors contributed to a Browns team that limped into their Week Four bye with a 1-3 record.

Once the rested Browns regained some of their key offensive personnel, they were fully able to compete with the best of the NFL. With Anderson under center, the Browns handed the 2007 World Champion New York Giants their worst loss of the season.

A three-point loss to Washington and a 14-point defensive meltdown against Baltimore dropped Cleveland to 3-5, costing Anderson his job and destroying what little hope the team had for rest of the season.

Had the circumstances been different, Derek Anderson never would have lost his job in the first place. A few timely touchdown passes (or receptions) against Pittsburgh, Washington, and Baltimore would have left Anderson, and the Browns would have been 6-2 through the halfway point of the season.

Now, I could sit here and pick at the schedule all day, but what’s done is done. The Browns win and lose games as a team, so it’s difficult to point toward one play as the decisive factor in a game.

It is difficult to make a case for what happened in the past, but it is much easier to look ahead to the future and see what needs to be done.

New head coach Eric Mangini must produce immediate results to ensure a successful stint in Cleveland. Browns owner Randy Lerner recently ended a turbulent three-year relationship with former GM Phil Savage and coach Romeo Crennel. The young, slightly naïve owner silently stood by with checkbook in hand as Savage spewed out more green than a Craftsman during summertime.

Unfortunately for Lerner, that spending never produced results, which undeniably cost both men their jobs.

Coming off the verge of a three-year relationship, it will be understandably hard for Randy Lerner to trust again so quickly. The easiest way for Mangini to make an impression upon a heartbroken owner is to win football games.

This is where Derek Anderson comes in.

Like any other position in football, real live experience is the best predictor of future success. Anderson has started 31 games compared to the four started by Brady Quinn. Anderson has thrown 43 touchdown passes in his NFL career—five fewer than the number of passes Quinn has completed to this point.

Although Anderson’s career completion percentage of 54.6 isn’t eye-popping, it looks much better against Quinn’s 49.5.

Whether you love him or hate him, Derek Anderson is a solid veteran quarterback who gives the Browns a chance to win on Sunday. Brady Quinn may be great one day—however, now is not the time to find out. Eric Mangini must show drastic improvement to win over the players and the fans, and that improvement starts with an experienced signal caller running the offense.

If the team remains healthy and Anderson plays within himself, the Browns will surely surprise some people.

They will win football games—and that’s something that everybody will love.


Posted on: June 3, 2009 5:20 pm

The Audacity of Hope


It’s the one thing we as football fans can always depend on. As sure as the sun sets over Lake Erie each night, we can depend on a new season bringing hope for the city’s beloved football team.

Unfortunately, this hope creates anxiety in Browns fans, which leads to optimism and ultimately frustration. That frustration mounts over the years, creating a black hole of disappointment and later, hatred. Eventually that hatred brews and festers until it manifests itself and eventually the unthinkable happens:

They convert into Steelers fans.

Browns fans, I bring you good news today – this year will be different. Expectations will be met, and you will see a Browns team worthy of your praise and adoration. Head coach Eric Mangini will deliver on the promise of a better tomorrow, and the Cleveland Browns will field a competitive football team.

…Or at least I hope so.

While the NFL remains as unpredictable as ever, there are several measurable goals we as Browns fans can expect from this year’s incarnation of the football team.

The Browns will NOT make the playoffs in 2009.

Let’s not kid ourselves, this team is still a year away from playoff contention. Despite his work ethic and his passion for football, Eric Mangini cannot perform miracles. Until I see Eric Mangini turning water into Gatorade on the sidelines, my playoff expectations shall remain dormant.

The reason?

For one, the AFC North is one of the toughest divisions in football. Defensive juggernauts in Baltimore and Pittsburgh will undoubtedly impede any 2008 Dolphin-like progress the team may see. Anything can happen in the NFL, but some things are more realistic than others. While the Browns should be much improved from the team we saw in 2008, it is unlikely that improvement will land them a playoff birth.

Cleveland will rank in the top 10 in terms of fewest penalties committed.

Regardless of how the Browns fare on either side of the ball, Cleveland will field one of the most disciplined teams in professional football. One of the hallmarks of an Eric Mangini coached football team is an emphasis on execution and a minimization of self-inflicted wounds.

From 2006 to 2008, Eric Mangini’s Jets ranked third, second, and sixth overall terms of fewest penalties committed in a season.

Eric Mangini has already put measures in place to ensure the Browns continue the positive trends he started in New York. Players routinely learn and practice through noise in OTAs. Those who commit “mental errors” such as false starts and turnovers are forced to run laps as atonement for their mistakes. Such practices will undoubtedly allow the Browns to function and remain competitive against the toughest of competition.

