Q: Why do you believe the Browns have yet to address the cornerback issue? Time is running out with the season right around the corner. Wouldn't it be imperative that the team get a legitimate player in here and get him accustomed to the defense?
LA: I look at the situation in this manner. The organization has a list of players at the position which are available or which they believe will become available. A couple of the veteran players are in absolutely no hurry to get into a camp, while a couple of players are on other rosters and the Browns are waiting to see if they might become available.
I sense that we are getting much closer to something transpiring in the defensive backfield. If the organization does bring in an experienced CB, the transition will not be nearly as demanding as for a youngster, especially if the player has played in a system somewhat similar to that of the Browns.
Q: Not much has been said about the return of Ryan Tucker and what his return means to the offensive line. Does the line improve overall or does one phase of the game get better and the other worse, with Tucker instead of Rex Hadnot?
LA: Ryan Tucker has been a productive member of the Browns' offensive line and there is no reason to believe he will not return in that capacity. His hip surgery went well, and his rehab has gone very well. Tucker is rehabbing to gain complete strength and function before lining-up in pads.
I believe Tucker returns to the RG spot when he is healthy and gets back on the practice field... and not before. If or when that happens, Hadnot could slide back to be the backup at RG. Hadnot can also play center, which creates additional interesting potential for this team regarding depth.
Hadnot is a solid run-blocker and fared well in camp and the pre-season opener. He is simply average as a pass protector, and this is where the difference between he and Tucker shows up. Tucker is good in the run game and has shown to be very solid in the passing game at the RG position.
Q: Looking forward to the season opener, the Dallas Cowboys wide receivers appear rather pedestrian to me. Will this be an advantage for the Browns as the defensive backs for the Browns are good and the depth is questionable for us?
LA: Outside of Terrell Owens, the Dallas WR's do not appear to be anything out of the ordinary. What makes this team explosive and capable is the protection they provide QB Tony Romo and his scrambling skills. The Cowboys can run the football, but this offense runs through Romo, RB Marion Barber, TE Jason Witten and Owens.
If the Browns cannot generate a pass rush or push the pocket into the face of Romo, I believe it is not going to be a successful day for the Browns. The Dallas offensive line is big and physical, so the season-opening matchup should tell us something right away about the new and improved Cleveland defensive line.
If the line plays well, the DB's have every opportunity to perform well.
Q: If you had to go out on a limb today and predict the outcome of the AFC North, how do you see the division shaping up and what transpires with the Browns in the 2008 season?
LA: 1 - Cleveland (can't afford injuries in the defensive backfield). 2 - Pittsburgh (OL and DL are issues for the Steelers). 3 - Cincinnati (they're dysfunctional, but can be explosive). 4 - Baltimore (QB, WR, OT and CB issues too much to overcome)
I see the Browns making a return to the playoffs, and I'll leave it as that for this day
I'll have my season predictions for this team in the days leading up to the season opener.
Q: In all the years you have covered and followed the Browns teams, which team do you believe was the best of the bunch and how does that team compare to the 2008 Browns?
LA: I look back and like the 1986 and 1987 teams. The defense was solid and the offense was explosive led by QB Bernie Kosar. Kosar had that ability to make plays and he certainly had a wealth of players surrounding him that never gave up.
This 2008 Browns team has all the makings of a good club. but I don't think they are as solid defensively as those 80's teams. But we need to see these guys on the field when it matters. There's no doubt the talent has improved. The question is: Will the defense improve enough?
Offensively, the 2008 team should be explosive, but I don't see the play at the QB position being as solid. While Derek Anderson had a successful 2007 season, let's wait and see before anointing him as the second coming.
Those Kosar-led offensive teams picked away at the defense; piece by piece they would expose a weakness and methodically attack it. Those 80's teams played the type of defense that has caused Anderson his greatest difficulty, where the philosophy was to keep everything in front of them. Where Anderson likes to stretch the field, the Browns DB's of that era were solid and played extremely well as a unit.