What are your expectations for the Browns in 2008: Let us know your thoughts by posting here in the Watercooler!
As Browns fans stand on the precipice of the 2008 National Football League season, one question resonates and begs several others.
Exactly what do they expect from their team this season?
Is anything less than the playoffs totally unacceptable?
How about a wild-card spot?
A division championship?
At least one playoff victory?
Appearing in the AFC championship game for the first time in nearly 20 years?
Appearing in the Super Bowl for the first time ever?
Winning it all?
Exactly what do you realistically expect from the 2008 Cleveland Browns? What would you be satisfied with?
Throw out the pie-in-the-sky, glint-in-the-eye view of this team. Look at it with all the blemishes showing.
Let your guard down and take an honest look at the team that surprised an entire league last season. See the bull's-eyes the players now sport across their broad backs.
A lot of people around professional football believe what they saw last season was not an aberration. At least on offense. They believe the Browns now stand on the threshold of what promises to be a very special time.
They see a relatively young club that has enough weapons on offense to be even better than last season. They see a club with a defense that has been reinvented by Phil Savage.
Naysayers point to the tough schedule. They question whether the aforementioned offense peaked last season and has little, if any, room for improvement.
Many fans will turn the next six weeks into a referendum on the need to change quarterbacks. It'll be interesting to see how they react as that little hot button unfolds on the practice field and in exhibition games.
Placing Derek Anderson and Brady Quinn under microscopic scrutiny will be a daily exercise. Their body language will come under close surveillance. Every pass they throw will undergo thorough inspection and dissection. Flaws will be detected and noted.
It wouldn't be surprising to see some fans take sides to the point where they vent their frustrations vocally.
Never mind the possibility of polarizing a good thing. Never mind the fact that both men wear the same uniform.
Emotions run high and very well could approach the boiling point with fans who refuse to let go of Anderson's meltdown in the second Cincinnati game last season.
Anderson will garner most of attention, as well he should since he's the incumbent as the Browns launched their training camp Wednesday in Berea. It'll be interesting to see how he handles the pressure.
Last year at this time, he and Charlie Frye engaged in one of the most lifeless battles for a starting job seen in a long time. It was as though neither man wanted the job.
Anderson captured it halfway though the first game of the season by default and rode it straight to the Pro Bowl.
Kind of made Savage look somewhat foolish for trading this year's top draft pick for Quinn last year when he had the right quarterback on the roster all along. Go ahead. Blame Anderson for that.
Without Anderson's breakout season, Quinn is the starting quarterback and there is nothing coming even close to a controversy this year.
But how realistic is it to expect no worse than a repeat of the 402-point explosion last year? So many positives have to dove-tail in order for such an occurrence.
Only one player missed any significant time with injuries last season. Health was one of that unit's greatest assets. Already this season, even before the first football is snapped in training camp this week, two valuable members of the offense aren't even close to being ready.
Anderson was one of the few quarterbacks in the National Football League who did not miss playing time due to injury. What's the likelihood he can make it two seasons in a row?
Can the Browns replicate their 7-1 home record with the likes of Dallas, Indianapolis and the Super Bowl champion New York Giants coming to the lakefront?
Not gonna be easy.
The defense, it would appear, holds the key to how well the Browns play in 2008. Unlike last season, when the offense had to outscore the opposition because the defense was so bad, the defense this season is expected to provide a better safety net for the offense.
But in order to be effective, new defensive coordinator Mel Tucker must install an aggressive approach to the game. Defense is all about aggression, intimidation. Attack, attack, attack.
The read-and-react approach on defense under Romeo Crennel has not worked. In fact, it has been an abysmal failure. The Browns' sieve-like front seven constantly bring up the rear in run defense playing in that manner. And the pass rush has been virtually non-existent.
Playing passively again on that side of the ball, as they've done in the past in Crennel's 3-4 scheme, will be nothing more than playing the same game with different faces.
The club needs to assail opposing offenses. Force mistakes. Provide the offense with shorter fields by creating turnovers. Make the opposition feel uncomfortable.
If it can achieve that, the pressure under which the offense operated last season diminishes greatly, resulting in fewer mistakes. Fewer mistakes equal more victories. And more victories equal football in January.
That's not asking for too much, is it?