A summary of notes and quotes regarding the state of the offensive line, its players, and expectations heading into the 2003 season.............of course, all from What We've Been Told at Bernie's Insiders.
On the 2002 season:
"The 2002 season was one of satisfaction and disappointment for this team. Getting into the playoffs was something that everybody in this organization is proud of but in the end we still ended losing, that leaves a sour taste in your mouth for the months that the game is not being played."
What look will the offensive line take in 2003:
"Good question. We expect and have to be much more physical this season and we need to improve our execution and communication along the offensive line. Having another season under their belt, the guys that are returning this year know what to expect, both mentally and physically. Over the past two years we have worked with the guys to become bigger and stronger, the only way that you can achieve is to put the time, work, and effort into it. If we come up short it won't be because of effort. All of the linemen that were here during the off-season has increased their strength, body weight, cardio, and flexibility. We are really talking about a bunch of guys that took it to heart after the way the season ended to come into the 2003 season prepared."
On Ross Verba and a possible move to the guard position:
"Ross (Verba) is our best option at the left tackle position and played well there in the 2001 season, not as well in 2002, but he was still fairly solid. He is our starting left tackle and we do not envision anyone on the roster being better or capable of moving him out of that spot. Chad Beasley is a guy that we think has potential and hasn't done anything to hurt himself and Jason Jimenez is a kid with long arms that has the type of body that can add more size."
On the left guard spot:
"Right now we are looking at a bunch of these guys, giving them an opportunity to compete, step-up, and grasp the opportunity. It is too early to tell who will be the starter at left guard, we may not know that answer until after the last preseason game. Barry Stokes brought an intensity and desire to the position and line last season, but we may be a better team if we can utilize him in many roles, he is very versatile. Paul Zukauskas is another guy that has spent the most of the off-season here working, he is really developing physically. This is the one competition that may very well go down to the week before the regular season, there is no clear-cut leader at this point."
And the center.....
"Shaun O'Hara is capable of playing there and we believe that if he got consistent work there that he would be fine. Lets not forget that we drafted Melvin Fowler last season and he had a good game against Tampa Bay when he filled in there, we wouldn't have a problem plugging him in there, but right now he is practicing well at left guard and we are going to take a look at him there. He is one of the linemen that put forth a very good effort this off-season improving his strength. Lets not kid anyone here, we drafted Jeff Faine to become the starting center for this football team and he has done nothing to make us believe that we didn't make the right choice. He fell behind because he wasn't here at the start of camp, but he is making up ground and should be fine."
Can the big-man nail down the right-guard spot?
Qasim Mitchell has become a mammoth of a man. He has gone from really being big, to being a physically imposing figure, but size alone will not make you a player in this league. Mitchell has been inconsistent in camp, but the number of breakdowns in his responsibilities have been decreasing daily, especially over the past week. The more reps he gets, the better he will be, he is extremely raw. All things being equal, O'Hara or Zukauskas could very well be the starting right guard when the season starts, they both know the line scheme and both have been benefited physically and mentally due to the off-season workout program.
And at right tackle....
As long as he is healthy, Ryan Tucker is the starting right tackle. The guy is solid and dedicated, he played a good part of last season injured and done a good job, we like Ryan allot."
On the inconsistency of the rushing game and will the Browns in 2003 be able
to run the football:
"Once William Green settled down, became comfortable, and ran the football with confidence, our running game started to improve, giving us some added opportunities in both the passing and running game. You have to be able to be able to run the ball in this league, if you can't run the ball you will not be successful. Running the football is an attitude, you have to will yourself at times to get the job done. Last season we weren't always in the best position to be productive in the running game for one reason or the other. We are confident that we have the guys upfront now that will open holes for William. If we can't run the ball, we will have failed as an organization. As we saw late last season, you need to run the football, especially late in the fourth quarter in less than adequate conditions."