In-Box: Cornerback Conundrums

The cornerback position continues to weigh heavy on the minds of Cleveland Browns fans, as evidenced by the contents of Lane Adkins' in-box. Lane talks defense backfield in this edition, as the team continues to assess its next steps...

Here are some recent questions which have hit my forums in-box and email about the Browns defense...

Q: Since the team has yet to add another veteran in the defensive backfield, does this mean the team is comfortable with the players at the position or is it more that Savage is not enamored with anyone available?

LA: At this time there is really is not a true high quality cornerback available. We have been down the Lito Sheppard road and he could possibly be made available, but this team is not going to wheel and deal away a high draft pick for a player that may also wants his contract redone. Of course, the name which gets the most play is Ty Law. Law can come in and help this team, but not as a player who is expected to blanket a receiver in a starting role out. Law can't be on an island any more, though I do believe he can provide some quality play in short spurts.

Nobody knows what the Browns will do once we close in on the training camp sessions, but I believe another CB could come in to compete and provide some additional experience in the defensive backfield.

Q: Why haven't the Browns added another experienced player at cornerback? With the team being so close now, wouldn't you think getting the best available players would benefit the team in the 2008 season? I can't believe Ty Law hasn't been signed, he knows the defense and can definitely help this team?

LA: The situation at the CB position is such that the organization is caught in a position of questioning "the now" against the future. This organization believes it has young talent on the roster that can play and compete in this league. Part of why they are wavering is because they'll be forced to let some of this talent go if an experienced player is signed for temporary help.

While many may perceive the moves made by this organization as those of a win now mentality, I do not see this as being the case. Granted, the moves made this off-season were made to improve the roster, which should significantly improve the chances of winning now. At the same time, those new players also have youth on their side and should still be productive a few years down the road.

We've beaten the Ty Law situation to death. Everything I know leads me to believe he can still play, but not at the level most think of when he was wearing a New England Patriots uniform.

Q: The feel-good story of Gary Baxter getting back on the field is admirable and touching, but do you really believe he is going to be successful and help this team in the 2008 season?

LA: Different observers have different standards, but, to me, Gary Baxter on the field practicing is a successful return for the player. Baxter is not going to go away quietly... he is working tremendously hard. Baxter wants this like you would not believe. If there is one man that can overcome the odds, it may very well be Gary Baxter. In the early practice sessions he appeared a little stiff, but the more time he spent in team drills, the better he looked.

We really won't know what he can do until training camp when the offense and defense tee-off and he has to recognize, run at full speed, cut and hit. If he can compete at a high level, then he will have a place here.

Q: You have watched the team... are you comfortable with two second-year players starting at cornerback?

LA: This is exactly what worries me at cornerback. The relative youth and inexperience at the position has the potential to be costly on game-day, as there is much more to playing cornerback than just being able to run with a wide receiver. We watched the improvement of Eric Wright as the 2007 season progressed and viewed the emergence of Brandon McDonald late in the season, but is either player truly ready to hold the fort against the likes of a legitimate #1 receiver?

We simply don't know. On tape there are indicators both players have that type of ability. The confidence level of these players is as such they want to show they can do it.

The FA signing of CB Terry Cousin will have an impact. He has been terrific with the youth at the position. His deep experience is something which was lacking at the position, and Cousin has taken it upon himself to work with these youngsters and show them how to get the job done.

I felt better after the Cousin addition, but I am simply unsure if I would take the potential of the youngsters over an experienced player who can still play the game in some productive capacity.

Q: We keep hearing the Browns have a tougher schedule in 2008, that they won't be sneaking up on anybody, and that the team won't have the same luck with injuries as last season. With that in mind, how can people believe this team can have a better record even compete for the division crown without major improvements?

LA: I would agree with your caution, but only to a degree. The schedule appears to be tougher and teams won't regard the Browns as an easy opponent. On the flip-side, I don't know what leads you to believe this roster hasn't been improved significantly over the 2007 roster. The play of the defensive front seven was below average and bordered on poor at times and at some positions. The addition of Shaun Rogers and Corey Williams, along with a refreshed Robaire and Shaun Smith, makes up a formidable beginning four on the depth chart. OLB Antwan Peek is healthy, OLB Shantee Orr was added via free agency and the other LB's on the roster should benefit from the size, experience and modified scheme of the Cleveland defense.

The depth in the defensive backfield is a natural area of some concern due to the loss of Daven Holly and trade of Leigh Bodden. Strong defensive line and linebacker play can help hide some deficiencies in the defensive backfield. This may be something off interest to watch heading into training camp and possibly as the season commences.

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