This year's Browns training camp will feature numerous position battles which should help mold the team on the field for years to come. While all eyes are going to be focused on the Brady Quinn watch, along with the daily blogging of contentment or discontent, this team will be an interesting work-in-progress for Browns fans to follow.
Here's what we think will happen.
- THE QUARTERBACK BATTLE: First and foremost, the starting quarterback battle for the Browns needs a player to rise to the occasion and clearly win the spot. This position has been a weakness for the team. With new offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski, an aggressive coach calling the shots, the player will know what his strength and weakness is within the scheme. The Winner: Derek Anderson.
THE OFFENSIVE LINE: The entire offensive line could be in shambles, not due to a lack of talent, but rather due to players lining up at different positions. A potential holdout lurks on the horizon with offensive left tackle Joe Thomas, thus leaving Kevin Shaffer at the important blind-side protection spot for the time being. With Shaffer at left tackle, Ryan Tucker and Kelly Butler will battle for the right tackle spot. It's possible that Tucker will see practice time at right tackle and right guard, challenging Seth McKinney for the starting spot. Let's not forget LeCharles Bentley... maybe, just maybe, he can play, and then we would have another issue at center. These are mostly positive issues, but getting Thomas in camp on time could be the table-setter. The Winners: We'll see Thomas at LT, Steinbach at LG, Fraley at C, Tucker at RG, and Shaffer at RT. I believe the RG and RT spots are very open and will be one of the most competitive areas to watch during training camp.
THE DEFENSIVE LINE: The defensive line has been an ongoing issue which has slowed down the progress of Todd Grantham's defensive unit as a whole. The addition of Robaire and Shawn Smith will certainly add talent to the unit, but questions about the quality of depth remain. Ted Washington is another year older and slower, while Orpheus Roye battles back from knee woes. The quality and overall depth scares me. Roye and Washington are questionable, and Orien Harris is an interesting prospect. The Winners: We'll see Robaire Smith at RDE, Washington at NT, and Roye at LDE, but Shawn Smith is going to play more than Washington, while Harris and Simon Frasier will gain reps with the first team, as I do not believe Roye will remain healthy.
CORNERBACKS: The Browns defensive backs have been much-maligned, often-injured, and were asked to cover the best receivers in the game without a respectable pass rush. Cornerback Leigh Bodden is expected to be healthy following off-season ankle surgery. Rookie Eric Wright looked very good in the off-season training activities and mini-camp, and Daven Holly may have proven to be an NFL-quality cornerback following a successful 2006 season. Add to the mix veteran Kenny Wright, along with Jerome Perry, DeMario Minter, and Brandon McDonald, the secondary has sufficient talent and depth to maintain consistency against the pass. The Winners: In the end, I see Bodden and Eric Wright starting, with Holly as the nickel, unless Wright is a holdout of significant time, then Holly will take his spot. Minter and Perry will add depth, though Perry is far from a lock on this roster. McDonald could further impress and make this roster, as the coaching staff likes what he has shown thus far in the OTA's and mini-camp.
Now, it's time to play Pretender or Real Deal:
Jamal Lewis: Real Deal, as he is in great physical condition and appears to be a step quicker after losing about 15-20 lbs. in the off-season.
Derek Anderson: Pretender, as I do not see a long-term starting quality player, though he has a big arm and can make plays. His inconsistency drives coaches nuts, but he is a determined player and this is the one player I hope I am wrong about.
LeCharles Bentley: Pretender, as I do not see how he could make this remarkable recovery and compete for a starting role.
Gary Baxter: Real Deal, as he will wear a uniform at some point in the 2007 season. After his injury, I did not believe he would ever compete again, simply amazing what he has accomplished.
Braylon Edwards: Real Deal, Edwards will keep his mouth shut for the most part and thrive in the Chudzinski offense, if the quarterback can get the ball to him.