Rich's Rant: Fan Battle Royale

In this week's rant, an optimist and a pessimist duke it out over the fate of the 2006 Cleveland Browns. This almost reads like some conversations in the chat room Monday night.     

Eavesdropping on an argument between two Browns fans, one an optimist, the other more pessimistic . . .

So how do you think the Browns are going to do this year? asks the optimist.

They'll be OK, says the pessimist, but they sure do have a tough schedule.

Tough, yes, but their defense is vastly improved. Just look at what Phil Savage did in the offseason to help the defense.

Yeah, he helped all right, but this defense was so bad last year, anything would be an improvement.

Bad? You think that defense was bad? They gave up just 301 points in 16 games. That includes the 41 points in that Pittsburgh debacle. Subtract that and they gave up a little over 17 points a game. Nothing wrong with that.

Then how did they lose 10 games?

The offense wasn't very good.

In other words, it stunk. Lowest scoring team in the National Football League last season.

Besides, I don't look at it as losing 10 games. I look at it as winning six games, which is two more than 2004.

Ever the optimist. In reality, it should have been eight games because they blew the Detroit and Houston games.

It wasn't the defense's fault. It allowed nearly 100 fewer points than 2004. C'mon, you've got to admit the defense was better last season.

OK, but grudgingly. I still believe the defense packed it in in 2004 when Butch Davis packed it in. I'll give you the red-zone defense in 2005, but between the 20s, the Browns' defense left a lot to be desired. It gave up way too many third-and-longs and didn't create many turnovers.

Jeez, you want everything.

No. I just want to see the Browns play some solid defense. You know, the kind that stops the opponents on third down, the kind that intercepts passes, the kind that causes and recovers fumbles. Is that too much to ask?

That's what Savage was thinking when he went out and signed Ted Washington and Willie McGinest and drafted Kamerion Wimbley and D'Qwell Jackson. Don't you think he sees the same things we all do?

I'd like to think so, but to be honest, I would rather have had Washington and McGinest about five years ago.

Yeah, wouldn't we all.

OK, OK. So they'll make a difference. I'll give you that. But Washington is only a stopgap move at the nose and they still need help at right defensive end.

Don't forget about Babatunde Oshinowo. That guy was a steal in the sixth round.

If he was such a steal, how come he lasted that long?

You'll see. The kid can play.

So what about the two kids at linebacker? You really think Wimbley will make a difference?

Why not? He's big, strong, fast.

With no experience at outside linebacker.

He's got McGinest to help him.

This isn't a chemistry lab. This is the NFL. Learning on the job can be hazardous to a coach's health. Wimbley's best bet as a rookie is as a designated pass rusher. A first-round draft pick should not be a part-time player.

Maybe he's a fast learner. Maybe he'll catch on right away and start at outside linebacker.

And maybe the Browns will win the Super Bowl.

Well, I think Jackson will start next to Andra Davis at inside linebacker. Saw him play some on TV and liked his nose for the ball.

Yeah, but he's small at 6-0 and 220 pounds.

When Ray Lewis was a rookie with Baltimore, he was around the same. Seems to me he's more than your average run-of-the-mill inside linebacker.

Good point. And what the hell are you doing praising Ray Lewis? That Ratbird jailbird is nothing but trouble.

Yeah, for opponents. You might not like him off the field, but he's been a hell of a player, you've got to admit that.


What do you think about our secondary? I kind of like it with Gary Baxter back and Leigh Bodden coming off a solid season at the corners and the two kids, Brodney Pool and Sean Jones, at safety.

I like Baxter and Bodden, too. But the kids at safety? Are you kidding me? It's bad enough to put one inexperienced kid back there, let alone two.

What does Romeo Crennel have to lose? Might as well stick them both back there, let them grow together and you never know what might happen.

Kind of like the offense. No one knows what's going to happen there this season.

Whattaya mean? The offense will be better this year. Just you wait and see.

I hope you're right, but I have my doubts.

Like what?

Like Charlie Frye at quarterback and nothing behind him if he gets hurt.

What's wrong with Ken Dorsey?

Tell me you're kidding.

OK. I'll admit there's a problem behind Frye if you'll admit the overall offense is going to be better. Reuben Droughns is back.

Wait a minute. You mean the Reuben Droughns who ran for more than 1,200 yards and scored TWO touchdowns last season? And one of them was for 75 yards against Miami? That Reuben Droughns?

He'll score more this year. You watch and then behold. He has a better offensive line to run behind. Now then, continuing. Reuben Droughns is back. Braylon Edwards should be back somewhere around midseason and Kellen Winslow Jr. is healthy again.

You can't convince me . . .

Wait a minute. I'm not finished. Quit interrupting.

Go ahead.

The biggest difference will be the offensive line. The Browns finally have someone who can handle nose tackles in LeCharles Bentley and a solid left tackle in Kevin Shaffer. Watch, the running game will be improved. And when the running game improves, so will the passing game.

Yeah, but you still have a wet-behind-the-ears kid at quarterback.

Frye put on 15 pounds and his arm is stronger. And did you see the way he used his feet last year to escape the pass rush?

I still want to see what he can do in a 16-game season, provided he can stay vertical that long. I'm not that sanguine about Maurice Carthon as the offensive coordinator, either.

Quit using those big words.

And I'm definitely not crazy about Cosey Coleman and Joe Andruzzi at the guards. Coleman's best days are behind him and Andruzzi is aches and pains waiting to happen. I also think Ryan Tucker is overrated. I do like Bentley and Shaffer, though.

What about the receivers?

I like the possibility of using Winslow as a wideout until Edwards returns. Without Edwards, the team doesn't have a No. 1 receiver. Dennis Northcutt isn't one. And Joe Jurevicius sure isn't one. He's more of a complementary receiver. He's been one everywhere he's played. After that, what do we have? Brandon Rideau, Frisman Jackson, Joshua Cribbs? Give me a break. The first half of the season is going to be ugly on offense.

Watch out for Travis Wilson. The club is high on him.

Why? Because he was their third-round pick? You watch out for Travis Wilson.

He was good enough for Savage. And if he's good enough for Savage, he's good enough for me.

Antonio Perkins was good enough for Savage last year and he played about as much as you did. Still like him?

Good point, but just wait until you see Perkins returning kicks this year.

Speaking of kicks, you failed to mention the Browns have a new punter.

I was just getting to that. Great pickup by Savage with Dave Zastudil.

Finally, we agree on something. A solid punter can make up for a lot of offensive mistakes and give new life to a defense. Field position is so important in the NFL and Zastudil can do something most punters can't: Nail the coffin corner. Land the ball inside the 20. For that reason, he might be the offseason's second-most important free-agent signing after Bentley.

So your half-empty view of the world is a little brighter then, eh?

Not so fast my half-full brother. The only thing we have in common is that we're both Browns fans and want very badly to see the team succeed. I see this as a team with blemishes. You see it with a healthy application of Clearasil.

How can you say that? This is a team on the rise. Like they say, this team has a huge upside.

One step at a time, brother. You have to walk before you can jog. The Browns entered the walking stage last season. This season, let's see if they can break into a jog. Six victories won't do it. That would be flatlining.. They need at least two more.

Agreed, but I think they've got the personnel to do it. Winslow, Jurevicius and Edwards will make a difference on offense, along with Bentley and Shaffer on the line. And I think you'll see a much different defense, one that's much more aggressive than last season.

If that's the case, maybe there's hope that this will be a turnaround season. Believe it or not, I want you to be right about this team.

Maybe, then, there's hope for you, too.

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