The Inside Word: 8/6

I have an admission to make. If I saw this man (51) coming at me with an intent to do harm, I would probably flee. With my hands in the air and screaming like a girl, possibly. Others are not backing off so quickly - get the inside scoop on what the team is thinking regarding their depth chart and possible trades. More exclusives courtesy of John Taylor and the OBR...

The injury suffered by Chaun Thompson in Friday's intra-squad scrimmage is not believed to be serious, but the injured calf could seriously jeopardize the linebacker's chances of remaining atop the depth chart.

The fourth-year veteran was already holding a tenuous grip on the starting position through the first week and a half of camp, with rookie D'Qwell Jackson improving and impressing on a daily basis and fellow rookie Leon Williams unexpectedly emerging as an unlikely candidate for consideration as a starter.

Williams is not in direct competition with Thompson but, if Williams were to grab the starting spot at one of the inside linebacker positions—a big and unlikely if—Andra Davis would then slide over and assume the other inside ‘backer spot, relegating Thompson to his rightful spot on the bench.

The biggest threat to Thompson's starting position, though, remains Jackson.

The second-round draft pick out of Maryland added yet another notch in his training camp belt by intercepting a Ken Dorsey pass during the Friday scrimmage.  While intercepting Dorsey is no great feat in and of itself, it's one of the many reasons why head coach Romeo Crennel continually "raves" about Jackson's instincts and innate ability to consistently be in the right position.

Another quality that impresses the coaching staff, and gives Jackson a huge advantage over Thompson, is Jackson's utter voraciousness in studying film.  It's that extra film work, one Browns insider suggests, that will likely lead to the rookie being in the starting lineup come Sept. 10.

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Some food for thought: It's not a matter of "if" but "when" the Browns bring another quarterback to compete for the backup spot behind Charlie Frye

At least, that's what one Browns insider tells The OBR.

As happy a public face and as much of a spin both Crennel and general manager Phil Savage put on The Great Ken Dorsey Experiment, neither—particularly Crennel—are confident in going the entire 2006 with Dorsey as Plan B.

"(Dorsey) looks worse than Doug (Johnson) did at this point last year, and that's saying something," the insider said.

Not only does Dorsey need an above-average performance in this Thursday's exhibition game, he needs to step up a level or four during the week of practice leading up to the preseason opener.

Otherwise, if he flounders and flounders badly, it would be no surprise at all if Dorsey found himself jettisoned and looking for employment in the days following the Eagles game.

With Derek Anderson improving but not a serious consideration—this season—for the backup spot, such a move on Dorsey would necessitate the signing of another veteran.  And, as Jeff Schudel implied in his Lorain Morning Journal piece this morning, Vinny Testaverde is still very much a viable option.

*****

With little or no fanfare, left tackle Kevin Shaffer has quietly put together a very solid and very impressive training camp.  Shaffer—money-wise the second biggest free-agent acquisition of the offseason—is replacing L.J. Shelton, who the Browns allowed to skate via free agency.

Perhaps because of the LeCharles Bentley season-ending injury during the first practice of camp, or the subsequent surgery to fellow tackle Ryan Tucker that will keep him out at least a month, Shaffer has flown under the radar.

Thus far, though, the Browns have noticed and the early returns on Shaffer are very, very positive.

"He's been all that (the Browns) have expected and more," said a Browns source.

"Then, when LeCharles went down, Shaffer stepped right in and assumed a leadership role on the offensive line.  That might be the most valuable thing he's done so far, just not allowing the whole group to get down because they lost their vocal leader."

Shaffer also is much more of a "physical and emotional presence than Shelton was, and that's something this offensive line needed and needed badly", the source added.


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