From the forums of The Orange and Brown Report, my PM (private message inbox) has been filling up with questions regarding the team, specific players, and all the hype leading up to training camp. Here are Quick Hits from those the PM messages:
Q: Heading into training camp, which roster spot except for the quarterback position appears to be wide-open or the most interesting to watch?
LA: I'd keep an eye on the offensive line battles, especially at left tackle, right guard, and right tackle. Much of the 2007 season success could be dependant on solidifying these positions. Additionally, Eric Wright and Daven Holly should be interesting opposite Leigh Bodden, as well as Andra Davis and D'Qwell Jackson attempting to fend off Leon Williams.
Q: Why is wide receiver Tim Carter receiving so much attention as being a potential #2 or #3 receiver for the Browns, when he has done basically nothing throughout his career with the New York Giants? Is Carter that good and the Giants missed on him or are the Browns just that deficient of talent at the position?
LA: I tend to believe some of the Browns noted interest is due to the speed, quickness, and experience Carter possesses. The Browns, while not being speed deficient, do not have that burner at the wide receiver position. In competition the cream usually rises to the top. There is a reason Carter has struggled in his opportunities and I do not see him being anything more than a third-fourth receiver at the start of the season. I really believe the player to watch is Travis Wilson, if he gets the opportunity.
Q: I read where Brady Quinn was signing autographs for an outrageous price recently in the Cleveland area. How can a player that has not played a down at the professional level command such attention and even think the fans should be spending money for his autograph? Is this a customary practice we really don't hear of?
LA: Brady Quinn was signing autographs at the Great Northern Mall in North Olmsted, Ohio this past Saturday. This was a scheduled, advertised signing by the rookie quarterback, but those showing up were in for a surprise. A sign posted noted Quinn was signing autographs, but it did not note there would be a sizeable charge for his signing. In a nut-shell, to sign his first name, the going rate was $35.00. To have Mr. Quinn sign his full name, the charge was $75.00. If you were one of the wealthy or simply a Brady Quinn fan, you could purchase a jersey, ball, and picture, etc and the rate was approximately $500.00. Players will have signings which benefit a charity or foundation, I was unable to gain any information from the people manning the signing desk, the event holder, or the Great Northern Mall when I inquired about the fee and if it was for a charity. On a side-note, in the same location at/outside Foot Locker, tight-end Kellen Winslow has signed many an autograph for fans, while he was purchasing shoes from the store.
Q: I have noticed you appear to like the potential of linebacker Leon Williams. What makes him any different from the other two starting inside linebackers on the roster and could be eventually replace one of them or even start on the outside replacing McGinest?
LA: In Williams' time on the field, he displayed the ability to make plays at the line of scrimmage and he is physical. These attributes are a facet of his game which may ultimately separate himself from Davis and possibly Jackson. Williams displays quickness, a keen sense of reading the play, and has the strength to shed blocking offensive guards. In this Browns defensive scheme, making plays at or near the line of scrimmage is crucial, not five yards downfield as has been rather customary. I believe Williams will push Davis in training camp and could eventually see some consistent playing time, though I do not expect this to be the case in 2007, unless either Davis or Jackson suffers an injury. In regards to Williams at outside linebacker, I would not expect this to be in the making this season, though there are those in Berea which believe he could make the transition to the outside.
Q: What should we watch for with Jamal Lewis at running back in training camp, if looking for a sign or idea if he still has ‘it'? I know he has not been the same in a couple seasons, but why are the Browns putting their faith in what may be an old and battered back?
LA: The first thing I would look for when watching Jamal Lewis is what he does immediately after getting the handoff. If he is decisive, he is fine. If Lewis displays a stutter-step with his first move consistently, then there are going to be issues. Reason being, over the past couple seasons, Lewis has displayed the tendency to stutter-step with his first move, causing him to lose any advantage he has to the hole, as well as a loss of power. When Lewis moves with authority, a decisive move, he is a very strong and dangerous runner. He does not possess the elusiveness to stutter and shake his way through the line. Putting their faith in Lewis is what the Browns' organization has done. There is a reason why Lewis has reported to the OTA's and mini-camp in fantastic shape, losing as much as 15-20 pounds since last season. He is on a one-year deal and has something to prove, to the league and to himself. If healthy, Lewis could put up some huge numbers for this team, as they intend on being a run-first offense.
