Passan: Hitting The Rewind Button

Rich offers up a high-priority item for Phil Savage's to-do list, and more following the Jets game...

Notes on a legal pad while watching the Browns lose the exhibition opener to the New York Bretts . . .

If a priority list exists in Phil Savage's world, at the top of that list should be improving the depth along the defensive line. If the Browns' general manager doesn't address that one immediately, the four quality players he has now will run out of gas by game 10. If not sooner.

It's obvious the young secondary needs some more experience, but it's the line that sets up everything else on defense. And right now, Savage needs to get some more help for Shaun Rogers, Corey Williams, Robaire Smith and Shaun Smith.

Those four cannot possibly hold up for any long period of time. Attrition is almost certain to set in if Rogers (29), Williams (28), Robaire Smith (30) and Shaun Smith (27) are called on for a majority of the reps during the regular season.

Granted they are in the prime of their careers, but this quartet should not be required to do it by themselves. They need help. And they need it now. Savage painstakingly put together the core group. Now, it's time to strengthen that core.

Defensive ends Chase Pittman and Mel Purcell, drafted last season, have made little or no impact thus far. The light doesn't appear to be going on for them. Rookies Ahtyba Rubin and Brian Schaefering are practice squad material. Only Louis Leonard stood out against New York, looking strong inside and surprisingly quick outside.

* * *

You know it's going to be a good season when the only argument that emerges from the exhibition loss is whether Derek Anderson's touchdown pass to Braylon Edwards on the only series the starting offense played was a great throw or a great catch.

That, of course, depends on your perspective. If you're an Anderson fan, it was a great throw. If you reside in the Brady Quinn camp, it was a great catch. In actuality, it was both.

The way I saw it, the timing play was executed a tick shy of flawlessly. On the play, Edwards is supposed to fake an inside route before breaking to the outside. Anderson throws to a spot. Edwards is supposed to get to that spot. The timing was a little off because Edwards got too close to New York cornerback Darrelle Revis' body and turned around late.

Yes, Edwards catch was spectacular. And yes, there was the slightest, almost imperceptible, hint of a pushoff. If you're not blocking, you can't touch a defensive back and it was obvious Edwards was not blocking. It was the kind of move Michael Irvin got away with his entire career and we all know where that landed him.

It was just a case of bad timing that turned out good. But isn't that what exhibition games are for? To hone plays like that?

It's also a new wrinkle in Rob Chudzinski's ever-expanding playbook. The Browns' offensive coordinator is constantly striving to take advantage of his group's strengths. That was a play we had never seen before. Consider it another little gem in Chudzinski's crown. Wouldn't be surprised if there's a companion play like that to the left side.

* * *

The Browns are in very good shape at quarterback. Quinn looked strong and confident as he ran the offense for a couple of quarters. His throws were decisive and pretty much on the mark. His only mistake was the pick he threw when he led Syndric Steptoe a little too much on a quick slant. The ball caromed off Steptoe's fingertips.

Other than that, Quinn was poised and displayed excellent escapability when cornered in the pocket. He's a very hard young man to bring down. There will be very little falloff if Anderson should get injured, although it looked as though the playcalling with Quinn was different with the emphasis more on a West Coast look.

* * *

It's only one exhibition game, but it appears as though the Browns are not going to be aggressive on defense. Hopefully, defensive coordinator Mel Tucker has more ambitious plans for the regular season that includes putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

The Browns played a vanilla-based defense that concentrated on containing the Jets. And when the first unit was in there for a series and a half, the Jets' ground game was held in check.

* * *

The starters need to play more against the New York Giants next Monday. Much more. Especially the offense. Playing only one series against the Jets is not nearly enough preparation to develop the timing necessary to be successful. Now is not the time to take anything for granted.

If it was the intention of coach Romeo Crennel to see a lot of backups, he succeeded. Still, there's a season to prepare for and only four exhibition games. Throw out the final game, when the starters play maybe a series or two, and the Browns have just two games to get ready for the Dallas Cowboys Sept. 7.

* * *

Quick observations: I like the way Brandon McDonald plays cornerback. He's quick, aggressive and appears to be a solid tackler. . . . Anderson's decision-making, based solely on just one series, has improved. On a third-and-6 at the Jets' 9, he dropped back, looked right, then left, found no one open and scrambled for six yards. All this in less than four seconds. . . . Steptoe and Gerard Lawson looked very impressive returning kicks. . . . Running back Jerome Harrison displayed some nice power between the tackles. He's best, however, as a slasher. . . . Wide receiver Travis Wilson is beginning to look like what he said he was when the Browns selected him in 2006 draft – the best receiver in that draft. . . . Rookie Martin Rucker has nice hands. Might make a nice slot receiver even though he's listed as a tight end. He's a poor man's Kellen Winslow Jr. for now. . . . The second-unit offensive line played well with Quinn at quarterback. Quinn was touched just twice.

* * *

More quickies: The Jets game was all about roster spots 23 through 53. . . . Rookie wide receiver Paul Hubbard made a spectacular fourth-quarter catch. Too bad he has problems catching the easy ones. . . . Who says Ken Dorsey doesn't have a strong arm? Anyone notice he heaved the ball 55 yards on that completion to Hubbard? . . . The best part of the loss was that no one got hurt. . . . That wide receiver problem the Browns were supposed to have? It might not be a concern after all. They now have enough guys who can catch the ball in Rucker, Wilson, Steve Sanders and Efrem Hill. . . . Safety Nick Sorenson is on the team because he's terrific on special teams. In the secondary, he's dangerous in a bad way. . . . Corners A.J. Davis and Mil'von James didn't help themselves with spotty performances. . . . Rookie linebacker Alex Hall seems to be making a smooth transition from Division II to pro ball. He did not look out of place against the Jets. A budding Willie McGinest?



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