Behind Enemy Lines: Part I

Our Scout.com experts, John Crist of Bear Report and Barry McBride of The OBR, go Behind Enemy Lines for a full breakdown of Thursday's preseason matchup between the Browns and Bears at Soldier Field in Chicago. Let's start off this two-part series with five questions from John to Barry.

John Crist: Much like the Bears had to endure Kyle Orton vs. Rex Grossman throughout training camp and the preseason last year, the Browns have a similar situation with Brady Quinn vs. Derek Anderson this year. The fans obviously want to see Quinn get the job, but which QB makes Cleveland a better team?

Barry McBride: Anderson and Quinn are very different quarterbacks. Anderson has the rocket arm, stands tall in the pocket, and goes downfield whenever he can. Quinn doesn't have Anderson's ability to throw the long ball, but moves through his progressions faster and finds the open receiver. Quinn is much better at reading defenses and looking off safeties.

Each will excel in different environments: For example, Anderson needs good protection and strong, physical receivers. If he has those, he can be very successful, as he showed in 2007. At this point in their development, however, I believe Quinn is the better option for the Browns.

JC: Is there going to be enough skill-position talent on the field to make either of these quarterbacks successful? Jamal Lewis doesn't have much tread left on his tires, Braylon Edwards dropped so many passes last season and Kellen Winslow is no longer around. Are there any playmakers on the horizon?


RB James Davis
Getty Images: Matt Sullivan

BM: Lewis may be getting near the end of the road, but the Browns have some intriguing talents in the backfield in James Davis and Jerome Harrison, who will get looks if Lewis doesn't produce quickly. Both have impressed in limited opportunities – Harrison last season, and Davis during the exhibition slate. There are many who expect that those two may get the bulk of the carries during the latter half of the season if Lewis doesn't impress more than he has during the preseason. Fantasy football players will want to watch that situation closely.

At wide receiver, the team still doesn't have a big-play threat to pull coverage away from Edwards. Mike Furrey seems to be a natural fit in the third wide receiver role, and looks so far to be bouncing back to the form displayed in Detroit two years ago. Josh Cribbs is an exciting performer who looks to be set to grab the second wide receiver job, but has yet to prove himself like he has on special teams and doesn't have the track record of success you might want to see in a second receiver. Youngsters Brian Robiskie and Mohamed Massaquoi show potential but aren't expected to break out during their rookie campaigns, and aging vet David Patten is a mystery so far this preseason, rarely appearing in games or on the practice field.

So, the fallback plan at running back looks strong if Lewis falters, but there are a lot of questions at wide receiver.

JC: For all intents and purposes, the Bears and Browns traded backup tackles in the offseason, with John St. Clair going to Cleveland and Kevin Shaffer coming to Chicago. Shaffer is the swing tackle right now, playing behind Orlando Pace and Chris Williams. Is St. Clair going to secure a starting gig?

BM: It looks like St. Clair will be the Browns' starting right tackle, a job he won by default when Ryan Tucker was unable to bounce back. Tucker appeared in only one game last year and Tuesday was sent to IR while rumors swirled about him getting released or retiring. Floyd Womack will be the right guard, giving the Browns a new look on the right side of the line, where Rex Hadnot and Shaffer struggled last year.

Shaffer was solid in 2007 when he had Tucker playing guard beside him, but when working alongside Hadnot last season, his weaknesses were revealed. Shaffer is a capable player, but was signed well above value as a free agent and simply never developed to the point where his contract numbers made sense. He'll be a nice addition, at a far more reasonable price, for the Bears.

JC: The Bears showed interest in both Robiskie and Massaquoi leading up to the NFL Draft. How have the two young wide receivers looked so far, is either one of them in line to make a contribution offensively as a rookie and do the Browns have a keeper – or two – for down the road?


WR Mohamed Massaquoi
Getty Images: Gregory Shamus

BM: Massaquoi has surprised observers by passing Robiskie on the depth chart, although that notion has never been confirmed by the secretive Eric Mangini. He is showing a great deal of potential, but hasn't exploded in preseason games yet. Robiskie is less flashy, but his "NFL-ready receiver" reputation was as overstated as such things usually are for wideouts coming out of college. Robiskie hasn't stood out yet, but like a fellow "NFL-ready" Buckeye wideout, the Colts' Anthony Gonzalez, Robiskie will likely emerge in his second or third year.

The NFL is brutal on rookie receivers, which is why the Browns may be breathing a sigh of relief that Cribbs has stepped up and staked a legitimate claim to the No. 2 job.

JC: While they are different coaches with different personalities, Cleveland got rid of one Bill Belichick disciple (Romeo Crennel) and brought in another one (Mangini). Is Mangini really as abrasive as they say, and why should Cleveland fans assume he's going to be any better than Crennel?

BM: Crennel and Mangini may both be from the Belichick tree, but they couldn't be more different in temperament and approach. Crennel was loved by players and others in and out of the organization, whereas Mangini doesn't appear to have any interest in anything beyond winning games. Despite both being on Belichick's staff, the Browns have fallen into a common NFL syndrome of replacing a player-friendly coach with a disciplinarian, attempting to fix problems created by a coach at one end of the spectrum by getting a coach who is at the other. Mangini's different approach will likely straighten out some problems suffered by the team in 2008, but it's a mystery as to whether his approach will be successful in the long haul.

Mangini's approach to the media gets him labeled as abrasive, as it didn't take long for some of the folks in the local media to start looking for reasons to tear into him. After all, he makes their jobs harder by not spoon-feeding them stories. But after nearly 20 years of failure in Cleveland, Browns fans will have no issue with Mangini if he brings them a winner. The key with Mangini will be, in my opinion, how he works with GM George Kokinis to get players. He runs sharp, well-disciplined practices and is a modern-era, Type-A coach. He won't get out-worked or have many players confused about where they stand. The key to his success will be whether or not he can upgrade a deficient roster, and that grade won't be in for a couple of years.

To read Part II of this Behind Enemy Lines series, where John answers five questions from Barry, Click Here.


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John Crist is the publisher of BearReport.com. Barry McBride is a publisher of TheOBR.com.


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