The Browns will win at least 7 games this season.

It’s hard to predict wins and losses, and it’s even harder to do so accurately, but the Cleveland Browns should find a way to win at least 7 games this season. Contrary to popular belief, this team is not the rebuilding project their 2008 record seems to suggest. Many players from the 2007 season (in which the Browns finished 10-6) are still with the team.

Defensively speaking, the Cleveland should be much improved from the team that finished 28th overall in total defense. Another year in the books means more experience for the promising D’Qwell Jackson along with cornerbacks Brandon McDonald and Eric Wright. Defensive lineman Shaun Rogers and Corey Williams have played their first full year in the 3-4 defense, and that experience may prove invaluable heading into the 2009 season. All of these factors will enable the Browns to field a competitive football team that finishes right around the .500 mark.

Jerome Harrison will have an expanded role on offense.

There will be more #35 in 2009.

Since he was hired as head coach, Eric Mangini has taken the players and systems he developed in New York and transitioned them directly into Cleveland. So far, the Browns have used similar draft philosophies, players, and personnel from Eric Mangini’s past.

Assuming these trend continues, the Cleveland Browns’ offense should look very similar to that of the 2008 New York Jets.

Last year with the Jets, Browns offensive coordinator Brian Daboll was part of an offensive system which featured the thunder and lightning combo of Thomas Jones and Leon Washington. In this system, the speedy Washington received 123 touches (76 attempts plus 47 receptions) while accounting for 18% of the Jets' carries.

Under former Browns coordinator Rob Chudzinski, Jerome Harrison received 46 touches (34 attempts plus 12 receptions) while accounting for a mere 8% of Browns carries.

Daboll and Mangini have placed an emphasis on the change of pace running back, and that should benefit not only Harrison, but the Browns’ running game as a whole.

Posted on: May 27, 2009 5:12 pm
Edited on: May 27, 2009 6:26 pm

Browns Training Camp Battles

Several key position battles highlighted the beginning of organized team activity for the Cleveland Browns. New head coach Eric Mangini and his coaching staff have cleared the depth charts, eliminated bias, and promoted open competition at virtually every position. Drafted or undrafted, rookie or veteran, each player will have a chance to make an impact on the coaching staff and earn a spot on the roster.

Let the best man win.

While no roster spot is completely secure, some positions are more hotly contested than others. Here’s a look at the top 5 position battles heading into training camp.

5. Defensive end

In order to improve upon last year’s 28th rated rush defense, the Browns will need stout play along the defensive line from all 3 down linemen. Former Jets C.J. Mosley and Kenyon Coleman join Robaire Smith, Corey Williams, and Shaun Smith in a competition for the two end spots in Rex Ryan’s 3-4 defense.

Coleman and Mosley appear to be the odds on favorites due to their experience and success with Eric Mangini in New York. At 6’4, 320lbs, Corey Williams possesses the ideal bulk and strength for the position. He and Robaire Smith will need to prove themselves fully recovered from their season-ending surgeries to make a strong run at a starting position. Due to his confrontational demeanor, Shaun Smith has all but fallen out of this regime’s good graces. He will vie for a backup role with the team.

Projection : Kenyon Coleman and C.J. Mosley were part of a Jets rush defense which finished 7th overall in rush defense. Look for that experience to earn both players starting spots with the Browns this fall.

4. Wide receiver

Trading receiving threat Kellen Winslow to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers left the Browns shallow at an already thin position. Winslow’s size, hands, and toughness allowed the Browns to use the tight end as a receiver to create mismatches in the passing game. In light of Winslow's absence, Browns GM George Kokinis wasted little time in assembling a talented cast to help fill that void.

Braylon Edwards will continue to serve as the team’s primary receiver as he looks to regain his Pro Bowl form. Kokinis has turned to a pair of 2nd round receivers to step in alongside Edwards. Ohio State’s Brian Robiskie and Georgia’s Mohammed Massaquoi will compete for a starting position through training camp and the preseason. Both rookies have great size (6’3) and awareness to play split ends in Brian Daboll’s system. Newly acquired veterans Mike Furrey and David Patten will compete with Syndric Steptoe and Donte Stallworth for time in the slot. The ever-dangerous Josh Cribbs may see time as a receiver depending on where he best fits into the system.

Braylon Edwards will need some help if the Browns want to win in 2009.

Projection : It’s hard to imagine a scenario where Brian Robiskie doesn’t see immediate action on the field. His father, a receiver coach in the NFL, has worked with him and developed the OSU standout into one of the most polished receivers coming out of college. His size, route running, and intelligence should give him the nod over Massaquoi, who will provide the Browns with depth in his first year out of Georgia. Mike Furrey has made a name for himself as a slot receiver, so look for him to get the start in the slot.

