Stripping the 2007 notebook bare . . .
Why are the Browns so intent on beefing up their receiving corps during the offseason? Certainly, they must know the troika of Braylon Edwards, Joe Jurevicius and Kellen Winslow Jr. was as good as any in the National Football League this past season.
The key was utilizing Winslow correctly. While listed as a tight end, Winslow is really a large wide receiver who has been pigeon-holed in the wrong position. The key to the Browns' offensive success this season was using Winslow in the hybrid role with unsung Steve Heiden performing most of the grunt work as the real tight end.
As a result, Winslow was able to line up practically anywhere on the field. Sometimes, he appeared in the slot; other times, he was flanked wide to either side of the formation.
In essence, offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski made the opposition play "Where's Kellen?" enough that it risked getting burned if it tried to sneak a safety into the box. That, in turn, opened up the running game for Jamal Lewis and his buddies up front.
And when the running game was featured, out came Winslow or Jurevicius and in came another unsung hero . . .
. . . Lawrence Vickers. Working considerably under the radar, the young man from Colorado did not blow his chance once the coaches realized his greatest strength was blocking. You can point to the offensive line as a key to Lewis' surprising success this past season, but Vickers was every bit as important.
Time and again, he provided the key block that would spring Lewis for large gains. And in short-yardage situations, he was Chudzinski's choice to produce. He rarely failed.
He became the player the Browns thought they had when they signed Terrelle Smith as a free agent a few years ago.
Did anyone notice who the National Football League picked to referee the two conference championship games?
In the American Conference title game, our old buddy Jeff Triplette did the honors. And in the National Conference game, Terry McAulay headed that crew.
Sound familiar? Triplette = Orlando Brown and a penalty flag. McAulay = Bottlegate.
Cleveland – the springboard to bigger and better assignments.
If there is any one area outside of nose tackle that needs to be addressed during the offseason, it's inside linebacker. It has become abundantly clear that Andra Davis is not the answer and D'Qwell Jackson still leaves a lot to be desired
Sure, Jackson was in on 100 tackles in 13 games, but why does it seem as though most of those tackles are well past the line of scrimmage? Romeo Crennel says he loves Jackson's instincts. But those instincts are not translating into making plays at or behind the line of scrimmage. . (The Browns figure that will change with the addition of Shaun Rogers and Corey Williams.)
Too bad the Houston Texans selected DeMeco Ryans with the first pick of the second round in the 2006 draft, one slot in front of the Browns. Ryans, who fits perfectly at middle linebacker for the Texans, would have looked much better than Jackson. He's bigger, stronger and makes plays.
When you play the games through your mind, Jackson does not stick out. Neither does Davis, who has been at this now for six seasons. He is not a playmaker. And when your inside linebackers don't make plays, statistics pile up. The wrong kind of statistics.
Sure, Davis had a terrific game against the Buffalo Bills. But it took a near blizzard and a much slower track for him to stick out.
It's also time to see what Leon Williams can do on a full-time basis. We know he's a decent cover guy in passing situations. Now let's see what he can do as a full-timer. How much worse can he be?
Shaun Smith should play nose tackle and nothing else. He is not a defensive end. I know injuries forced Smith to move outside at time last season, but he is terribly ineffective out there against taller and stronger offensive tackles.
He belongs inside, where he can utilize his strength and quickness in tight areas against opposing centers and draw double teams. His relentless style of play is perfect for the role. (He could give Rogers an occasional breather.)
Memo to Chudzinski: Procure a tape of the first two New England Patriots playoff games, break them down and show them to Derek Anderson. Point out how Patriots quarterback Tom Brady takes whatever the defense gives him. Bang home the notion that he, too, can be that kind of a quarterback.
Jacksonville and San Diego took away the deep ball from Brady. That became apparent early enough where he could make an adjustment.
Fans wondered why Randy Moss caught only two passes total against the Jaguars and Chargers. He's not a short- or intermediate-route guy. Wes Welker and Kevin Faulk are Brady's favorites when the Pats are forced to play that game.
Anderson should be required to study Brady carefully in order to hike his game to a new level. Watch how he delivers the short ball, how he feathers his throws when necessary, how he tightens his visual zones to hone in on receivers.
Completing long bombs is glamorous. Completing the other kinds of passes is what contributes to delivering championships.
But for goodness sake, don't show Anderson the tape of the Super Bowl.