Fans want to talk about the quarterback situation and the rookies during the lull between mini-camp and training camp. Here's what's been hitting my OBR forum in-box over the last week.
Q: What have you seen from rookie tight-end Martin Rucker and wide receiver Beau Bell that makes them worthy of their places in the draft selection process? In reading reports from the media, I get the impression neither player looks good and the team may have made a mistake.
LA: With any player in these settings you can not get a true read on their abilities. You can look at a player and gauge his speed and quickness. You can notice the fundamentals and technical aspects of a position player, but there is nothing like putting the pads on and getting after it. When the pads go on and the drills are conducted, you gain a much greater sense of what a player is about, what he can and cannot do and how his athleticism translates to the playing field.
In the case of rookie ILB Beau Bell, he tends to be a bit slow in recognition and flow to the ball or play. When you watch him on film in a game atmosphere he is a much different player. Within the UNLV system, Bell appeared to be a destroyer, a heat-seeking missile with a RB as the target. When watching players of this sort, I tend to believe that when the pads go on and he knows the responsibilities, we will see an entirely different Beau Bell.
Rookie tight end Martin Rucker is in the learning phases with a rather complex offensive scheme. While there are some subtle similarities between Chudzinski's system and the one at Missouri, the pro-game is a different animal.
Throughout the sessions, I was surprised how well the rookie could get down-field and into the seam. His hands (receiving skills) improved vastly over the last two weeks of camp, but his route running and blocking responsibilities need refinement. We will get a better read on Rucker in training camp drills when he matches up with a defensive back downfield or has to handle an OLB at the point of attack in a 'real' football setting.
Q: There has been a lot in articles from Browns beat writers about QB Brady Quinn doing well. We don't read as much about Derek Anderson. Is there something to this that you are not reporting? Or is the OBR sort of a pro-Derek site?
LA: I report what I see, what I am told by the legitimate experts in the field, players and/or coaches and other personnel. If the media you reference are present, they see the same practices I do. Not everybody sees things the same way, or different writers may be looking for something different in these sessions. I tend to sway toward looking with an eye for the fundamentals, technique and intangibles, not completions by one QB downfield and the other on a check-down.
When I look at Quinn I see a young QB that has developed very well since the day he arrived in Cleveland. In having the opportunity to see him in these sessions over the past month or two, he is consistently progressing and I believe at some point in the future will be the QB of the Cleveland Browns.
Derek Anderson and Quinn have been comparable in the OTA and mini-camp settings. Neither player has stood out for any extended period of time and both battle issues of consistency, some of which comes from getting back into the swing of things with the receivers.
Anderson has done absolutely nothing to lose or jeopardize his starting role, nor has Quinn excelled to the point whereas a different approach is forced on the coaching staff based on a few weeks of non-contact activities.
If Quinn obviously out-performs Anderson in training camp, I think we would all be interested in how the coaches and players react. Until that day arrives or injury issues hit the team, Anderson is the starter and deserves to be.
Q: Derek Anderson's completion percentage is terrible at about 56%. This team cannot win with such inconsistency... shouldn't that be enough to warrant Brady Quinn getting a significant chance this season?
LA: Anderson's completion percentage is at the lower end for starters in the league and is in the Eli Manning category. Due to his down-field attack mentality, Anderson's completion percentage is going to be lower until he develops an improved short game. I don't agree that the team won't be able to win with Anderson at QB, as the team did reasonably well in the 2007 season under the first-time full-time starter, though I do have concerns with his development in the short-game.
On the flip-side, Quinn would likely have a better completion percentage due to his much quicker check-down and the offense would be more methodical rather than excitingly explosive. My belief is simple: the best QB needs to be on the field that fits into the system and has the ability to utilize the weapons on hand. Right now that QB is Anderson, but with a second-training camp under his belt, I expect Quinn to make the 'actual' decision much more difficult and hopefully the 'true' better QB is on the field to face the Dallas Cowboys in the opener.
Q: Much was made about Kellen Winslow potentially holding out of mandatory camp and training camp. Is there anything new to report on the situation and can this issue be avoided before it becomes a problem which could hamper the season?
LA: Winslow was in attendance and participated in the latest mandatory mini-camp. The tight end looked to be in fantastic condition and took part in many of the individual and team drills. There were no indications that the shoulder and knee issues which plagued the gifted receiver are an issue any longer.
Regarding the contract situation, Winslow's agent Drew Rosenhaus has been in contact with the Browns and there is an understanding that the player wants his contract reworked. At this time the Browns are not inclined to do anything of significance, due to the length of the contract and the team's salary cap situation. From talking with those around the organization and league, at some point both parties will work toward a satisfactory agreement, but that time is not in the immediate future.
Q: On some reputable football magazine/sites, Quinn is considered a "can't miss" and has all the tools, arm strength (big-arm), mental make-up, vision and accuracy. Knowing this to be accurate and from reputable guys, how can this organization be waiting on Quinn and taking far too many chances with Anderson?
LA: I would never place a QB in a can't miss category. If you believe what you have read from this 'reputable' magazine/site, that is one thing, but I am comfortable stating I do not completely agree with the assessment. Brady Quinn has talent, he knows how to lead and manage, but he has issues within his game that he has been working on. I am in the process of a couple articles which discuss Anderson and Quinn in depth. At this point, I'd say Brady Quinn does not possess what I'd call a big-arm.
Q: If you were position to name a starting QB today with what you know, you would the choice be and why?
LA: Today I would name Derek Anderson and watch how training camp develops. With what Anderson and this Cleveland team accomplished in the 2007 season, I believe it would be an injustice to go in any other direction. Now, heading into training camp players are going to compete. In camp, if Quinn proves to be the better player at the position, then he must be considered. This type of decision does not need to be made by the 'gut', but rather an educated process which considers every variable, including 'fit' within the 11-player group which takes the field.