Q: Due to injury issues at the wide receiver position, how likely is it the team will add a veteran to the roster to alleviate the pressure off the inexperienced players such as Steve Sanders and Syndric Steptoe?
LA: I am of the belief the organization would have added another legitimate receiver, if an obvious talent was healthy and available. Right now, the organization is seeing where they are with Donte Stallworth (quad). If his injury lingers, a move may be in the offing, but at this time the organization is in a holding pattern.
Q: The media kept noting the Browns did not have salary cap space available to make a move on a free agent player or two. Phil Savage noted on his radio bit that the team was up against their budget. But, I have read on the OBR that the Browns have 6 million available according to one writer and almost 9 million available according to another writer. If the numbers are true, why hasn't a move been made?
LA: A couple months back I reported the team had the available cap space to add talent, if necessary while many continued to note the team was against the cap. Come to find out, the reality is the Browns do indeed have the cap available to make a move. As far as the dollar amount available, the Orange and Brown Report's own John Taylor reported the figure at approximately 8.9 million, which I agree with.
The organization has no desire to make a move just to make one. With this current regime, they tend to go to war with those they bring to the party. In this case, those players they start the season with, unless injury dictates a move. I do know the front office has been active in keeping an eye on players at positions of interest and something could be in the offing soon.
Q: How detrimental was the knee injury suffered by linebacker Antwan Peek to this team and his career? Did you see Peek being a player that could have made a difference for this team and is there a player in place to replace him realistically?
LA: The knee injury suffered by Peek is career-threatening and will take a significant amount of rehab to be in the position to get back on the practice field. The OLB spent a lot of time in the off-season getting into excellent physical condition, as well as getting a jump on the intricacies of the Mel Tucker defense. Peek was penciled in to play extensively in the basic scheme, and in all the nickel packages. This Cleveland defense is a nice fit for the OLB and he was showing his ability to play in the scheme in sessions leading up to the knee woes.
At this time I am skeptical there is a player that will emerge as a standout type. Rookie Alex Hall is raw and veteran Shantee Orr can beat a lineman off the edge, but he can be neutralized when a lineman locks on, as well as being moved against the run. If anything, Willie McGinest will see more reps if/until another player displays the ability to be consistent.
Q: Looking at this Browns team, do you believe the expectations for the 2008 season are too high or is this team legitimate?
LA: Coming off a 10-6 season and with the exciting play of the offense, it is easy to get caught up in the moment. Achieving as this team did a year ago was unexpected and actually put much more pressure on the entire organization to reach the next level sooner than most anticipated would be the case. I see this Browns as a good offensive team, though inconsistent, with a defense that is below average with room to improve.
Until we see the defense play at a higher level on a consistent basis, the offense will be pressured into leading this team. The 2008 season is going to be an interesting one, as nobody is going to overlook or come in too confident against the Browns. Without a doubt, for this Cleveland defense to be respectable, the front-seven must play well, if not we will see much of the same this season.
Q: What is the latest on Ryan Tucker? I was under the impression he would be ready to step-in and contribute early in the season? Also, is Tucker that good, or is Seth McKinney simply a notch below Tucker? Same with Rex Hadnot, is he a viable replacement for Tucker?
LA: Ryan Tucker is a solid offensive lineman and his value showed during the 2007 season. Coming off a suspension which cost the veteran the start of the season a year ago, Tucker alternated with Kevin Shaffer at RT and eventually took over for an injured McKinney at RG. With Tucker in the lineup, the Browns gained a physical presence on the right-side, as the Browns ran effectively to the right, unlike the first-half of the season. While the team runs left behind Joe Thomas and Eric Steinbach more efficiently, the right-side became legitimate.
I would note McKinney is a notch or so below Tucker and should be a depth-type player. Hadnot provides bulk, he is a physical presence that is better as a run blocker. A healthy Tucker should start, which is still a bit off. We are hearing Tucker is progressing in practice and in the weight room, but may still be a couple weeks away.
Q: What is the latest concerning wide receiver Joe Jurevicius? I heard a report that he is running now and may play at some pint.
LA: If you have been following along with the Orange and Brown Report, you would have heard the latest on the WR about a week or so ago in a couple of my reports. Jurevicius' rehab is going well following the latest 'cleaning out' of the knee. The veteran is doing some running, does not have the pain he suffered from previously and legitimately believes he will be back on the field this season for the Browns.
Believe me, there is no retirement talk going on at this time regarding Jurevicius. The veteran is a realist; if he can't go, he won't. Right now, he is making all the strides necessary to return to the field.