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Leading up to training camp: Things I expect from the Browns in 2009

by:Ryan Ahbel
ryanahbel@gmail.com


As we enter the month of July, this is undoubtedly a slow time for fans of the NFL. Mini camps have ended weeks ago and we are still a few weeks away from the start of training camp. It is periods like now where expectations rise. Experts across the country predict team records, MVP's, Pro Bowlers, and Super Bowl teams, which are based off nothing but sheer speculation. Expectations are set for all 32 teams, some live up to them, some don't. Expectations can become the kiss of death to NFL coaches, if a team doesn't live up to them, that coach can be let go. As was the case with Romeo Crennel a year ago.

Last year the Browns were expected by some to win the AFC North, but predicted by most all to be competitive. The Browns finished at 4-12, and head coach Romeo Crennel was subsequently fired.

Enter Eric Mangini. The young Bill Belicheck disciple with a task master reputation. A coach who believes you win in the classroom first so you can win on the field later. A coach who demands football IQ, mental toughness and attention to detail. A coach who doesn't care to be your friend, but to be your football coach. This is the type of personality change owner Randy Learner was looking for in replacing the well liked Crennel, and he couldn't have found a more opposite personality for the head coaching position.

With a whole new coaching staff in place and no starting quarterback being named, it is hard to predict what the Browns will do this year. I do think with the talent they do have, they have the ability to surprise some people this season. They still have four of their 2007 Pro Bowlers left on the roster from their 10 win season However I will stick to what I've always said. The Browns wont win anything until they decide on a quarterback. Which leads me to my first expectation.

Brady Quinn will be the starting quarterback. Since taking over, Mangini and general manager George Kokinis have traded pass catching tight end Kellen Winslow, and signed a traditional run blocking tight end in Robert Royal to replace him. They passed on big play receivers in the 1st round of the draft to select a bruising center with the 21st overall pick. They then drafted Ohio State receiver Brian Robiskie with their first 2nd round pick who projects to be a Joe Jurivision type possession receiver. What this means is they are looking to build a ball control offense, which points to Brady Quinns strengths, not the big armed gun slinger Derek Anderson. Also Mangini has repeatedly stated that although he wont name a starting QB until the pre season, he looks for huddle presence and intelligence in a quarterback, both qualities Brady Quinn is said to have over Derek Anderson.

Browns fans will love Rob Ryan. I don't know where this defense will finish stat wise under their new defensive coordinator, but I do know they will be better to watch. The son of defensive mastermind Buddy Ryan is known for that same defensive expertise. Even in those losing years with Oakland, their defense was always the bright spot. Ryan understands how to blitz, and most importantly when to blitz. I think it's a sure bet the Browns will up their dismal 17 sacks they had in 2008.

Eric Barton will stabilize the defense. I think one of the best kept secrets in Berea since Romeo took over was that Andre Davis was a liability at middle linebacker. Davis was a defensive caption and often led the team in tackles so to the naked eye he was a good and valuable player, but those tackles mean nothing when they are six yards down field because you can't shed a block. Eric Barton was an under the radar signing but he is a solid NFL veteran and will be more than adequate at the MLB spot. Add to the fact he will be playing side by side with rising star D'quell Jackson (who the coaches love) and together they make a very formidable middle linebacking unit. I see Barton having a similar effect that Earl Holmes had on the Browns defense when they brought him in the same position in 2002 and made the playoffs.

It's now or never for Kameron Wimbly. This year we will know one way or the other with him. He has all the pieces in place as far as coaching for him to reach his potential. For Kameron, I think it's as simple as him learning another pass rushing move and having a coaching staff that knows how to move him around and surprise the offense with his natural pass rushing ability. If Mangini and Ryan can't get him to be a serviceable outside linebacker, I don't believe anyone can.

Brodney Pool will be phased out. With the off season signing of free safety Abram Elam, and the departure of previous Browns strong safety Sean Jones, Brodney Pool figures to man the strong safety spot due to lack of potions. But with a new regime in place that did not draft him, I can see him being phased out by Mangini and Ryan as they explore other options as Pool doesn't seem to be the heady player they covet.

Jerome Harrison will get a chance. Eric Mangini has praised Harrisons work ethic and running ability numerous times during this off season. With his 5.8 yards per carry NFL average, Harrison figures to be getting plenty of carries this season. Harrison was held back from playing time by former coach Romeo Crennel due to pass blocking issues, but Mangini seems to think he can work with him. Harrison would make an excellent change of pace back coming in for Lewis.

As far as the team as a whole goes, It's hard to put a win total on it, but I do confidently feel that our days of sloppy embarrassing football will come to an end this season. No more lining up in the neutral zone or offensive pass interference penalties will be seen. No more wasted timeouts or replay debacles from the coaching staff, and no more lack luster 2 minute drills will be seen in Cleveland Browns Stadium this season. I think this team will have weeks where they look like a playoff team and then weeks they look like they are a few pieces away. But I expect week in and week out this team will play intelligently, with passion, and with smarts. I think that is the only fair expectation that can be raised for this team. Wins take time to accomplish, but good smart football can be achieved in year one.

4 comments:

  1. This is a nice piece, Ryan. The key is your last paragraph - the return of smart football. Remember the bumbling and stumbling under Crennel? Not using the 2-minute warning properly with regard to timeouts; strings of costly penalties (even in that MNF win over the Giants); inexplicable trepidation to throw the red flag; and so on. We will see those things come to an end.

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  2. One thing people forget about Jerome Harrison is that while he was having difficulties picking up the Blitz and blocking, his Qb was unable to dump off to him anyway which made him useless with Anderson. If he will be used more often, it will have to be under Brady Quinn as his Qb.

    Great piece during a time fans are starving for Browns write-ups.

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  3. I cant agree with you article any more!!

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  4. Pool will get phased out?

    It's more like if Pool doesn't step up and perform in 2009 then he will be cut or traded after 2009.

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