For the second consecutive week—which is a new record, by the way, topping the old mark of one—we offer thirsty fans a twelve-pack of things to look for in tonight's Browns-Bears pre-season finale.
(Just remember, this is the final pre-season game and most of the roster battles have been decided. There is not a whole lot of new ground to be turned here. So, I add this disclaimer due to the fact that I may go off on a Steven Wright tangent or two before this piece is completed. Be warned. And afraid.)
---First and foremost, no injuries. That is the biggest goal heading into tonight's pre-season finale, not entering the regular season with a 3-1 fake-game record. Just remember, head coach Romeo Crennel, that both the 2004 and 2005 editions of the Cleveland Browns sported identical 3-1 exhibition records, and we all know how those seasons turned out. This is a team still lacking quality depth at most positions, so they can ill afford to head into the regular season missing even one key starter. Give the starters a series or two, and then allow the second- and third-teamers to battle it out for the remaining spots at the bottom of the roster.
(The above scenario would also allow me to spend more quality time with my beer and less with my notebook, which is never a bad thing.)
(Unless I'm headed into surgery shortly thereafter, which is not really a problem since I'm neither a surgeon nor a patient awaiting surgery.)
---How things will shake out in the battle for the backup quarterback spot. Can Ken Dorsey show enough to stave off both Derek Anderson and the Browns' nagging urge to add another veteran to the roster? The Browns seem ready to enter the regular season with—ugh—Dorsey as the backup, but it would come as no great shock if this were his fourth and final game in brown & orange.
(You know how I know yer gay?)
(You just commented, football-wise, on Derek Anderson's butt.)
---Can Chaun Thompson carry over the positives from his start last Sat.
and gain even more ground on D'Qwell Jackson? Thompson did enough
good things in last weekend's win to jump back into the starter race at inside
linebacker, but it could very well be too little, too late. The
fourth-year veteran fell behind the rookie Jackson due to a hamstring injury and
has been playing catch-up ever since. It's almost—bold,
italicize and underline the word "almost"—a foregone conclusion that
---Lee Suggs, in likely his final game as a member of the Browns.
It would take a miracle or an injury—or both—for Suggs to continue on.
Whether or not he at least sees some plays from scrimmage—which he didn't last
week—doesn't matter as the ultra-talented but oft-injured Suggs' hours in
Cleveland seem to be winding down to a precious few. All of that talent
and promise seen in the final three games of the 2004 season bore no fruit in
'05 and, thus far, the '06 pre-season. The Lee tree is dead, at least in
---For the first time all pre-season, will right tackle Ryan Tucker see any game action? The offensive lineman has missed all of pre-season and most of training camp after undergoing knee surgery in late July. He just recently returned to practice and has stated that he would like to get in some "live-fire" work before the regular season bullets start whizzing overhead. Crennel may have other ideas, though, hinting that Tucker will likely be held out tonight. In either case, it will be a game-time decision.
---Can Ralph Brown and Pete Hunter just spontaneously combust and get it over with already? This twosome has been torched more times than a bong at a Phish concert. I don't know what the answers are to the current secondary depth problems—whether they come from somewhere on the current roster (chuckle) or from another team's final round of cuts—but I do know one thing: Brown and Hunter are not it.
---On the other hand, I have five fingers as well, but that's not the point. The point is, if Daylon McCutcheon and Gary Baxter come back from injury and can stay healthy—I'm looking directly at you, Mr. Baxter—the glaring lack of depth will dull somewhat and we can get on to more important questions. Questions like: if God dropped acid, would he see people?
---How Lennie Friedman will fare in his first game-action with the Browns. Phil Savage is already one-for-one in acquiring centers in exchange for a seventh-round draft pick—Ross Tucker continues to both hold down the starting job and gain the confidence of the staff on a daily basis—and Friedman has the potential to make it two-for-two. The coaching staff has liked what they've seen thus far in Friedman, although, admittedly, it is a sample size that consists of only a handful of practices. The coaches will get a better read on exactly what they have in Friedman during tonight's game. At the very least, Friedman is expected to provide veteran depth at both the center and guard positions.
---Will Brodney Pool overtake Sean Jones as the starting strong safety and does it really matter if he does? Jones has a slight lead on Pool, but the second-year defensive back closed the gap somewhat following his start against the Lions. However, Crennel is already on record as saying he feels he has three starters—with Brian Russell being the other—at the safety position. It seems that, regardless of who starts, all three will see significant playing time depending on the defensive package that is on the field.
---Can people stop focusing on how Bernie Kosar delivers his points and instead focus on the points the football genius is trying to make? It's almost like back in his playing days, when pundits focused on how the ball got to its target instead of the fact that it successfully got to its target more times than not. And while we're at it, isn't there a way for Bernie to be the analyst in every single one of the Browns games this season? If not live, then perhaps do a "Mystery Science Theater"-style voice over later in the week? Who would not watch that? Anyone? Thought not.
(And, yes, I was guilty after the first game as well. The shock wore off shortly after that for me, though. Others would do well to follow that same path and learn from his words.)
---Last, and certainly not least, no injuries. The Browns seem to have a caught a miniature wave of momentum following a god-awful beginning to Training Camp 2006. The last thing they need is an injury to a key starter or two to knock them off that wave and drown their season before it even gets started.