Thoughts, notes, questions, suggestions and random snottiness as the Cleveland Browns head into Game #3 of the fake football slate tonight against the Detroit Lions in "The Great Lakes Classic", aka "The Skunkhead's Attempt To Drum Up Faux Interest In A Fake Game".
- Needless to say, the biggest storyline heading into tonight's game is the professional starting debut of Brady Quinn. It's so big, in fact, that I'm going to attempt the impossible: include a reference to Quinn in every single note in this twelve-pack. Sit down, Michael Phelps. You've now been served by both me and Amanda Beard.
- Since the third pre-season game usually serves as a team's "dress rehearsal", it will be interesting to see how long Romeo Crennel leaves Quinn in the game. Normally, the starters would play through the second quarter, and then into the third. Sometimes, very deep into the third quarter. With uncertainty surrounding the return of Derek Anderson, will Crennel play it safe and pull Quinn on the off-chance that DA's concussion would linger longer than expected? That's something to look for, and possibly gain an insight into exactly how serious – or not – the injury is to the presumptive starter.
- Just thinking out loud, but do you think there are certain members of the organization who, if you were permitted to probe the innermost corners of their minds, are privately rooting for a ho-hum performance from Quinn? Not so much of a clunker that it casts doubt on Quinn's ability to lead this team should DA go down for an extended period of time, mind you, but juuust crappy enough where it heads-off a potential QB controversy?
- The second biggest storyline leading in is actually somewhat related to Quinn as injuries have depleted both sides of the ball, the offense in particular. The second-year Notre Dame product will be without projected starters Braylon Edwards (foot) and Jamal Lewis (hamstring), as well as quasi-wide receiver Josh Cribbs (ankle). Those are in addition to the off-season-long injuries to Joe Jurevicius and Ryan Tucker, which have kept the twosome out for the whole of training camp.
- However, fullback Lawrence Vickers is expected to return to the starting line-up, so Quinn has that going for him. Which is nice. Charles Ali played well in replacing Vickers this past week, but he's no Vickers.
- On the defensive side of the ball, the Browns will be down to their third-stringer at the outside linebacker spot opposite Kamerion Wimbley. Willie McGinest (groin) and Antwan Peek (surgery) will be MIA tonight and, even though Chase Ortiz is next in line on the "official" depth chart, it's expected that fellow rookie Alex Hall will get the start. Starting safety Brodney Pool is out with a concussion and will be replaced by Mike Adams. On the plus side, defensive lineman Shaun Rogers will return from "general soreness" after missing this past Monday's loss. That should help the defense in getting more three-and-outs, which will allow Quinn & Company more possessions and more time to get on the same page with the rest of the first team.
- Even though Josh Cribbs will be out of action tonight – if not a little/lot longer – Syndric Steptoe proved last week that, even though he may not be at Cribbs' Pro Bowl level just yet, he can provide a spark in the return game. Steptoe put the Browns in good field position with several of his returns last week, which will be important for a young quarterback making his first professional start.
- Are you getting annoyed yet, this whole attempt at pushing Quinn into each and every note? I know I am, and it was my idea. I'd apologize, but I really don't care. As this game doesn't count, I'm mailing this one in. It's pre-season, after all. And I really could care less that you are paying the same price for a pre-season story that you would for a regular-season one.
- Look, if you had one shot… one opportunity… to seize everything you ever wanted… one moment… would you capture it, or let it slip? Sorry, Travis Wilson, but everybody saw your mom's spaghetti all over your jersey last Monday night. You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow… and you blew. A dropped pass and a poorly run route on a potential touchdown thrown by Quinn. In the meantime, while you were doing your best disappearing act, Steptoe was making plays all over the field in all phases of the game. Did that play erase all of the gain you've made this off-season? Probably not, but it exemplified why the Browns felt the need to keep you on the inactive list for all 16 games last season. And why Steptoe will likely be in the starting line-up tonight.
- Offensive line, you're better than that. You know it, I know it, everybody around the NFL knows. It doesn't matter that you were facing arguably the best defensive line in the league. The physical mistakes are correctable; the mental mistakes – DA concussion, anyone? – are inexcusable and will get yet another QB hurt if they aren't corrected. Especially a QB making his first start.
- It's also redemption time for Eric Wright. He's not nearly as bad as the toasted egg he laid all over the Meadowland turf last Monday. In fact, it's quite the opposite as the young corner has Pro Bowl-level talent. So, you may be asking yourself, how exactly will he shoehorn a reference to Quinn into a point like this? I just did. (Image of me licking my index finger, putting a number "1" on an imaginary chalkboard dangling in the air in front of me.)
- Sorry, this is only going to be an 11-pack today. Brady had a road pop on the way home…
LAST CALL: Browns 31, Lions 27. Nothing pithy to say here. It's the pre-season. And I have to get my Quinn jersey out of the closet. Not that there's anything wrong with that.