For the past two months we have spent endless hours discussing the state of the Cleveland defense, whether Brady Quinn should play and the mystery of what happens to quarterback Derek Anderson. As old as these topics may get at times, they continue to develop and serve as key items regarding the future of the Browns.With the resurgence of running back Jamal Lewis, a potential playoff birth on the horizon and the continued instability on the defensive side of the ball, there's a lot of buzz to pick up as I fly around the halls of Berea.
So, lets get the ball rolling on the latest items which have made it into my hyper-sensitive fly ears:
- All the talk surrounding the off-season plans of the Browns in regards to quarterback Derek Anderson and just that: Talk and nothing more. The front office of the Cleveland organization has not made a determination about the contract status of the surprising quarterback - much less had a meeting of the minds as to their plan of attack. Anderson will be a restricted free agent and is going to command plenty of interest, but the Browns hold the upper hand and made that well known recently in league circles. John Taylor of the Orange and Brown Report noted some possibilities (Atlanta Falcons) and scenarios in regards to Anderson, as well as offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski. As it stands today, there are no less than seven teams that will be openly looking at potential starting quarterbacks for next season. Of the seven, five of these teams believe they are playoff-caliber and are not looking to start the 2008 season with an inexperienced signal-caller. We can note the Atlanta Falcons are one of the teams, as well as the Chicago Bears and San Francisco 49ers. On the other hand, the Minnesota Vikings were rumored to be a team of interest, but head coach Brad Childress believes Tarvaris Jackson can lead that team while building around he and 2007 first-round draft pick, running back Adrian Peterson.
- If the Browns secure a playoff spot prior to the end of the season, the plan is for rookie quarterback Brady Quinn to get some playing time. The team believes Quinn can manage the offense in the event Anderson is injured, but his lack of game experience is something the staff would like to alleviate. Quinn has been very productive in practice sessions and has the mental portion of the offensive scheme down. If the Browns have the opportunity to win the AFC North division on the final weekend of the season, of course, this plan could be scrapped.
- As the Anderson off-season activity unfolds, do not look for the Browns to trade Quinn, regardless of that transpires with Anderson. Though DA has done well in his first extended playing time as a starter at the professional level, the organization has high expectations for the rookie quarterback and in many cases the ceiling for Quinn is believed to be higher than that of Anderson.
- A comparison around the league focuses on the offense in San Diego with former Chargers quarterback Drew Brees and the offense now under the guidance of Philip Rivers. Some believe the Browns should reference that situation for a potential reflection of things to come in Cleveland. According to a member of the Cleveland organization, they do not believe the situation is comparable, as the talent level at the receiver positions surrounding Anderson and Quinn is better than that in San Diego. In addition, they believe that Anderson is not as well-rounded as Brees, while others are of the belief Quinn is going to be a better talent than Rivers.
- We've been told quarterback Derek Anderson and offensive guard Eric Steinbach were barely nudged out in balloting by players and coaches for the Pro Bowl. Steinbach was a leading vote getter in fan ballots, while Anderson held steady between the third and fourth spot with fans.
- The likelihood of running back Jamal Lewis remaining in Cleveland increases weekly. Lewis lobbied to run the ball more in recent weeks to the coaching staff and he has not disappointed. The slow turf in Cleveland Browns stadium late in the season could prove to benefit this team, due to the heavy legged, powerful running style of the veteran. The Cleveland staff anticipates teams are going to load the box or scheme differently to slow down the running game, which in turn will create additional opportunities in the passing game.
- Despite the return of rookie cornerback Eric Wright, look for the team to continue to utilize rookie Brandon McDonald in passing situations. McDonald will gain time in favor of Daven Holly, while he and Wright could also see time against the slot receiver.
- Outside linebacker Antwaan Peek continues to fight the injury bug and will see limited practice and playing time in the coming weeks. Veteran Chaun Thompson has been impressive in practice and appears poised to gain some valuable playing time.