3. Center

When Eric Mangini took over the Jets, the first move he made was to find a premiere left tackle to go along with a dominant center. That blueprint allowed Mangini to turn the then 4-12 Jets into a 10-6 playoff contender within one season. For the Browns to achieve similar success, Mangini will need a center to match up alongside Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas.

Incumbent Hank Fraley will try to fend off first round draft choice Alex Mack and hold on to his role as a starter. Fraley isn’t the dominant center he once was with the Eagles years ago, but he still possesses the intelligence to make all the calls up front. His three years in Cleveland have enabled the 10-year veteran to establish chemistry with the other offensive linemen – something that can not be taken for granted.

Projection : Eric Mangini and his coaching staff seem to value size and strength in offensive lineman. That bodes well for rookie Alex Mack, as he possesses the edge in both those departments. However, Mangini favors intelligence over strength, and Fraley’s experience in the AFC North should give him the edge heading into the regular season. He will start for the Browns.

2. Outside linebacker

Outside linebacker is said to be the most important position in the 3-4 defense. Defensive pressure created through a tenacious pass rush forces opposing offenses into mistakes and subsequently causes turnovers. The Cleveland Browns have struggled with this for years. In order for Rex Ryan’s defense to be successful, two outside linebackers will need to emerge as legitimate pass rushing specialists.

Eric Mangini brought David Bowens along with him from New York to compete for a starting spot. Bowens is a smart player with limited upside, but his presence ensures Cleveland will have solid play from at least one of the linebacker positions. Kamerion Wimbley has seen a drop-off in production, partially due to Mel Tucker’s defensive scheme and a suspect secondary play. Cornerbacks Eric Wright and Brandon McDonald have gained an additional year of starting experience. This should allow Rex Ryan the confidence to commit several linebackers to the quarterback and generate the pass rush this team sorely needs.

Projection : Kamieron Wimbley will likely start as the team’s weak side outside linebacker. Rookie David Veikune will compete with Bowens for the job, however it is unlikely either player will prevail. Second year player Alex Hall looks to be the favorite to start on the strong side. The physically imposing 7th round pick from St. Augustine’s has really impressed the coaching staff thus far. He has worked with the first team defense for the majority of OTAs, so don’t be surprised if he lines up for Cleveland on opening day.

1. Quarterback

The quarterback competition will undoubtedly determine how the Browns fare in 2009. Brady Quinn and Derek Anderson have much to prove to the new coaching staff. From here on out, every throw, decision, and read will be heavily scrutinized by offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, quarterback coach Carl Smith, and head coach Eric Mangini. At some point before the preseason, all three men will come together and decide which player is the best fit for the Cleveland Browns.

Derek Anderson's NFL experience should give him the edge over Brady Quinn.

Projection : When Eric Mangini evaluates a player during a press conference, he refers to what he saw when he coached against him as a member of the New York Jets. In 2007, Derek Anderson threw for two scores and led the Browns to victory over Mangini’s Jets. During the 2008 preseason, Anderson completed 4 of 5 passes and a touchdown against the Jets last season. Derek Anderson has more starting experienced than Brady Quinn, and in the end that will be the difference in the competition.

Posted on: April 25, 2009 11:30 pm
Edited on: April 28, 2009 10:37 pm

Cleveland Browns' Draft Recap

What a day.

George Kokinis and Eric Mangini made shrewd moves as they maneuvered the Cleveland Browns to one of the strongest first day drafts in recent history.

Heading into draft weekend, several fans (this Gentledawg included) thought there was no way the Browns would be able to trade down from the fifth overall selection. Many believed the lack of top tier talent and the steep price that comes with a top 5 selection would prove too big of an obstacle for Cleveland to overcome.

Boy were we wrong.

The Browns traded down an unprecedented 3 times in the first round and landed several high-character players who should impact this team immediately.

Name: Alex Mack
Height: 6'4
Weight: 311 lbs
Position: Center
College: California
Draft: 1st round (21st overall)

George Kokinis and Eric Mangini seem to understand the importance of building this team through the trenches. In a division featuring two of the most complex defensive schemes in the NFL, strong offensive line play is absolutely critical for team success. That all starts in the middle with protection calls and reads, so it comes as no surprise the Cleveland Browns select the best center in the draft.

Alex Mack is a highly intelligent player who should have no problem starting and succeeding in the NFL. With the addition of Alex Mack at center and Joe Thomas at left tackle, Cleveland has two young players who should be very good for a long period of time.

