OBR Roundtable: The Greatest Need

On Monday, OBR writers and columnists offered their takes on whether RAC should return. On Tuesday, they got thirty seconds of Randy Lerner's time. Today, our experts are asked to identify which one of the Browns many roster holes is the most important to fill. Eleven independent voices, with more differing takes on this one than you might expect...

WEDNESDAY: What position or unit is the most important to address during the off-season?

LANE ADKINS: The game is played in the trenches, ultimately the offensive and defensive line play has been detrimental to the progress of the Cleveland Browns.

One can flip/flop the offensive and defensive lines as the areas of critical need and upgrade, either facet of the game would warrant that consideration. Inconsistency against the rush and a lack of a pass-rush without blitz schemes leave this Browns team searching for stability along the line of scrimmage.

Offensively, the Browns are a team which has not committed to run the ball, nor has this team displayed the consistency or imagination to be a passing team. While plenty of work is needed to become a viable offensive unit at the professional level, and quite possibly the coaching staff should consider looking at some of the younger, more athletic players sitting on the bench, rather than sticking with some veterans due to loyalty (especially those battling injury).

In all, the games starts at the line of scrimmage and this Cleveland organization has yet to provide a constant presence on either side of the ball in these critical areas of the roster.

JOE BROWNLEE: While both lines are in bad shape, the Browns would have won several more games had the offense done anything at all in contests such as at Carolina and at Houston. The offensive line must be top priority, especially since decent o-linemen rarely reach free agency. The skill players the Browns have now can't do anything without the blocking upfront to make it go. I'd like to see at least two free-agent signings and two draft picks on the offensive line in addition to re-signing Hank Fraley and Cosey Coleman. The Browns need to stockpile players here given some will not work out and quality depth is needed.

ADAM CAPLAN: The Browns have a lot of areas of improvement to make but there's not one that is need of help more than the offensive line. Other than at left tackle, the interior at guard and right tackle need upgrades.

RT Ryan Tucker turns 32 in June and could be on the downside of his career. Plus you throw in his illness and it looks more and more like he can't be counted on. RG Cosey Coleman isn't better than average and shouldn't be re-signed. LG Joe Andruzzi is constantly hurt and they need to develop a younger player. Also, with C LeCharles Bentley's status up in the air for next season, they need to find an upgrade over his temporary replacement Hank Fraley who is unsigned for next season. Fraley is best used as a backup at this point of his career.

FRANK DERRY: The same as from Day One: offensive line, in particular left tackle.

FRED GREETHAM: Last year, the linebacker corps was addressed successfully. Put the emphasis once again on the offensive line and defensive line in free agency and in the draft. But, if you can get a game-breaker like Adrian Peterson...take him.

GREG HENSLEY: The guard position has been the weakest position on this team since the return. If you are owned in the middle, you can't run the ball and you can't pass the ball. We need starters and backups.

MARK LEONARD: Without question, football is a simple game of blocking and tackling. Games have always been won in the trenches. This franchise needs to resolve its annual OL difficulties. The wall that worked for Jim Brown permitted a seamless transition to Leroy Kelly. Countless are the examples of established O-lines enabling faceless and nameless successors to approximate the rushing successes of departed lead runners. Cleveland Browns' football had once been synonymous with rushing the football with dominance. That identity needs to be recaptured and it all begins with a solid front line. 

While it cannot be denied the DL is also extremely needy, solutions on that side of the ball can more often be found among the overlooked, the underrated, the undrafted. Such personalities need merely be hungry, aggressive, relentlessly dogged and physical. The athleticism required to excel on the O-line is more reasonably found in the highly-drafted. What is more, there appears to be a blue-chip, can't-miss type projected for the Browns' drafting proximity this year.

BARRY MCBRIDE: There is a lot to choose from. We made a big jump at linebacker last year, and this year the focus should be on the defensive line. I know that fans want to see offensive improvement, and we all agree that work is needed there, but the defensive line is your next step towards building a defensive team that can compete and win in the AFC North. Orpheus Roye may come back next year, but all three line positions are in play. There is no excuse for not dramatically improving the line with our free agent money and draft position.

SCOTT PETRAK: The Browns have plenty of areas to choose from, but offensive line is priority No. 1. Center LeCharles Bentley looks like he'll miss 2007 and right tackle Ryan Tucker is an unknown. Guard Joe Andruzzi is old and injured, and guard Cosey Coleman and center Hank Fraley are free agents. That means left tackle Kevin Shaffer may be the only returning starter, and he's slightly above average. Re-signing Fraley, getting another starter in free agency and drafting at least two linemen is the logical plan.

RICH PASSAN: The running game on both sides of the ball. In order to be successful in the NFL, you must run the ball and stop the opposition's running game. That said, the most important position the Browns have to fill is running back. And a stud back will be available in April. The rest of the draft should be spent on picking strictly offensive and defensive linemen. It never hurts to have too many men who ply their trade in the trenches.

Other areas, such as the secondary and wide receivers corps, can be addressed in free agency, along with the aforementioned linemen. But if the Browns have to rely on Reuben Droughns, Jason Wright and Jerome Harrison as their running backs, it will be the same-old, same-old in 2007. A better offensive line will make only a marginal difference for them. Certainly not enough to make for an impactful offense.

JOHN TAYLOR: Trying to decide between addressing the offensive or defensive lines is kind of like two Appalachian hilljacks debating the merits of what they should fix first: the 10-foot square hole in the north side of the trailer or the 12-foot square hole in the south side.  Either way, you're still talking about a frigging trailer on a parcel of property littered with pickups on blocks and the rotting carcasses of former pets under the living quarters.  That being said, I'd address the defensive line first and foremost.  I'm tired of watching opposing quarterbacks having the time to crotchet a nice quilt -- or, in the case of a certain Pittsburgh QB, having the time to spell out his name in tobacco spittle.  First AND last.  In cursive --  while leisurely surveying the defense or running backs bursting through holes wide enough that they'd qualify for some type of an AVN award.  Yes, the offensive line needs to be addressed.  And I'm not saying it doesn't.  But, dayum, the defensive line, with all due respect to those currently residing on said DL, sickens and nauseates me.  Only slightly more than the OL, though.  Very slightly.

TOMORROW: You've got a top-five pick in this year's draft. Name the player the Browns should take.

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