Q: Looking at the schedule and the way this team has started the 2008 season, this team could easily start the season 0 for the bye-week. If this becomes the reality of the situation, where could this team be headed for the duration of the season?
LA: I don't believe this will be the case, but assuming the team starts the season 0-4, we have to establish what the legitimate issues are/have been.
Injuries have played a role in the demise of the offense through the first two weeks of the season and could continue to play a factor in the immediate future. The overall play at the QB and WR positions has been below average and the lack of running game is a direct result of the inabilities of this offensive crew as a whole.
The Browns have opened the 2008 season against two very good opponents. In both cases the Browns left far too many opportunities on the playing field, which has been magnified due to inconsistency and simply a lack of execution.
A lack of execution has been a primary reason for the offensive struggles. Even when facing two solid defensive teams, the Cleveland offense has had their share of chances to make positive or game-changing type plays.
If this team starts 0-4 and looks as it has in the firys two games, I anticipate changes within the roster as well as to those manning positions of great expectation.
Q: Starting QB Derek Anderson has not played well for the team after two weeks and the offense is struggling. If this doesn't change quickly and he struggles against Baltimore, could we indeed see back-up QB Brady Quinn come in to possibly change the pace for this team in Baltimore?
LA: The scenario would have to be dire or an injury would have to occurred to force a change, knowing the make-up of this staff and organization. The last thing this organization wants is a QB controversy, and they have done almost everything possible to remove it from the equation.
If Anderson plays terribly, the options are limited as the season will have begun to slip away from the team. If Quinn is inserted for any reason other than injury, I believe he will remain on the field for the foreseeable future.
I would be remiss in not noting the issues on the offensive side of the ball not only fall on the starting QB, but the inconsistency in execution by the unit as whole.
Q: Running back Jamal Lewis does not appear to be as physical hitting the hole and looks to be a step short in finding the opening. Is this a product of Lewis getting a fat contract or has age and wearing down caught up to the running back?
LA: Lewis has been somewhat slowed due to a hamstring and ankle issue thus far. Interestingly, teams have challenged the Browns passing game, loading up players in and out of the box, as well as blitzing the run as well as the pass. The run-blocking has not been solid to this point, though I do agree Lewis has not been able to simply overpower defenders as he did in the second-half of the 2007 season.
I do not see Lewis' issues resulting from a lack of effort on his behalf. I look toward the overall inabilities of the offense and the lack of execution coming from this unit on a consistent basis as the main culprit. The 2007 team displayed explosive qualities in the passing game which this team has not shown in the 2008 season - we might have a different picture if not for numerous dropped passes and errant tosses.
Q: Starting the season 0-2, this game against the Ravens is as much a must-win as there has been in recent memory. Is this game one which the Browns should win? If so or not, why?
LA: For the mental sake of the team and divisional implications, the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers last week was important to change the tide and mental process for this team. Losing 10-6 in a game which the team did little to take advantage of the home field and weather issues was disheartening.
With a new coaching staff in Baltimore, a radical changing of the offensive scheme and questions surrounding the QB and offensive line, this should be a game where the Browns can excel.
The Ravens will run the football and look to the short passing game, due to the inexperience of rookie QB Joe Flacco under center. The Cleveland defense should be able to penetrate and confuse the rookie QB. This will be a test for the Browns defense and their ability to stop the run. The defense will know what is coming their way in many instances.
While the Baltimore offense is not expected to have consistent success against the Cleveland defense, it is the Baltimore defense that worries the Browns staff.
As the Browns struggle on offense, the Ravens defense appears to be playing well at his time, unlike the last time these two teams met in the 2007 season. If the Cleveland offense does not come out of the funk they are wallowing in, this game against the Ravens could be a long one.
Q: Is wide receiver Donte Stallworth going to play against the Baltimore Ravens? I am surprised that he has not gotten on the field, considering the investment the team made in him and the relative mild injury he sustained.
LA: Stallworth was very limited and did not participate fully in practice sessions this week. Everything points to the WR being a game-time decision at best.
The WR has a history of injury, such as this quad strain which at times has caused him to miss playing time throughout his career. Due to the lack of experience amongst the roster at the WR position, his issue of not getting on the field has created some disadvantage for the Cleveland offense.
Late in the past week, the Browns front office was still looking at available receivers. Also, the way Stallworth's contract is structured, the team is not on the hook for any significant long-term type investment, if they do not desire such.