Q: We all know that the OL had problems last year, especially at the beginning. Pinkston was brand new, and Lavauo struggled a lot. The RT position was a revolving door. Towards the end Tony Pasho's was able to play even though he struggled with injuries.
My question is about the OL during its last 4-5 games. Obviously it was better than during the first 11-12 games. How much better? This is important because so much of the O failures were attributed to the OL when in it seems to me they were playing pretty well in the final 4 games. Means the problems with offense were largely on the QB as well as the WR, RB and play calling.
How would you grade those final 4 games OL as they entered 2012 season? And how much better is the present 2012 OL in comparison? Or is it not as much a jump as people are implying.
Also, which players/position has you the most concern about? Least would be the LT, then the C. What is the pecking order of the next 3? (Tochigi)
LA: I happen to believe the play of the offensive line improved as the season progressed and its high point was late in the season.
While there were definite issues with the play of the QB's, receivers and the play-calling, the play of the offensive line was widely inconsistent with LG Jason Pinkston, RG Shawn Lauvao and whoever lined-up at RT was concerned.
As the season progressed, Pinkston performed much better. Lauvao remained inconsistent, but showed signs of improvement and the RT spot remained an issue, though the play was better than throughout the first 10-12 weeks of the season.
I believe the offensive line was rather average during the home-stretch of the season, which is an improvement over the mediocrity the offense struggled with over the earlier ¾ of the season.
The 2012 version of the Browns offensive line should be improved due to experience, a season into the strength and conditioning program, as well as working on technique and film study.
I remain concerned about the right-side of the line. Lauvao must display consistency and stop making errors which have been costly and Mitchell Schwartz is a rookie, though he has looked pretty good.
I feel good about the trio of Thomas, Pinkston and Mack.
Q: The Browns either selected or added offensive linemen to the roster since the end of the 2011 season. Many of us believe the offensive line still needs work and players like Pinkston and Lauvao are just holding down the spots until they can be replaced. With the recent additions, which one of the players may provide the best opportunity to stick and be a viable lineman? (Ryan)
LA: The Browns hold offensive guards Jason Pinkston and Shawn Lauvao in high enough regard that the organization did not seek to replace them heading into the 2012 season. This isn't to say that the coaching staff isn't looking for improvement and consistency coming from the two linemen.
Pinkston improved immensely down the home-stretch of the 2011 season and worked diligently during the off-season to improve his technique and physical conditioning. I am of the impression Pinkston will emerge as a keeper.
I am not nearly as sold on Lauvao, but he does have the physical tools and nasty streak you like to see from an interior lineman. The major issue with Lauvao is consistency, the lineman tends to lose focus at times, leading to some breakdowns which greatly affect the offense.
As for the new offensive lineman, along with rookie RT Mitchell Schwartz, I would look at OG Ryan Miller. Miller is a big body, physical, somewhat athletic and is nasty on the playing field. I can see Miller developing and challenging at RG or even RT.
Q: I have asked this question to another media member and am curious as to your response. How long into the regular season do you see it taking before Josh Gordon is either starting or making an impact? Also, do you see Trent Richardson carrying the load, or do you see the coaching staff utilizing other backs to lighten the load and keep Richardson fresh? (MikeDawg)
LA: I anticipate Josh Gordon is going to play from the onset and contribute. As far as starting is concerned, I don't believe he will be simply thrust into the role just to do so.
As Mohamed Massaquoi has looked good in the camp setting this far it would be unlikely to sit here today and say Gordon will be at that point in his development by the season opener.
I do see Gordon playing an increasingly important role as the season progresses, hopefully along with fellow rookie WR Travis Benjamin.
Onto the second question.
I believe Richardson will be a workhorse type RB, but it may not occur immediately. The coaching staff is curious to see if Montario Hardesty continues to look fantastic and of course Brandon Jackson has also returned from injury.
If the likes of Hardesty and Jackson continue to shine, the importance of riding Richardson solely will not be necessary, but he will be the primary ball carrier unless the unexpected occurs.
Q: I want to know if NFL teams (including the Browns) have some kind of structure in place. Is there a staff guy assigned to keep track of them, talk to them, sort of soft monitor them. I know this sounds like a "parole" officer type deal which sounds negative.
OTOH, I can't believe that teams would just call the rookies in, give them a few lectures on the dangers of this and that and hope the older guys can be enough positive influence.
So, do you know anything about "mentoring" ahem, (aka "soft parole") or structure to make sure these young guys get the help they need, even if somewhat of an intrusion or unwanted? (Tochigi)
LA: Rookie players entering the league are subjected to a rookie synopsis which covers plenty of territory for a young player, but this does not cover the entire situation they will face in that first year.
The Browns have a support staff in place to assist all players which has been a useful tool for some that have traveled through the Browns organization over the years. The Browns do not officially have people in place that basically police the players.
Much of the direction comes from those in the locker room and there are numerous players that speak up and attempt to keep everything tight within the scope of the players.
Q: With the Browns being sold, what should we expect as fans concerning how the organization and team will change? Will Mike Holmgren really be removed as the president, and the same about Tom Heckert and Pat Shurmur? We as fans have waited through numerous rebuilds and now when it appears the team will turn the corner, another low blow is dealt to us fans. (Sam)
LA: I don't see that sale as being more important as the timing of the deal immediately. The Browns head into training camp on the same page from top to bottom, with a plan, a strategy in place to develop young talent, etc.
With the deal potentially closing by the beginning of September, the potential for Mike Holmgren to be replaced as team president is strong. One of people believed to be part of the new ownership group is former Philadelphia Eagles president Joe Banner.
I cannot see an organization structure with Banner and Holmgren both existing due to the roles they play. Now, we are uncertain that Holmgren will be forced out immediately due to current Browns owner Randy Lerner will factor into any decision.
I have reservations regarding the continuity of the front office. Holmgren and general manager Tom Heckert have a very good working relationship and I am skeptical the same will be in place with Banner.
Now, I do know Banner has been successful in the past and isn't afraid to make changes, if necessary. The Browns could potentially use some of the fore-sight Banner brought to the Eagles.LA