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Team Preview Part 1

September 9, 2009

Hello everyone! The start of the regular season is just around the corner, so I thought it'd be a great time to finally get to my first post. I have some thoughts on the Browns roster I'd like to share with you all as a sort of preview of what I expect to see this year. These are just my opinions, feel free to tell me how stupid I am. I'm going to take a look at the Brownies position by position. I'm going to try to look at the everyone's bright side since it's a time for optimism (the Browns are undefeated!). My statistical projections however, are not a best case scenario but my real honest to God guess. I'll look at the offense today with defense and special teams later this week. So here we go...

Quarterback: Derek Anderson, Brady Quinn, Brett Ratliff- For the record, I expect Quinn to be the guy come Sunday, and I would go with Quinn. It's nice that at least somebody knows who the starter is now that Mangini has told the QBs, but I have no problem with his competitive advantage idea. I don't think it hurts the team at all. It may not help, but if it doesn't hurt what's the harm in seeing what happens? (Update 3:17 PM: Mary Kay Cabot of The Plain Dealer reports that Brady Quinn will start.)
I think Quinn will have a very solid year statistically because he does have some talent and is a smart QB. He is going to avoid the big mistake. The Browns are going to score a few more touchdowns this year and give up a few fewer because Brady Quinn values the football. His style of play will keep the Browns in games because he will avoid the big mistake that lets things get out of hand. He doesn't have DA's arm (few do) but he can throw the ball down field and put decent velocity behind it when he has to. Also, Quinn should be smart enough to play within himself. He should be able to maximize what he does well and minimize his short comings through his understanding of the game. I think people will be pleasantly surprised with his production. Assuming he starts and avoids injury, I see a little over 3,000 yards passing, around 20-22 TDs, and only 14 or so INTs. Am I being optimistic? Um, yeah. Do I really believe Brady can be that productive? Absolutely. I am a big fan of not throwing rookie QBs into the fire too soon and letting them learn how to be an NFL QB first. Specifically, the mental and preparation side of the game. Quinn is going to benefit from nearly two years as an understudy.
I like DA as the number two. He has a cannon and can be lightning in a bottle anytime he comes in the game. The guy has value and belongs in the NFL. He isn't consistent enough to be a number one QB, but he has the tools to be a number two.
I'm comfortable with Brett Ratliff as the number three. If nothing else, he knows Mangini's system, and if an emergency came up where it became Ratliff time, it would be about minimizing mistakes and taking what the defense gives you. His knowledge would help there.

Running Back: James Davis, Jerome Harrison, Jamal Lewis, Cedric Peerman, Lawrence Vickers- Jamal Lewis is a great player and deserves serious consideration for the Hall of Fame when his playing days are over. He had a great 2007 season when I thought he was over the hill. However, his best days are clearly behind him. He will be better than what we all saw in the preseason, but I don't think he gets to 1,000 yards this year. I also don't think he gets close to 4 yards per carry, which is the number you really want your backs to be at. I think Jamal finishes with around 700 yards and an average of less than 3.5 yards per carry. Not very good. Don't let it diminish what Jamal has done over his career, but this is what happens to running backs. It's not that he turned thirty, it's that he has logged a lot of carries over the years. This is the sunset of what has been a spectacular career.
I loved James Davis when we grabbed him in the 6th round. My cousin is a Clemson alum, so I pay a little attention to the Tigers. James Davis can run. I knew that when we drafted him. I didn't know he would acclimate himself to the NFL so quickly. I'm not saying he is a Hall of Famer, or even a 1,000 yard back. I'm not saying he isn't either. I need to see him play in a few real games before I make any proclamations on his potential. I thought on the day we drafted him, he is better than a 6th rounder. I am convinced he can be a productive NFL player. I think he will have a very solid year. I have no idea how often he will get the ball or how good he will really be, but around 400 yards an a yards per carry of slightly over 4 wouldn't surprise me at all.
James Harrison just can't catch a break. It finally seems like a coach who will use the guy comes to town, and he gets injured while a rookie has a big time preseason. Fear not James H. You bring a speed element to the table that Mangini will use. When you produce, you will not be immediately banished to the bench for having the gall to be productive. You will be used! I see around 500 total yards and 5-7 total TDs for you this year.
Cedric Peerman was a solid college back and is really here for developmental purposes, I believe. He won't do much this year, but I think he's worth taking a flier on.
Lawrence Vickers will continue to be a solid fullback. He can block, catch the ball out of the backfield, and even run a little bit. You won't hear his name a lot because he is not going to get a lot of dumb penalties and he is not going to blow a lot of assignments. He is just going to go about doing his job, and that is just fine for our fullback.

