Outside the Perimeter: Old and Slow, Again?

OBR Columnist Mark Leonard ponders why it's been so long since a Cleveland team was young and quick, plus more from outside the perimeter...

With full acknowledgement that this is a football site, viewing the Cavaliers in their playoff series with Orlando reminds how often Cleveland teams appear old and slow.

Think about it: When was the last time a team representing NE Ohio was considered fast? Certainly not any recent Browns' squad. Absolutely not the Indians, at least not since the glory days featuring a youthful Kenny Lofton aside SS Omar Vizquel. And not this present Cavalier squad, either, even with the explosive Lebron James and undersized backcourters Delonte WestMo Williams and Daniel Gibson.

With apologies both for discussing basketball on a Browns' site and for seeming to pile on the Cavs when their challenge is most formidable, the roundballers generally appear old and slow, much as have so many Cleveland professional squads over the years.

Consider that the Tribe may very well be the slowest of all MLB outfits. Minimally, they probably feature a fivesome as lacking in foot speed as any on the planet: 1b Ryan Garko, 3b Jhonny Peralta, DH Travis Hafner and Cs Victor Martinez and Kelly Shoppach—with plenty of challengers in their minor-league system.

As for the Browns, try identifying a single positional unit that possesses above-average speed throughout. Aware you cannot, it is proposed a list be made of individuals noted for their quickness,  explosiveness or the type of speed that scares oppositional coaching staffs.

The list will be short, if not impossible.

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Lest readers get the idea this column is about bashing the local professional squads and/or the administrators assembling them, here is some optimism for football fans supporting the regional passion.

In the Summer 2009 edition of  The Orange and Brown Report, a magazine published by those responsible for this site, Brent Sobleski authored "Your 2010 Uncanny Mock (Version 1.0)," an article forecasting—as if you need to be told—his vision for how next April's Round One will develop.

Seven of the teams predicted to be selecting among the "top" ten appear on Cleveland's 2009 schedule, accounting for eight of the Browns' 16 regular-season contests, since the Bengals (predicted to be picking fifth by Sobleski) are played both home and away.

Particularly inasmuch as teams foreseen in slots 11, 13 and 16 also appear on the schedule, it would seem reasonable to anticipate a legitimate shot at .500 exists for Eric Mangini's first Cleveland season. Nonetheless, Sobleski writes about the Browns: "This team will be more disciplined and competitive in the upcoming season, but will likely only see a one- or two-win improvement overall."

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Elsewhere in that issue, a feature on Cleveland's first-overall draft selection, center Alex Mack, reveals he was the lynchpin of Cal offensive lines responsible for three of the top five single-season rushing marks in Golden Bears' history. And it's not as if that Pac-10 institution just picked up the sport, either.

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Since no column seems to be complete without some mention of The Sporting News, it might interest some to know the mag's online morning edition continues with its positional rankings of NFL players. Browns' players aren't often mentioned at all, but D'Qwell Jackson was designated 15th best among ILBs and Eric Wright 20th among CBs, five slots behind former Brown Leigh Bodden, now with the Pats. Shaun Rogers was sixth among DTs, but no Cleveland DEs made the list.

It was erroneously suggested last week that the War Room's Russ Lande was responsible for these assessments, when in fact it is a conglomerate known as RealScouts.

Regardless, current Cowboy Greg Ellis, for whom some campaign as a Cleveland hopeful, merits the number 13 spot among OLBs. Ellis' days in Dallas are about over, with his agent having received permission to work out a trade for his client with another organization. A number-one choice in 1998, Ellis (33) has 77 career sacks, with eight coming last year and 12.5 during his NFL Comeback Player of the Year campaign of 2007.

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This is just a guess, but Chicago could be the landing site for disgruntled Bengals WR Chad Johnson, who now sports the surname Ochocinco. After all, Head Coach Lovie Smith has to provide new QB Jay Cutler with some established weaponry and the compensation price can't amount to much at all. Moreover, Chad has performed in the cold and on squads that have run the football. The fit is too promising to ignore.

Certainly, it won't come into play, but maybe Cincinnati feels it owes Chicago one for having received starting RB Cedric Benson virtually free.

It's hard to believe that the Bengals turned down Washington's offer of two number-one picks for Chad only 12 months ago. Bet they'd like a do-over on that decision.

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Much as this space did last week, Scout.com's NFL draft analyst Chris Steuber has his "final word" on the ‘09 draft in the Fox Sports.com Fantasy Football Preview. To his credit, he did not forget to mention what a "name draft" the NYG had, calling it the best among all 32 clubs. UNC WR Hakeem Nicks, UVa LB Clint Sintim, UConn OLT William Beatty, Cal-Poly WR Ramses Barden, NC State RB Andre Brown and Sam Houston State QB Rhett Bomar head a steller assemblage deserving the A+ he assigns.

Amazing, too, is how the Giants added both Chris Canty and Rocky Bernard as free-agent DL to a unit already featuring Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora, Barry Cofield, Fred Robbins and Mathias Kiwanuka. No need to convince under-rated GM Jerry Reese it's what's up front that counts.

Steuber later designates his best and worst selections in each of the seven rounds, with the Browns credited for sixth-round RB James Davis of Clemson. Davis, incidentally, was responsible for only two fumbles during his extensive collegiate career, one that finished with him fewer than 80 yards behind the school's all-time leading rusher.

That magazine's 28-man Scout.com panel places Cleveland second among the sport's "most improved teams." The Browns' 11% was exceeded only by Cincinnati and Seattle, tied at 14. The Bengals also "won" with 29% for "Worst Uniform," with 15 other clubs mentioned. Perhaps it was for that senseless vertical stripe emanating from their arm pits. (Who could possibly play NFL football without one?)

Finally, that publication somewhat agrees with the aforementioned Sobleski, in that it foresees a 5-11 season for Cleveland, giving it a solid three-game verdict over the Bengals for the basement.

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Reports out of Florida suggest many were impressed by the mini-camp performance of Tampa's seventh-round wideout Sammie Stroughter, the Oregon State product projected for the Bucs' slot. Though the youngster may not have a singularly outstanding trait, he was a tough, clutch playmaker for the Beavers reminiscent of one-time Brown Webster Slaughter—and not only for the similarities involving their names.

Unafraid over the middle, especially dangerous on quick slants, delighted to be gone-to when most needed, Stroughter was an inspired selection who could profoundly impact for rookie head coach Raheem Morris.

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In closing, here is wishing the best for Indians' owner Larry Dolan, who reportedly incurred a mild heart attack earlier today. Get well soon, sir.


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