Q: Much has been made about the arm strength of Colt McCoy and whether he can lead at the professional level. He looks to have the sufficient arm strength to make plays for the Browns, so why does this offense seem to live in a shell and come out a couple times per game, at best? Does he have enough to skill to be a starter in the NFL and not just in Cleveland?
LA: With McCoy, I see the determining factor being his ability to be accurate and develop timing with his receivers. If he's accurate and can get the ball into tight windows, whether with arm strength or due to preparation, then he does have a chance to remain the man at the helm for the Browns.
I find it most interesting and a positive that since head coach Pat Shurmur basically called out his play a couple weeks ago, McCoy has thrown the ball down-field a bit, and completing passes other than the intermediate route types.
If he can force the opposing defense to respect the pass, the offense will show some life. When a defense can't load the box, the run game has a chance, as well as the QB likely to gain precious time in the pocket.
I am of the impression the failures of the Browns offense has been due to a multitude of reasons. Starting with the head coach not being willing to take shots, the QB not always seeing and being in the right position to make accurate throws, as well as a running game struggling due to being swarmed at the point of attack.
You can't help but wonder how good he and the Browns offense would be with development and a true play-maker flanking this offense.
If McCoy fails, it will not be due to a lack of effort --- this young man has a huge heart and will do anything to win, this is something that the organization loves about him.
Q:: It appears Peyton Hillis will never get back on the playing field and Montario Hardesty is an injury waiting to happen. Out of nowhere Chris Ogbonnaya seems to have settled down the issues at running back. Do you see Ogbonnaya having the chance to be the feature back for the Browns and maybe another back coming in next season?
LA:Chris Ogbonnaya has gotten better with each passing week and his development shows on game-day. As he gets more comfortable and accustomed to playing, you can see his vision is good and his one-cut ability isn't too bad either.
Following a nice run Sunday, Ogbonnaya pulled up with what appeared to be a hamstring strain. Rather than taking it easy, the RB went right back in the game and made a couple nice carries helping to get the ball into field-goal range. The coaching staff was very impressed with his toughness and commitment.
While I don't see Ogbonnaya being the long-term answer at the position, I do see a young man that is dedicated and willing to do whatever it takes, whatever role thrown at him.
Brandon Jackson will return next season for the Browns, Hardesty will be under contract and Hillis will be a free agent. I see room for Ogbonnaya, especially if he continues this ride to the end of the season.
Q:With the Browns on the verge of playing teams with very good defensive units, such as the Bengals, Steelers and Ravens, should we expect the Browns to be steam-rolled and looking like the pathetic group they have been accustomed to being? Also, what is the key attribute when the Browns play these three teams specifically?
LA:I expect the Browns to go 0-5 in the games you mention and not due to the defense. I just don't see enough offensively from the Browns to stand in there and take the shots they are going to see from these three teams.
Until I see consistency coming from the offensive side of the ball, it's difficult to breakdown a manner which this team can put enough on the scoreboard to win.
The Browns offensive line, RB's and TE's have not been able to fend off strong pass rushing teams with consistency. Though the number of sacks allowed isn't bad, the pressure the QB has been under throughout the season has been strong and the team hasn't reacted well to the pressure.
Now, put McCoy in the shotgun and run some serious no-huddle and some sugar-huddle, it could get interesting, as McCoy has been pretty good at times in these sets.
Anything this coaching staff can do to maximize the skill-set of the offensive players and keep the defense off balance and on their heels will go a long way into making these games very competitive.
Q:If you were calling the shots for the Browns, what would you do in the off-season to ensure this team does improve and have an avenue for continued development?
LA:Let's put it this way, I see the Browns needing another DE, an OLB and DB depth. Offensively, it may not be as bad as it appears on game-day.
Obviously this team lacks a speed-guy, a difference maker at WR, a RT and interior linemen should be looked at dependent on the development throughout the second half of the season.
If the team plays out the way it has to this point, I would say QB and RB become targeted positions as well.
Q:What's the deal with the Browns not offering a new contract to linebacker D'Qwell Jackson? I know he has been injured the past two seasons, but he is playing the best ball of his career.
LA:I couldn't agree more; Jackson is playing well and has done so throughout the 2011 season to date.
And, you answered your own question. The Browns had plenty of uncertainty whether Jackson could return, play well and make an impact after sitting out significant portions of the past two seasons.
I am told there haven't been serious discussions to date, but interest is being shown.
Q:Josh Cribbs has always been wanting to play wide receiver and he is finally getting an opportunity. With that, how has Cribbs done and can he be a legitimate receiver in the NFL and one that the Browns can count on to be a playmaker?
LA:Josh Cribbs is a tremendous athlete and his skill-set as a WR has improved as time has passed. His routes are not nearly as rounded off, he has really learned how to use his physical strength when in man coverage and he is fearless when going for the ball.
Cribbs does not have the speed you like to see at WR flanked wide and he can be a little methodical on his breaks, rather than fluid.
For the time spent at the position and where this team is, Cribbs plays a vital role. I'd be interested to see if the Browns can obtain a difference-maker at WR, would moving Cribbs to the slot pose some interesting match-up situations against smaller type defenders.
Q:What has been the biggest surprise and disappointment you have viewed this season on each side of the ball and why?
LA:Offensively it has to be the slow development of the offense itself, then the lack of whatever coming from RB Peyton Hillis.
The hope and perception heading into the season was excitement due to the WCO, the QB and RB. Needless to say, the offense has struggled mightily, the QB may just now be feeling it and the RB has been basically non-existent, which has been felt in a huge manner due to the importance of his position in the scheme.
While neither player has been the world beater type, each has displayed growth and development, with plenty of room and experience to gain in the coming weeks.
Defensively, what can you say about the job veteran defensive coordinator Dick Jauron and his staff has done to date. With the inexperience or lack of actual game experience for three of the four starters along the defensive line, the group has held up reasonably well and has shown some explosive moments.
Injuries in the defensive backfield have robbed the defense of all the pieces parts and the pass defense has been very good, with some serious challenges ahead.