Anderson Runs the Gauntlet

Through what appears to be the toughest part of the schedule, the Cleveland Browns quarterback has played well enough to hold off rookie Brady Quinn. Next up: the Miami Dolphins...

At the start of the season, the game Sunday against the Miami Dolphins in Cleveland Browns Stadium seemed like a good target date to insert Brady Quinn as the starting quarterback, but Derek Anderson has played well enough to postpone the transition indefinitely.

As the Browns saw it, the first five games -- against Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Oakland, Baltimore and New England -- represented the toughest stretch of the schedule. Rather than subject Quinn to that while he was still learning the offense, general manager Phil Savage and coach Romeo Crennel thought it would be better long-term if Charlie Frye and, as it turned out, Anderson, held the fort until Quinn was ready.

Anderson is in his third season, which makes it easy to forget he has started only seven games. He was 0-3 last year and is 2-2 this year. He is 0-4 on the road, and last Sunday in New England had the misfortune of playing against the No. 1 defense in the NFL.

Anderson has been erratic at times and brilliant at other times. He threw five touchdown passes against the Bengals and a week later put the Browns in a hole by throwing two interceptions in the first half against the Raiders. He played well in the second half and put the Browns in position to win when he moved the team from the Browns 9 to the Raiders 22 in 1:01 with no timeouts. A blocked field goal made the comeback a failed one and the Browns lost 26-24.

The game against the Patriots was similar. He threw three interceptions in the first half and put the Browns in a 20-0 hole. He threw two touchdown passes in the second half and twice got the Browns within 10 at 20-10 and 27-17, but the mistakes of the first half were too much to overcome. Two of the interceptions were on tipped passes and the other was caused by linebacker Mike Vrabel hitting his arm.

Anderson was on top of his game with two touchdown passes against the Ravens Sept. 30, and that's why the Browns are not giving up on him. Overall Anderson has thrown 11 touchdown passes and eight interceptions this season, a reversal of last year when he threw five touchdown passes and eight interceptions.

Offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski's message to Anderson has been concise; don't force the passes and take what the defense gives him.

"I think sometimes it takes x-amount of time for it to click with guys," Chudzinski said. "It seems like at whatever point it started clicking for Derek. He understands things. He's not playing perfectly, by any means. We're continuing to work with him, trying to make corrections for him to improve.

"Some are things that you might not see show up necessarily -- good or bad -- but we're correcting them, working on them and continuing to improve. As long as, generally speaking, we're headed in that direction, then I'm pleased with what's going on."

Crennel would still like to get Quinn playing time this year if the situation merits. After playing the winless Dolphins the Browns are on their bye.


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