Q: It seems like every year the Browns quarterback position is up in the air. What is the problem with this organization and why can't they seem to get this important area of the team addressed? Looking at the latest controversy, who do you think were the better pair, Couch and Holcomb or Frye and Anderson?
LA: Some of the Browns' issues at the quarterback position are due to impatience, a lack of quality talent surrounding and protecting the player(s), and coaching staffs which may have not been the most equipped to deal with developing talent. You take Tim Couch and throw him to the wolves after one game in his rookie season, surrounded by talent which was as poor as any in the league, along with a rookie head coach well over his head. A team, an organization cannot gain consistency and respectability if they continuously are changing critical components. I would take Couch and Holcomb, hands-down, both are better players than Frye and Anderson are at this time.
Q: Braylon Edwards drops far too many balls to be considered a legitimate number one receiver and is inconsistent in running routes, if I have been reading correctly. If true, how can he improve these areas and does he have the talent to do so?
LA: Edwards does need to improve his focus and overall game if he is going to be the player this organization expected when selecting him with the third overall selection in the draft. Let's not forget, Edwards was coming off a serious knee injury last season and played reasonably well, especially in a limited offense such as the Browns displayed. If Edwards can keep his head on straight, continue to work hard, and listen to the excellent coaching of receivers coach Wes Chandler, he is going to be fine.
Q: Former Browns' quarterback Bernie Kosar has noted on a couple occasions that he believes Charlie Frye can be a solid NFL starting quarterback. While I have not seen it, what is it that Bernie sees that we are all missing?
LA: Knowing Bernie, I have had the opportunity to discuss the Browns quarterback issues and was somewhat surprised about his evaluation of Frye. As I recall, Bernie noted Frye has excellent feet, has an above average arm, and is a gamer. His inexperience and the lack of talent in front and surrounding him helped create much of the issue with Charlie, as he tried to do too much and make many poor decisions. These decisions should greatly improve with a solid cast around him, an offensive scheme which plays to the strength of the team, as well as gaining experience and confidence.
Q: Many pre-season magazines rate the Browns quarterbacks as the worst or near the bottom of the pack in the league. Some of these same magazines rate the Browns linebackers in the top half of the league, some in the top-ten. Do you see this as realistic?
LA: Yes and no. I do believe until the Browns quarterbacks display the ability to play with consistency and reduce their mistakes, I would agree they are among the lower rung in the league. As for the linebackers, I do not see where this unit should be given such praise at this time. The Browns run defense has been poor and while the defensive line shares responsibility in this area, the linebackers need to make plays. I don't see those making plays at the line of scrimmage when the opportunity presents itself.
Q: With the return of LeCharles Bentley on the horizon, who do you see being moved to make room for him, or is expecting him back this season being to optimistic?
LA: While Bentley has been cleared by his doctor to resume his playing career, his medical condition is far from a resolved issue, from what we are hearing at the Orange and Brown Report. I would say, Bentley will need to pass a couple other medical evaluations, and then he would need to make it through some extensive work with the Browns staff well before he competes in any contact drills. I would like to see nothing more than a completely healthy Bentley on the field for the Browns, with the 2008 season being one which his contributions may be best served. If he is able to suit up and play in the 2007, I would suspect he would play right guard, but you never know with this coaching staff.
Q: When Butch Davis was hired to coach the Browns, almost everybody was excited and thought the Browns would be a competitor in short order. While the team did make the playoffs one season, the run was short-lived. What you think went wrong and why was Pete Garcia permitted to provide such average talent at best to this team?
LA: Let me answer this question in the reverse order as you asked. Pete Garcia may have been somewhat out-classed as a player personnel director at the professional level, but he gave everything he had and was not in charge of personnel, Butch Davis ultimately was the decision maker. Davis did bring a winning team to Cleveland, but the salary cap purge, his ego, and a locker room full of mistrust and a lack of consistent leadership ultimately cost this organization.