Is the quarterback position a two-headed monster? Is savage duping us in his talks on Anderson? Is there a quick fix for the defense and is there a position of impact which could alter the Browns defense?
All this and more in this version of Tales from the Inbox!
Q: Watching this team for the better part of three decades, I do not believe the defense was as good as it was overall in 2006 and not as bad as the 2007 season showed. Do you believe with the Browns being more competitive last season, the defense was more susceptible to poor stats and production due to the opposition having to attack, rather than milk the game away?
LA: I would agree. The opposition did keep the heat on the Cleveland defense due to the Browns becoming a much more competitive team. Rather than teams winding out the game, rushing the ball more often in the later stages, the opponents had to attack for the duration. Until the Cleveland Browns organization can secure additional talent on the defensive side of the ball, mainly in the front-seven, this will continue.
Q: Why do you think the Browns went into the season and played throughout with limited depth along the defensive line?
LA: The talk from the Browns was such that they did not believe there were sufficient players available heading into the season to help the line play, much less the overall defense. This to me was a grave error in judgment and cost this team as the season progressed, as the linemen wore down and injuries had taken a toll on the roster.
Q: We keep hearing all the talk about a new contract for quarterback Derek Anderson. He has only done it on the field for one season and the organization needs to be skeptical about his ceiling. Can he and Brady Quinn coexist for another season?
LA: Unless a team offers up something of significance to Phil Savage and the organization, Derek Anderson will be back in Cleveland next year. Anderson's season was one of two-halves and the organization and teams in the league have all film they need on him to determine what type of player he is and what their evaluation of him is for the future. I do not see another season of Anderson and Quinn on the roster as being a bad thing for the team or the player(s). The Browns rarely have had depth at any position, much less the ever-important quarterback position.
Q: Listening to Phil Savage and the media reports, I get the impression Savage is doing a con job on all involved and really wants to move Anderson. Can you elaborate on what you know of the situation?
LA: I do not see Savage working a con on this situation. Savage would like to get Anderson signed to a team-friendly deal which would not make an enormous impact on the organization in the event Anderson fails to produce or is ultimately traded, etc. Also, Savage recognizes the importance of perception, not only in Cleveland but around the league regarding the value of the player in question. This is a fine line for the organization to play, as Anderson is a restricted free agent and can gage interest from other teams in a few weeks, while he negotiates with the Browns on a new deal.
Q: Many that follow the team make us feel that new defensive coordinator Mel Tucker is going to be the man which turns the defense around. With the same type of talent, I do not see this possible. What is your impression of Tucker and his ability to turn things around in 2008?
LA: Mel Tucker will provide a sense of trust amongst the defense, as well as an ability to communicate. He will listen to the suggestions and opinions of players. This does not mean he is going to roll over and be a puppet for some of those players/voices on the defensive side of the ball. Tucker works extremely well with head coach Romeo Crennel and shares the philosophy of discipline in the overall scheme, from what I have been able to ascertain. Without an upgrade of talent, especially within the front-seven, there's only so much he can do. Securing the services of no less than two defensive linemen is critical, as well as improving the speed, quickness and mental make-up at linebacker, for this team to play at a high level on a consistent basis.
Q: I believe the Browns defense is better than stats and people reporting on the team make them out to be. Look at the Buffalo game - the Browns shut them out!! Against Cincinnati, the Browns basically shut them down, if not for the offense tanking it, we win. I don't understand all the negativity about the defense.
LA: I can see your optimism, but this defense did not play well overall and certainly not as a meshed unit for the greater portion of the 2007 season. The Buffalo game was played in a snow-storm that made for a difficult time for both offenses. On a slower track, the Browns defensive line and linebackers appeared to be solid, and which makes my point - this is a relatively slow defense in the front-seven. Outside of linebacker D'Qwell Jackson and Kamerion Wimbley, the foot-speed and quickness of this group is below average. This team needs to improve the overall quality of the front-seven, which is going to be aided with a much closer and respectful handling of players next season, or I anticipate as such.
Q: The defense gets much deserved negativity regarding the play of the team last season. Do you see a quick fix for this defense to gain respectability next season?
LA: Actually yes and no. The defense playing as a unit and in the correct frame of mind and scheme would work wonders, but is not the complete answer. Let's just say, the defensive unit of the Cleveland Browns was far from a cohesive unit on the field last season. Outside of defensive end Robaire Smith, the defensive linemen were relatively inconsistent, with much of this due to inexperience at the position played, injury and a lack of direction and utilization of talent. Additionally, this is not a good tackling team and work on the fundamentals and technique is in order.
Q: What position stands out to you as needing an immediate upgrade?
LA: Inside linebacker stands out to me as a problem area. Getting a physical presence - an enforcer - inside would make a big difference. The majority of the very good defensive teams force the opposition to plan against them inside. In this case, the Browns do not have that type of presence and getting an inside linebacker that will physically impose his will on the opposition - as well as changing the mindset of those around him - is key.
Q: Was there something wrong with (cornerback) Leigh Bodden last season? He did not seem to play well overall.
LA: Bodden was coming off of ankle issues and played with some leg and back problems last season. In the grandest of schemes, Bodden would like the opportunity to man-up more often in the Browns defensive scheme, which was something not regularly viewed last season. Also, playing Bodden against the slot receiver was a poor move by the defensive coordinator, which Bodden himself noted was something he was not comfortable with.
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