Wide Receiver: Josh Cribbs, Braylon Edwards, Mike Furrey, Mohamed Massaquoi, Brian Robiskie- Braylon is going to have a bounce back year. He won't make it to 2007 production levels, and he is still going to drop the ball, but he is going to do well enough that you will put up with the drops. He is the one real play maker on the offense. He's going to go over 1,000 yards receiving, but not by a lot. Probably in the 1,050-1,150 range. He will catch some TDs, I'm thinking 7-9 TDs. He will probably have 12-14 drops, ten of those drops will make you want smack your forehead, or yell obscenities, or whatever you are inclined to do. He's also going to make ten "How did he manage to do that?" catches. Overall, he is going to be good.
Josh Cribbs, return man extraordinaire, is nominally going to be your number two receiver. However, I think Cribbs and Furrey are going to see about equal playing time and about an equal number of balls thrown their way. Cribbs is going to be more of a play maker, or try to be, while Furrey will be the safety blanket/possession/savvy veteran receiver. I think both end up in the 35-45 reception range. I think both are solid, useful pieces on the offense. I think both are really more number 3 receivers, at best.
I also think, considering all he brings to the table, Josh Cribbs needs to get paid. I am virtually never in favor of renegotiating a contract. This is the exception. Pay Josh Cribbs! Josh Cribbs is the kind of athlete fans want to root for. He is the kind of player every armchair quarterback thinks he would be if he played. He does it right, so to speak. His contract is horrible. If he could play football for 40 years, sure, but his window is small. He can set his family up for life. PAY JOSH CRIBBS!
On to Massaquoi and Robiskie. As long as they are on the Browns the two will always be linked by their draft status. Both seem to be mature, hard workers. Mangini's kind of players. Robiskie had the reputation of being NFL ready, but Massaquoi looked a little bit ahead in the preseason. I think Massaquoi gets some more regular playing time early on, but Robiskie catches up. Between the two of them, they make 1-2 plays per game. Both will get better after this year, neither one breaks out as a rookie though. Massaquoi get more time early on so he finishes around 18-22 catches for around 200 yards. Robiskie doesn't start seeing at least some time on a regular basis until later and only gets around 12-15 catches for around 140-160 yards. The two combine for 3ish TDs. They will both evolve into good NFL receivers.

Tight Ends: Steve Heiden, Robert Royal, Martin Rucker- This position got a lot of attention when Kellen Winslow Jr. was here. Not so anymore. Heiden and Royal are similar to Vickers. They will do their jobs and they won't make mistakes. Royal is the better blocker, especially with Heiden coming off of that knee injury, Heiden is the better pass catcher. I like both Heiden and Royal. They may be unspectacular, but they will get the job done. They will combine for around 45-55 catches and around 600 yards. They will also give fans 0 headaches.
Martin Rucker is a mystery. He's labeled as a pass catching tight end, but hasn't had much opportunity to show off his skills. I remain intrigued by Rucker, but he probably won't get a ton of playing time behind Royal and Heiden. I still like him down the road and I'm glad we can hang onto him. I hope he does something that forces the coaches to play him. I'd be thrilled if he can develop into a legitimate receiving threat. If he could turn into a 45 catches 570 yards 4 TDs guy, that'd be great. Maybe he can, but I don't think we will get to find out this year.

