Veteran Depth is One-Sided

The Browns have benefited from the addition of experienced depth to their defense. But what about the other side of the ball? David Carducci takes a look at the risks involved with the continuing offensive youth movement.

If you thought last year turned into a disaster when injuries ravaged the Browns' roster, beware of what could be in store in 2000.

A rash of injuries could be even more devastating to this year's offense. Just take a look at the No. 2's on the Browns' offensive current depth chart.

The Browns took some positive steps to address the depth of the defense. They saw how important it was to have a seven-year veteran like Marty Moore ready to step in when Rahim Abdulah went down with a groin injury last season.

Several players pointed to Moore as the key acquisition of the previous offseason, simply because he was one of the few experienced backups on the entire roster. One player (who is no longer with the team) made a great point - "if you are going to go with your youth (in the starting lineup), you better have some experience behind them ready to step in."

The Browns seem to have come to that realization, at least on defense. Moore is gone, but they brought in several other experienced, inexpensive veteran free agents to serve as backups - players like linebacker Barry Minter (a nine-year veteran making just $480,000 this year), linebacker Brant Boyer (eight-year veteran, $500,000), safety Devin Bush (seven-year veteran, $490,000), safety Scott Frost (four-year veteran, $512,000). Four-year veteran Mark Smith was brought in to provide depth on the defensive line, but he was so impressive in training camp that he won a starting job. That actually created more depth by dropping Orpheus Roye and Stalin Colinet (two players who started every game last year) into a rotation spelling both the defensive ends and tackles.

This might not be the type of depth you'll find on an elite defense, but it certainly has made the Browns a more functional unit that is much more capable of dealing with the typical problems that occur during a 16-game NFL schedule ... like injuries or young players wearing down.

The Browns' offense isn't nearly as ready. While one side of the football has been built up during Butch Davis' defense-first approach, the depth of the offense has been virtually ignored.

Nowhere is this weakness more noticeable than on the offensive line, where backups Brad Bedell, Shaun O'Hara and Jeremy McKinney have combined to appear in a whopping 20 NFL games. Most of those appearances have been on special teams. Only O'Hara has any real experience, and that was because - as a raw rookie - he was forced into starting duty when Dave Wohlabaugh was injured late last year.

It's pretty much the same story at the other offensive positions. Only tight end O.J. Santiago and wide receiver Tony Simmons have any real experience.

Wide receiver JaJuan Dawson has played in just three games, including last week's season opener. Tight end Aaron Shea and running back Jamel White each have just one year under their belts. Backup quarterback Kelly Holcomb is a five-year veteran, but he has just 73 pass attempts during that time period and hasn't played a down in three years.

Let's hope the Browns don't regret this short-sighted approach to building the offense.

The Browns may just find out first hand how important it is to have some veteran help hanging around Sunday when they face old friend Ty Detmer and the Lions.


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