The Browns were uncertain who their best quarterback was when training camp began. With the season opener on the horizon, they are still unsure. It will probably be Charlie Frye, but coach Romeo Crennel isn't saying.
Crennel named Frye the starter for the third preseason game, traditionally the tune-up for the regular season, and the preseason finale. Why did he choose Frye over Derek Anderson? Because Frye has more experience. Frye responded by going five for seven for 68 yards against the Broncos. His passer rating was 102.1.
"I'll tell you when I know," Crennel said on Aug. 27 when asked who will start at quarterback against the Steelers Sept. 9. "I have an idea, but I don't know yet. We're going week-to-week, and that could be the same for every position. If a guy gets hurt, then the next guy will go in."
The Browns are not going to rush rookie Brady Quinn into the lineup. He was hampered by missing 16 practices during a contract holdout, but even if he had been here from the start, he would have had to be clearly better than Frye or Anderson to start against the Steelers, general manager Phil Savage said.
"You have to go out and prove yourself every day, practice like that," Frye said. "We have Pittsburgh Week One and you don't want to let up on anything knowing these guys are coming into town. This (quarterback) competition is pushing us. I think it's just making us all better. It'll show in the first week of the season."
Crennel bent over backward making the competition between Frye and Anderson even. In the end, his fairness doctrine might have hurt both players. The Browns are using a new offense. With all the rotation that went on in camp, neither quarterback had time to develop a rhythm. Now that rhythm will be developed in the regular season.
Fewer questions existed on defense, but a problem that has plagued the Browns for years, stopping the run, is still their biggest issue. It didn't help that left end Orpheus Roye (knee) and linebacker Willie McGinest (back) were lost before the first preseason game.
Roye should be back for the season opener and McGinest is expected to be playing by the end of September, but they alone will not make the impact needed to force opponents into second-and-long or third-and-long.
It is easy to blame the aging defensive line for run defense. Roye is 34 and nose tackle Ted Washington is 39. But the inside linebackers have to be more aggressive than they were in the past. Leon Williams, in his second season, could be a key to making that happen. He moves quickly and made plays near the line of scrimmage in the last three games of 2006 when he played while D'Qwell Jackson was out with a toe injury. He subbed for Andra Davis in preseason, though, and opponents were still successful running.
"It's something we've been working on," right outside linebacker Kamerion Wimbley said. "I hope we show we are better against the run. I've been working on it. Hopefully I'll hold up better against the run."
Training camp and preseason proved the secondary is the strength of the defense. Brodney Pool replaced Brian Russell and rookie Eric Wright is starting at left cornerback. The Browns have to keep an eye on right corner Leigh Bodden. Bodden has a history of ankle problems and might need a breather now and then to keep going for 16 games.
COACHING: Romeo Crennel, 3rd year, 3rd with Browns (10-22)
REMEMBERING: 2006 record: 4-12 (last in AFC North)
PREDICTING: 2007 regular season record 7-9 (third in AFC North)
Sanders Talks to Kids: After practice one day, wide receiver Steve Sanders spoke to a group of football players from East High School, his alma mater. The school is in a crime-ridden part of Cleveland.
"I told them I'm living proof you can overcome," Sanders said. "I went through the same things they went through. It might be a little different, but it's the same struggle. I told them 'Keep working hard and put God first in your life and you can't go wrong.' "
After Sanders spoke to the players, he passed out football cleats and gloves to every East High player. The shoes were donated by Browns players. Some had never been worn. Some were worn only once.
Saving Eyes: The Browns have teamed with the Cleveland Clinic Cole Eye Institute and the Cleveland Metropolitan School District to provide vision screening and eye examinations for children. The Browns have committed more than $500,000 as the program's sponsor.
After practice one day, Andra Davis, Charlie Frye and Braylon Edwards, along with children in training camp, went through the vision screening to detect amblyopia, a condition in which the vision in one eye is much worse than the vision in the other.
Fans Flock to Berea: Despite the fact that rain forced practice indoors five times, thus making it logistically impossible for fans to watch those sessions, training camp this year drew 42,051 spectators.
BY THE NUMBERS: 9 -- This is the ninth season the Browns have been back and the ninth time they have opened at home.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Say there are two dropped passes in a row. There is so much pressure on the third person he's thinking 'I have to catch the ball.' He's not thinking about his assignment. The ball comes and you freeze up." -- Wide receiver Joshua Cribbs, on the plethora of passes the Browns have dropped.