Yesterday, Bernie's Insiders published Bernie Kosar's analysis which contends that the offensive line is a primary needs as the unsuccessful 2003 season heads to a close. Today, we hear from a prominent member of the Browns organization who, under the agreement that we would not use his name, is willing to tell what a bit about what the team is thinking as they prepare to solidify this key area.
Keep in mind that league personnel cannot discuss acquiring a player under contract to another team, and do not like to provide opponents (or the press) with any information that could tilt the situation against them on draft day.
First, our source talked to a bit about what the team thinks of the current group on the offensive line:
"It is obvious we have not been able to establish a consistent rushing game. We haven't been successful in short-yardage situations, and the opposition has shown the tendency to play in the box or dropping off into multiple cover schemes to take away the vertical passing game, mainly due to the fact of not respecting the run. "
Still, we were told that the team feels that it has made progress:
"The offensive line unit has improved each year we have been here. This season has been a difficult one, as injuries have robbed us of the versatility we were establishing across the line, but that is part of the game and you have to be prepared for. Rookie center Jeff Faine came in and played well, we believe he will be a fixture for many seasons."
Nonetheless, the Browns know that they need to make some improvements in order to establish a running game that opponents will respect, so that they will not utilize defenses which take away the vertical passing game.
"I believe we will take a long look at the offensive line. The time comes when waiting on the development of specific areas or players has to cease. I'm not saying that we are disappointed in any individual player, but as a unit the offensive line is not nearly as consistent or imposing as we would like it to be..."
"Now, we need to look to improve our depth on the interior line and look to obtain a dominant offensive left tackle. We're pretty comfortable with the play of our right tackle Ryan Tucker, he has been solid again this season.
With high-caliber, high-profile players at the left tackle position in the mode of Orlando Pace and Walter Jones potentially available through free agency, could the Browns look at free agency to improve the position and return versatility to the line?
"Free agency is an avenue we will certainly look at to supplement and enhance the roster. We do not view free agency as the method to build the team, when doing this a team can quickly place themselves in a precarious position by limiting their options in future years due to the financial restraints which come with high-priced, major player signings.
In our case, we will look to add players which we believe will be long-term, core structure contributors that have their best football ahead of them. We are now in the position where we are not looking for stop-gap players. Since discussing any player under contract violates league rules, all I will say is that the possibility exists that a few intriguing players along the offensive line could be available and we certainly would be foolish not to take a look at all the options.
Also, there will be some interesting kids coming out of the draft we believe will be significant contributors in the league. "
Another offensive tackle coming out of the University of Iowa, Robert Gallery, has the opportunity to become a high first-round selection. We asked our contact how he rates in comparison to Jordan Gross and Bryant McKinnie, two of the more recent high first-round draft selections at the offensive left tackle spot?
"First, Kirk Ferentz has done an outstanding job up there in Iowa. His program produces some very good offensive linemen. Last year we took a long look at another of his offensive linemen, Eric Steinbach, but decided that Jeff Faine was a better fit for us. We were looking for a solid technician with a mean streak, that physical presence to anchor the interior line. For the position we were in after releasing out starting center from the previous season, Dave Wohlabaugh, Faine was the player we really liked. Steinbach was more of a guard/left tackle type player and would have been strongly considered if Faine were not available.
Coming out of Miami, McKinnie was a player that could physically dominate the line of scrimmage. He is one of those players that may come along once every five or ten years, he can be that good. I would put Gallery just behind McKinnie and that is not a knock on his ability, he is a different type player and a very good one at that. From what I have seen, he is a solid technician, with good size, quickness, hands, and feet. He also can be physical, he should be an upper-tier offensive left tackle in the league for a long time. Gallery has the talent to be an upper-half of the first-round draft talent."
The groundwork has been laid for a very interesting off-season for Browns fans... coming on Monday, more from inside the Browns organization on what's gone wrong (and right) in the 2003 season. All exclusively on Bernie's Insiders, and all from What We've Been Told.