Passan: Have Questions; Seek Answers

The OBR columnist ponders deep questions, the future, and rookies (like Brady Quinn, pictured, with potentially cranky agents...

Questions seeking answers as we take a break and eagerly await the Browns' training camp next month . . .

How long will the Brady Quinn contract holdout last?

I know, I know, he hasn't held out yet. But he will. Count on it.

Player agent Tom Condon will posture. Phil Savage will posture. Randy Lerner will posture. And nothing will get done until the Browns are ready to pay Quinn top 10 money or at least get extraordinarily creative in the process. Condon will use the Browns' first-round pick next year to get Quinn as leverage as he tries to extract big bucks.

Insults will emanate from the Quinn camp, coach Romeo Crennel will say he can't coach 'em unless they're in camp, the players will put in their two cents' worth and then when it all looks hopeless, Quinn will sign midway through training camp.

The holdout will last that long until the Browns eventually capitulate and pay Quinn the kind of money that comes nowhere close to befitting his No. 22 draft status.

Quinn will announce he's tired of waiting around and watching Derek Anderson and Charlie Frye pull way ahead of him and instruct Condon to get the job done. There'll be enough time to make up the money he doesn't get this time around.

Everyone then will pronounce themselves ecstatic, claim all the nastiness was just contract rhetoric and move on. The only loser will be Quinn, who will have to wait longer to make what all Browns fans hope will be a significant impact on the National Football League.

This would be the perfect time for someone like Quinn to compete for the starting job because everyone is starting from scratch with new offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski's new system. Everyone is equal until someone begins to separate himself from the pack.

But missing all those practices will, for all practical purposes, make him a clipboard holder for at least the first half of the season, at which time the Browns will hoist the white flag and, what the hell, see what the rookie can do.

By then, we'll know the answer to the next question.

How many games will Romeo Crennel coach this season before Savage and/or Lerner pull the plug?

If Crennel makes it to the bye week, he should consider himself fortunate. Even though the club has improved at least on paper, the rugged first-half schedule should prove fatal for the coach. Unless, of course, he has unearthed the secret of beating teams in his own division.

With four of the first six games at home, including Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and Baltimore three of the first four weeks of the season, we'll know quickly enough whether the coach passes that test. Road games at New England and St. Louis won't make the task any easier.

With a 1-11 record against the AFC North, it's almost as though the NFL schedule makers have banana-peeled Crennel's impending departure from Cleveland. A lot will depend heavily on the answer to . . .

How much stronger will the Browns be against the run this season?

It certainly can't get any worse than the last two seasons. Or can it? Yet another question seeking an answer. They had better be better, but that remains to be seen.

The key is how well the defensive line performs, but the additions of the unrelated Smiths (Robaire and Shaun) should make a difference. Of course, a lot of us said that last season when Ted Washington moved in at nose tackle.

Washington played like a monument on the nose and the rushing figures by the opposition reflected it. This season, Shaun Smith is expected to keep Washington fresh, but that is no guarantee there will not be a dropoff in quality.

Right end gets a huge upgrade with Robaire Smith replacing Alvin McKinley. This Smith, who bedeviled Ohio State while playing for Michigan State, will bring stability to the position. And if Orpheus Roye's knees don't short-circuit his season, the left side will have no problems.

They key, however, remains how well Washington and Shaun Smith play.

How difficult will it be for Braylon Edwards to shut up and play?

Short of placing a muzzle over his mouth, the answer to that should be obvious. One gets the impression the talented wide receiver wants to say the right thing, but doesn't know what the right thing is.

Fans are hopeful maturity will overtake Edwards and he goes on to become the receiver the Browns thought they were getting when they made him the third overall choice in the 2005 college draft. Maybe the light will finally go on.

Then again . . .

At what point of the season will Joe Thomas take over as the starting offensive left tackle?

If it isn't by midway through training camp, a lot of people will be surprised. And disappointed. The Browns didn't draft him with the idea of sitting him on the bench for a year to learn by observation. He was selected with the express idea of starting him ASAP.

So unless he turns out to be the next Tony Mandarich or Robert Gallery, expect to see Thomas launch his 10-year (at least) NFL career no later than the aforementioned time frame. The more interesting question is ...

Will Kevin Shaffer be a starter?

A lot depends on how well Seth McKinney plays at right guard and whether the coaches prefer Shaffer or incumbent Ryan Tucker at right tackle. If McKinney struggles after missing last season with a neck injury, then Shaffer could slip in at right tackle with Tucker moving over one space to guard. Or McKinney, if he plays well, could shift to center with Tucker and Shaffer side-by-side.

Either way, the Browns will have solid depth along the offensive line for the first time since . . . well, since no one can remember when. And if LeCharles Bentley can give a whole new meaning to the word "miracle," well . . . let's not get carried away just yet.

Any more questions?

Plenty more. And they'll be posed and answered at a later date as we get closer to training camp.


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