Offensive Line- Hank Fraley, Rex Hadnot, Alex Mack, John St. Clair, Eric Steinbach, Joe Thomas, Phil Trautwein, Floyd Womack- I predict Alex Mack will be the starting center. So our line from left to right should be Thomas, Steinbach, Mack, Womack, and St. Clair. That is also how I would rank the starting five from best to worst. I actually think Hadnot and Fraley are better linemen than St. Clair, they just aren't tackles.
The left side of the line, Thomas and Steinbach, are the best part of the team. Joe Thomas is a legitimate franchise left tackle and is already elite at the very important position as he enters his third season. He may be the NFL's best pass blocker, and he is more than capable in the running game. If you're going to buy a Browns jersey, go with Thomas's #73. He will be here for awhile. Steinbach is an elite guard. He's not a mauler, and you'd call him undersized if he weren't so good. He's listed at 295 pounds, but may play at more like 280. So what. He's really good. He's athletic and tough. We gave him a big free agent contract and he has absolutely panned out. If all of the Browns were of the Thomas/Steinbach quality, you could book your flight to the Super Bowl. For the next five years. Oh well.
The right side of the line is not as good. Womack is serviceable. He is more of a mauler, but he is not elite. He is not a slouch either. I can't say I'm sold on John St. Clair. I really wish Ryan Tucker could have won the right tackle spot, but some combination of age and injuries made that impossible. St. Clair does not have very good athleticism nor drive blocking power. You want your left tackle to deal with the elite pass rushers and your right tackle to plow the road for your runners. St. Clair is not a plower. (FYI: this computer program does not recognize "plower" as a word. So I guess you can't use it in Scrabble since I made it up.) He is the weakest link on the offensive line. He just lacks the ability. He's going to be exposed this year by opposing defenses. I really hope I am way off base.
Alex Mack looks the part of the long term answer at center. He says all the right things and has a reputation as a smart guy and a hard worker. He will probably have normal rookie ups and downs. Hopefully, he develops into a third elite offensive lineman. I think he has a good shot of becoming an elite center, and should at worst be a decent player for a long time in the NFL.
Hadnot and Fraley are the interior backups. The physical nature of the NFL dictates that both should see playing time this year. I like both, as backups. Hadnot is more physical, Fraley is crafty. Both can do a solid job when called upon. Hadnot is probably the more physically gifted of the two and, if he had not been injured, may have pushed Womack for the starting right guard spot. Fraley is a true pro who will be ready when called upon. Both players provide good depth. lists Phil Trautwein as 6'6" 310 lbs. out of Florida. He was born on April 15, 1986. He was first team All-SEC as a senior in 2008 and wears jersey number 74 for the Brownies. He's a white guy with a tattoo on his left arm and he appears to have blonde hair. That's all I know about Phil Trautwein.

Overall- The offense will be better than people think, especially if Quinn is half the decision maker I think he is. However, better than people think will still leave them in the bottom third of the league in terms of production. I think the offense will be a lot less frustrating to watch than in the past. I think this unit has the potential to get a lot better over the next few years. Quinn, Davis, Robiskie, Massaquoi, Thomas, Mack, Rucker, and maybe Edwards, Cribbs, and Harrison still have not reached their peak as players. At the very least, this unit should drastically reduce the number of obscenities you yell on Sundays.

If you tolerated my writing and opinions, check back later this week for my look at the defense and special teams.

Jack Bacevice


  1. Great preview! Mangini is the man. I liked how you said the Browns should pay Cribbs...most people don't understand that most athletes have a small window of playing time to make money....some of these guys may not have a job after they are done playing and the money they make must be used and invested for the rest of their lives....sure it looks like a lot of money to the average person, but spanned over a lifetime, not as much.

    Lets see if Brady really is the QB. I'll believe it when I see it.

  2. Welcome aboard, Jack. I particularly like your appreciation of Vickers. I am a fairly big fan of Lawrence as I think that he is underrated as a fullback in the NFL. My guess is that Mangini uses Vickers more often as a rusher in very short yardage and goal-line situations.