The Fast Lane

TheOBR's Lane Adkins speaks with an AFC executive on the 7-4 Browns. The reviews are promising.

On Sunday afternoon, following the Cleveland Browns’ 26-24 win in Atlanta, I tweeted a comment regarding the Browns quarterback situation as it stands today. This viewpoint came from an AFC executive familiar with the Browns.

@LaneAdkins: As one AFC exec told me a bit ago, "7-4 in Cleveland, you're nuts to think about pulling Hoyer right now."

Twitter allows me to put that tidbit of information out there for all to read. The additional note regarding that discussion and viewpoint can only be found here, in the Fast Lane.

The Browns, competitive in the toughest division in the league, have accomplished more than team executives envisioned.

"After another change within the Browns organization, including the head coach and staff, the Browns have done a surprising great job,” this AFC executive told TheOBR. “That team is tough to deal with, they can run the ball, throw it effectively and are physical. Mike Pettine is a coach I have known for quite some time, he will demand his team to play with awareness and as a team. It may take him and Ray (Farmer) to get their guys in place, but you can see their hands all over the manner which that team plays."

In Cleveland, many question why the Browns have not played rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel. The questions began at last May’s draft following the selection of Manziel and cornerback Justin Gilbert in the first round while the team also failed to improve the offensive line quality and depth, as well as securing one of the top wide receivers in the draft.

"I think the Browns are doing the right thing in bringing Manziel along as they are,” the executive said. “People fail to realize he (Manziel) is very young and didn't play at the collegiate level but a couple seasons. While he was a play-maker at that level, he needs time to mature, develop and adapt to the professional game."

"Unless he is doing the remarkable in practice and the team isn't winning, then you ride your veteran until the option really becomes one of no choice. Your guy (Hoyer) can be inconsistent, but he has that quality you like to see in a QB -- he knows how to rally his troops and make plays when they are needed most."

"You can't say you have had that in Cleveland since Bernie."

Obviously, our source forgot the one memorable season Derek Anderson had under center in 2007 for the Browns.

On the Browns’ other first-round pick, Gilbert:

"Gilbert was highly rated on our board. He wasn't as polished as a couple of others in the draft, but had the highest upside and impact factor we felt from season-one to season-two. Once he gets a taste of the pro-game and experiences the differences, he has the potential to be very good."

On the offensive line and rookie guard Joel Bitinio:

"We had Bitinio as the second rated interior offensive lineman in the draft behind Zack Martin. Bitionio is tough as nails, athletic and plays physically. He has every quality you want to see from an interior lineman and will play at a high level for the next ten years -- he is that good, especially for a rookie."

Most would be complimentary to a point to simply provide some subtle insight and thoughts, but in the case of our 'long-time executive friend,’ discussing the Browns is a case of wanting to see the Browns as a viable contender again.

"The fans in Cleveland are as good as it gets. Cleveland Stadium was a unique place, as were many of the greats teams to pass through those tunnels walking up the steps and entering that grand old lady on the lake. The Browns haven't been good for quite some time, but they have always find a way to play tough against us."

It's late November and the Browns are in contention, something Browns fans rarely get to experience. While the excitement is reserved because of the vast losing the organization has struggled with since 1999, the reality is Cleveland is in the hunt.

"This Browns team now will head into those uncharted waters for them as an organization. They haven't been there and the pressure builds with each passing week, but the veterans there will keep them on the straight -- those guys, the Dansbys and Whitners have been around and know the routine. Getting wide receiver Josh Gordon back will be huge for that offense, getting tight end Jordan Cameron back will certainly change the complexion of that offense."

"The Browns play fast, adding Gordon will only make the job of an opposing defense tougher. If the quarterback makes the plays they want him to make, there is no reason why the Browns won't be fighting for the playoffs until the very end."

And his thoughts on Brian Hoyer:

"He's a cerebral quarterback that takes more chances than he needs to. He will throw the ball up some times and you watch the film and wonder what the hell he is doing. If the staff can reel that in without changing who he is, you'll see enough quality play to succeed."

Defensively, the Browns have struggled against the run and have been victimized vertically. In recent games the defense has shown improvement, but with the meat of the schedule on the horizon how do the Browns match-up to the other teams with playoff aspirations?

"Pettine likes to create match-up havoc with his front six or seven and play coverage in the back. The Browns have struggled to generate consistent pressure, exposing the defensive backs more than he likes and the team has had some issues."

"For the Browns to march on, they must pressure the quarterback and trust their talent and get after the opposition. In this game you will be burned from time to time, that's the reality of the NFL."

And about the run defense?

"Stopping the run is scheme and attitude. If you don't play physically, don't have the pieces for the scheme and don't have attitude, you will lose the battle in the trenches all day. What I see if a team trying to find their way and are slowing getting it."


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