Browns News and Notes

News, notes, and some quotes in this preseason preview of the Browns. Inside is a brief look at the roster positions and expectations for the 2007 season.

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 has named Frye since the wiring of this article).

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. Were 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 its 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.

Its 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 Ill 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)

NOTES, QUOTES

--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 its the same struggle. I told them Keep working hard and put God first in your life and you cant 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.

--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 programs 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.

--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.

--When a receiver drops a pass in practice or a defensive back drops an interception, he has to immediately do 10 pushups. The goal isn't to make the player stronger. It is to make him concentrate more so he isn't embarrassed in front of his peers again.

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.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

Notable final roster cuts for the Browns included, DB Jeremy LeSueur, DB DeMario Minter and rookie DE Chase Pittman.

--The hobbled among the Browns are starting to work their way back into playing form, giving coach Romeo Crennel reason to hope Eric Steinbach, Andra Davis and Orpheus Roye might be ready to play against the Steelers in the season opener Sept. 9.

Davis (ankle) and Roye (knee) are running on the sideline with the hope of returning to practice Sept. 3. Both started running again on the sideline during practice Aug. 27. It was the first time Roye was outside running since undergoing arthroscopic surgery Aug. 2. Davis has been sidelined since spraining his ankle in the preseason opener Aug. 11.

Steinbach has been out since falling on his right knee in the field house Aug. 7, four days before the first preseason game. Originally he was expected to miss the first two preseason games. He missed the first three and will not play against the Bears in the final preseason game. Davis and Roye were all declared out for the game against the Bears.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Defensive backs coach Mel Tucker does an excellent job tutoring players. One of the surprises in training camp and preseason was Brandon McDonald, a fifth-round cornerback who originally was drafted to compete for the punt returning job. McDonald has done well enough to be the dime back. He is a solid backup if a starter goes down with an injury.

DRAFT PICKS TO STICK

Rd. 1/3, OT Joe Thomas, Wisconsin -- Thomas started working with the first-team offense on the second day of training camp. He is quick in pass protection and strong in run blocking.

Rd. 1/22, QB Brady Quinn, Notre Dame -- Quinn's passer rating in the preseason was over 115.0 in each of the first two games he played, but general manager Phil Savage says it is unrealistic to think Quinn is in the mix to start against the Steelers in the opener. He is the quarterback of the future, but the Browns will not rush him.

Rd. 2/53, CB Eric Wright, UNLV -- At 5-10, 193 pounds, Wright is not as big as some cornerbacks, but he is confident and has good cover skills. He has won the starting job at left corner.

Rd. 5/140, CB Brandon McDonald, Memphis -- McDonald has good hands and could make interceptions if he gets the chance to play. He could be the dime back and will play on special teams.

UNIT-BY-UNIT ANALYSIS

QUARTERBACK: Starter -- Charlie Frye. Backups -- Derek Anderson, Brady Quinn, Ken Dorsey.

There is still a possibility the Browns would trade Frye if a team offers a high enough pick, but Frye is the front-runner to start the season -- apparently -- while being pressured by Anderson and Quinn. Quinn is the quarterback of the future, but coach Romeo Crennel wont rush him. Dorsey is more valuable than Anderson as a mentor for Quinn.

RUNNING BACKS: Starter -- Jamal Lewis. Backups -- Jason Wright, Jerome Harrison, FB Lawrence Vickers.

Lewis is strong, fresh and eager. He is the key to the offense. If he gets 20 to 25 carries a game it means the Browns are controlling the clock. Wright is a quick change-of-pace backup. Harrison has responded to a threat for his job from Chris Barclay by blocking well and making tackles on special teams.

TIGHT END/H-BACK: Starter -- Kellen Winslow. Backups -- Steve Heiden, Darnell Dinkins.

The jobs of Browns tight ends are clearly defined. Winslow is the gifted receiver who rarely drops the ball. Heiden is the mucker who can block and catch the ball on third down. Dinkins is the best blocker of the bunch and rarely catches a pass. He caught two passes last year.

WIDE RECEIVERS: Starters -- Braylon Edwards, Joe Jurevicius. Backups -- Joshua Cribbs, Tim Carter, Travis Wilson.

Jurevicius and Edwards give the Browns a reliable tandem to start, but things get shaky after that because Cribbs, Carter and Wilson have not demonstrated they can catch the ball consistently. Carter might be the best of the three, but he has a history of health issues.

OFFENSIVE LINE: Starters -- LT Joe Thomas, LG Eric Steinbach, C Hank Fraley, RG Seth McKinney, RT Kevin Shaffer. Backups -- RT Kelly Butler, RG Isaac Sowells, LG/C Lennie Friedman, T Nat Dorsey.

This is the best offensive line the Browns have had in at least 20 years. Steinbach missed the entire preseason but the Browns are hopeful he will be ready for the opener. If he is, Frye, or whoever plays quarterback, will be safe from an attack on the left. Shaffer suffered a concussion in the third exhibition game and is iffy for the opener. He has played well moving from the left side. Butler is a strong run blocker but slow in pass blocking. Center LeCharles Bentley starts the season on the physically-unable-to-perform list. He can be activated after the sixth week of the regular season. RT Ryan Tucker has been suspended for the first four weeks of the regular season.

DEFENSIVE LINE: Starters -- LDE Orpheus Roye, NT Ted Washington, RDE Robaire Smith. Backups -- LE Simon Fraser, NT Shaun Smith, DL Ethan Kelly.

The Browns need the defensive line to be active and tie up the opposing offensive line so the linebackers can make tackles. It is not an athletic line and the backups don't add much support. Fraser is the best pass rusher in the group. Roye missed the entire preseason recovering from knee surgery. He is the best run defender among the linemen. Washington will play 15 to 20 plays a game.

LINEBACKERS: Starters -- WLB Kamerion Wimbley, MLB Andra Davis, ILB DQwell Jackson, SLB Antwan Peek. Backups -- OLB Chaun Thompson, SLB Willie McGinest, MLB Leon Williams, ILB Mason Unck, ILB Kris Griffin.

Wimbley and Peek pose a dual threat as pass rushers. An ankle injury prevented Davis from playing in the last three preseason games. The Browns need him in the lineup because Williams was spotty replacing him in preseason. Jackson was tentative at times last year but looked more sure of himself in the preseason. McGinest will miss the first three games recovering from back surgery. Griffin and Unck are key special teams players.

DEFENSIVE BACKS: Starters -- LCB Eric Wright, RCB Leigh Bodden, SS Sean Jones, FS Brodney Pool. Backups -- CB Dave Holly, CB Jereme Perry, CB Kenny Wright, CB Brandon McDonald, SS Mike Adams.

The secondary will be the strength of the defense and should increase the 18 interceptions it had last year. Eric Wright, a rookie, and Pool are new as starters. Holly is an excellent nickel back with good hands and Perry can cover in spot situations. McDonald, another rookie, is the dime back.

SPECIAL TEAMS: PK Phil Dawson, P Dave Zastudil, LS Ryan Pontbriand, KR Joshua Cribbs, PR Joshua Cribbs.

The Browns are hoping the slump resulting in Dawson missing eight of 29 field-goal tries last season is over, but he missed two medium-range kicks in preseason. Zastudil is a master at punting the ball dead inside the 5. Cribbs bobbled punts last year, but with a summer of practice, he is catching the ball better and taking it up the field. He is fearless as a kick returner. Pontbriand snaps the ball to holder Zastudil so when Zastudil catches, the laces are away from Dawson every time. That's the way Dawson likes it.


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