Brian Robiskie
Height: 6'3
Weight: 209 lbs
Position: Wide receiver
College: The Ohio State University
Draft: 2nd round (36th overall)

The Browns found a small degree of offensive success in 2007, and a large part of that can be attributed to Joe Jurevicius. Jurevicius provided quarterback Derek Anderson with a sure-handed target who moved the chains and sustained drives. Brian Robiskie can be that player. The Cleveland native is an excellent route runner known for his impeccable work ethic and detail-orientated approach to the game. He should have no problems adjusting to the professional game.

Robiskie has been hailed as the most NFL ready prospect in this years receiver class. With Dante Stallworth's ongoing legal troubles, Cleveland may need Robiskie to step in sooner rather than later.

Name: Mohamed Massaquoi (Mass-a-koi)
Height: 6'2
Weight: 210 lbs
Position: Wide receiver
College: Georgia
Draft: 2nd round (50th overall)

The selection of 2nd round receiver Mo Massaquoi does two things for this football team. Not only does the move add depth to a very shallow position group, but it establishes character as a core value of the Cleveland Browns. According to the scouting report, Massaquoi is the type of player who will do the extra little things to improve himself as a player. This is the kind of work ethic Eric Mangini loves. As such, Massaquoi should fit in well in the lockerroom, and help Mangini establish an identity for this football team.

Mohamed will compete for a starting position come opening day. While he lacks game-changing speed, his intelligence and knowledge of the game should allow him to find his way onto the field.

Name: David Veikune (Vi-kune-nay)
Height: 6'3
Weight: 254 lbs
Position: Outside linebacker
College: Hawaii
Draft: 2nd round (52nd overall)

David Veikune possesses everything necessary to successfully make the conversion to linebacker in the NFL. He impressed scouts and coaches with his strength and work ethic at the combine - bench pressing 225 pounds an eye-popping 35 times. Veikune is known for delivering sledgehammer type hits. So much so, he was named one of the top 11 hitters in the state of Hawaii. His flawless record and outstanding personality figure well into the lockerroom.

While fans may still lament missing out on Rey Maualuga, Veikune may actually turn out to be the better pro. The level of discipline and raw power he displays should allow him a chance to start right away for the Browns.

Abram Elam
Age: 27
NFL Experience: 4 years (1 year starting)
Height: 6'0
Weight: 207 lbs
Position: Safety
Draft: Undrafted

Abram Elam is the posterboy for Mangini's philosophy on open competition. Elam came to the Jets after spending time with the Dolphins and Cowboys respectively. Elam impressed coaches enough to survive roster cuts and find a position on the 53 man roster. In week 5 of the 2007 season, the Jets had secondary issues, so Mangini elected to make a change and Elam got his chance. He did an adequate job and became one of Mangini's favorites ever since.

'Abe' Elam, as Mangini calls him, is more of a run supporting safety. He is a sure tackler much better suited to playing in the box. Elam does have some coverage ability, but look for him to play more strong safety than free.

Name: Kenyon Coleman
Age: 30
NFL Experience: 8 years (2 years starting)
Height: 6'5
Weight: 295
Position: Defensive End
Draft: Drafted by the Oakland Raiders in 2002 (5th round, 147th overall)

Eric Mangini thinks very highly of Coleman. During the 2008 offseason, Mangini and the Jets awarded Coleman with a 5 year contract reportedly worth $20 million...before he ever played a down. After his two seasons starting for the Jets, Mangini asked for Coleman as part of the Sanchez deal. His inclusion in the deal serves as testament to Coleman's ability and persona as a player.

 Kenyon's biggest strength is his ability to play the run out of the 3-4 scheme. As we've seen over the past 5 years, this is not an easy thing to do. Coleman will likely start for the Browns at RDE.

Name: Brett Ratliff
Age: 23
NFL Experience:
2 years
Height: 6'4
Weight: 235 lbs
Position: Quarterback
Draft: Undrafted

Like Elam, Ratliff is a self-made player who earned the coaches respect through training camp. As the story goes, Ratliff came into Jets training camp with little to no knowledge of the system. Mangini saw little in him initially, and even suggested he learn the wide receiver position if he wanted to stay around. With time on the practice field, Ratliff grew as a passer. He took advantage of Eric Mangini's "opportunity time" - option practice time for players to prove themselves. He shined. The Jets found a place for him as a backup QB.

It's difficult to evalute Ratliff as a passer because he has yet to do it at the pro level. We do know he is an extremely hard worker, and that usually translates well for quarterbacks.

Perhaps the most impressive part of this entire draft came in the moves the Browns did NOT make. Quarterback Brady Quinn and receiver Braylon Edwards are still with the team - leaving the Browns deeper than ever at both positions.

With this influx of first day talent, Kokinis has significantly improved the Cleveland Browns. It remains to be seen how these players transition to the professional game, but one thing is certain:

The Cleveland Browns are headed in the right direction.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or