Passan: Browns News and Views

Rich Passan has some takes on recent news out of Browns-land. Which is strange, because he's always been so quiet about his opinions in the past. Rich has never been one to risk disagreeing with someone else, and is always just looking to get along. Very strange, but here ya go...

News and views . . .

News: Cornerback Daven Holly goes down with a major knee injury. Fans shift into semi panic mode.

Views: There's no question the biggest weakness in the Browns' defense, relatively speaking, lies in the secondary. But to get twisted out of shape and proclaim Holly's injury as crippling is taking hyperbole a bit too far.

Sure, the former free agent filled in nicely when injuries ravaged the defensive backfield the last two seasons. But let's not get carried away with the notion his absence will make a huge difference in the Cleveland defense this season. It won't.

He's only one teensy weensy part of the puzzle. The way the Browns play defense this season in no way will resemble what we've been subjected to in the three seasons Romeo Crennel has been the head coach.

The addition of defensive linemen Shaun Rogers and Corey Williams give the Browns something they haven't experienced in too long a period: An interior pass rush. The ability to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks cannot be stressed enough in the pass-happy National Football League.

And in the domino-effect world of defensive football, that bodes well for the defensive backfield. No longer will the Cleveland corners and safeties have to scurry for nine of 10 seconds while opposing quarterbacks pick their noses as they scan the field for open receivers.

No longer will third-and-long be a hold-your-breath, cross-your-fingers situation for the Browns. Look for them to considerably improve their third-down percentage on defense and short-circuit long, time-consuming, defense-tiring drives and get off the field quicker.

The Browns aren't saying so, but it would not surprise to see much more press coverage on the outside this season, a luxury they couldn't afford when the pass rush was virtually non-existent.

That will enable cornerbacks Eric Wright and Brandon McDonald to play bump-and-run in an effort to throw off the timing of a passing offense. They are young enough, strong enough and quick enough to pull it off.

The loss of Holly will not be seriously felt. Maybe from a depth standpoint to a minute degree, but you never know when some young free agent will come along and surprise the coaches.

Someone like, say, Daven Holly.

* * *

News: The Browns sign veteran cornerback Terry Cousin as insurance in the wake of Holly's misfortune.

Views: Cousin is not the answer.

The Browns like him because of his ability to play the slot in nickel and dime packages. But at 33, the 11-year veteran has clearly seen his best days. There's a reason Cleveland is the seventh stop on his journeyman resume. He's not that good anymore. His biggest contribution will be experience.

Cousin is one of 16 defensive backs who will be at training camp late next month. With several youngsters showing well in OTAs – rookie free agents Darnell Terrell and Mil'von James and first-year man A.J. Davis have caught the eye of Crennel and defensive coordinator Mel Tucker – it would not be shocking if Cousin winds up shopping for his eighth team.

The Browns need to get younger. Signing Cousin doesn't fulfill that need. He's not worth getting excited about.

* * *

News: Shaun Rogers' early impressions of the Browns' defensive approach: "It's not a get off and get 'em defense like I'm used to playing in. It's sort of patient and unselfish."

Views: Not a good sign if that's the way the Browns intend to play defense this season.

The success of any good defense lies in aggression. The more aggressive a defense, the better chance it has to be productive. And Rogers is known as one of the most aggressive and active defensive linemen in the NFL.

Tone him down, take away his aggressiveness and you practically disarm him, make him less effective. He likes to get after people. That's his game. Has been since his collegiate days at Texas.

For the last three seasons, the Browns have been a read-and-react defense. While the reads might have been correct, the reactions did not follow suit. Surrendering upwards of 130-140 yards a game on the ground is not going to win many games unless the offense repeats its accomplishments of last season.

If the Browns are going to stop opposing offenses, they must display a more belligerent approach. Hopefully, Mel Tucker will add schemes that will enable Rogers to do what he does best.

* * *

News: Ryan Tucker goes down with a hip injury. Browns shift Isaac Sowells to offensive tackle to provide depth at that position.

Views: Won't make a difference. Barring any other major injury along the offensive line, Sowells is a long shot, at best, to make the final roster. He wasn't that good at guard to begin with. If he was, why did the Browns bring in others to strengthen the position? He wasn't going to make the squad as a guard. He's nothing more than another body out there until Tucker returns from his surgery.

As for helping out at tackle, the Browns might as well bring back Nat Dorsey for all the good Sowells will do at the position. Even though he played tackle in college, the big guy from Indiana is overmatched in the NFL.

Cliff Louis, the rangy kid from Morgan State has a better shot to make the final roster than Sowells. If he turns out to be half as good as another Morgan Stater who played for the Browns, guy by the name of Leroy Kelly, that wouldn't be so bad.

* * *

News: Crennel heaps words of praise on wide receiver Travis Wilson in OTAs.

Views: It's going to take a lot more than words to convince me the third-year wideout will become a productive member of the offense. In fact, this might be his last chance to prove he belongs on the roster.

Let's, for the sake of argument, take Crennel's words seriously. You have to factor in these are the OTAs, where there is no contact and the uniform of the day is shorts and a helmet. Let's see what Wilson can do with a full uniform and someone covering him before judging him.

If past performances the last two seasons serve as a barometer, he'll be nothing more than another third-round bust. It shouldn't take three years for the self-proclaimed best receiver in the 2006 college draft to make worthwhile contributions.

Three strikes and he's out or third time's a charm? Most likely the latter, but only because there's no one better as a fourth receiver. Playing time will come in short bursts, if at all.

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