Derry: Saturday Night Craptacular

A little perspective, please. Years of experience have taught Frank Derry the meaning of preseason (namely "none"), but there are a lot of other things we saw Saturday evening that gives the veteran columnist pause...

Fear not, Browns fans. The fact the team is 0-3 in the preseason and possibly headed for a winless exhibition campaign certainly doesn't mean the 2008 season will be a disaster.

In fact, if history repeats itself, this year could be an outstanding one. Remember, in 1972 the Browns went 0-6 in the preseason (yes, they really did play SIX exhibition games up through the 1977 season), but then turned things around during the regular season. They finished 10-4, made the playoffs and barely missed upsetting the eventual Super Bowl Champion Dolphins, losing just 20-14 to the NFL's last undefeated team

The problem for the '08 Browns isn't the fact they are 0-3 in the preseason following Saturday's 26-6 loss to the host Lions.

The real problem is that injuries have prevented many of the key players from participating, thus the cohesion that is so vital for a football team is missing.

But most alarming is the fact that the veteran offensive line, which jelled very nicely a year ago, has looked pitiful thus far in August both in terms of pass protection and run blocking.

On a scale of one to 10, with one being horrible and 10 being perfect, I would give the line a grade of "3." That's the same mark I'd give the performance of Brady Quinn against the Lions.

Quinn, making the first start of his pro career, found himself being pressured far more than you'd like. But the rush didn't account for his throwing a couple of terrible passes to open receivers in the flat.

It's also a bit disturbing that Quinn rarely even looks downfield. He seems perfectly content throwing short to medium range passes. At some point he has to show he can deep, if for no other reason than to open up the defense a little bit.

Maybe the coaching staff is worried about the line having the ability to give Quinn enough time; maybe they are waiting until the regular season to pull a few tricks out of the playbook; maybe it's the fact Braylan Edwards and Kellen Winslow Jr., have been pretty much spectators for the first three games, or maybe Quinn's arm isn't as strong as we are led to believe. I certainly hope the latter is not true.

You certainly can't judge a player by what he does in 2 ½ quarters of an exhibition game. But even head coach Romeo Crennel admitted there is plenty of room for improvement in Quinn's game.

At this point, there is no doubt Derek Anderson is the best quarterback on this team. If the 2008 Browns are to do what the 1972 Browns did, they'll need a healthy Anderson. But that alone will not guarantee anything if the rest of the team continues to play as poorly as it has against the Jets, Giants and Lions.

Normally, the final game of the exhibition season is one in which the starters go through the motions for about a quarter, then take their shoulder pads off and watch many of their soon-to-be former teammates play out the string.

But that might have to be a bit different this year in that so many of the regulars have not been on the field very much in the first three games. Crennel might be forced to keep his starters on the field for at least a half.

Of course, there's also the risk of injury, which is the main reason the starters play such a limited amount in the fourth exhibition game. So Crennel will have to weigh the benefits of keeping his starters on the field against the possibility of injuries.

It'll be a tough call, but Crennel knows better than anyone that if this team doesn't have a chance to jell, it's going to be in trouble for what appears to be a very, very difficult schedule that includes Dallas and all three AFC North foes.

The team can ill afford to go winless in September. But unless things change very quickly and the team starts to play as well as it did a year ago, victories are also going to be very tough to come by in October when the Giants visit Cleveland and the Browns are on the road against the Redskins and Jaguars.

It's safe to say nothing is going the way Crennel and general manager Phil Savage had planned during the off-season.

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