What I Think About the OL and QB
New Cleveland Browns head coach Eric Mangini has the task of bringing competitive football back to the shores of Lake Erie. It should prove to be a tough task and Mangini's attempt at redemption will be an interesting story to follow
THE BIG QUESTION: The 2008 version of the Cleveland Browns was a tale of ineptitude at various positions, including coaching . Add injuries and underachievement to the equation and you get the team's woeful 4-12 finish. This was an unprepared football organization, from top to bottom, with the quarterback position about the many weaknesses.
It didn't take long for many to forget how this Browns organization captured the imagination of its fanbase following a 2007 season which saw the team fall just short of a playoff appearance with Derek Anderson under center. With key components returning in 2008, the hopes were high and the disappointment was ever greater. Anderson faltered, the running game was weak, injuries stung the offensive line and receiving corps, while a case of staph created further havoc for this once-tight group.
Mangini enters a situation in Cleveland with many questions to be answered in the coming weeks, some of which have been begging an answer since the one-time Belichick disciple took the reins of this once-proud organization.
There is one central question up first: Who is going to lead this team in 2009? Is it going to be Brady Quinn or Derek Anderson? No other decision will have as much influence on the 2009 season.
Here's the answer: It's going to be Quinn. The system is setup for his talents, he has developed a great relationship with the offensive coordinator and is believed to have a solid grasp of the offensive scheme -- though this was not apparent during off-season training sessions.
STRENGTH TO PROBLEM? You want to look at something potentially scary, peek at the Browns offensive line.
The only fixture along the line is LT Joe Thomas, every other position is up for grabs and the talent level is questionable in most cases.
LG Eric Steinbach has to compete with Rex Hadnot. Sure, competition supposedly brings out the best in a player, but an undersized Steinbach in this power-blocking scheme still looks better to me than Hadnot any day of the week. Steinbach may be pushed back at times, but his athleticism and technique often offset this deficiency. Whereas the larger and potentially more physical Hadnot struggled mightily a season ago, is not good on his feet and cannot play in space.
Moving to look at center, returning starter Hank Fraley is a gamer and provides leadership to a team. But this organization did not trade down numerous times in the draft to select center Alex Mack with the intent of him riding the pine. This team is counting on Mack to step in and be the physical presence Fraley is not. If Mack bombs early, Lord help this running game.
As for the right-side of the offensive line, there are more questions surrounding this group than nearly any -- including the charade at QB.
In are Floyd Womack and John St. Clair, household names to be certain. Each has tasted success at the professional level, each has dealt with injury issues and inconsistency throughout mediocre careers. Both are rather lumbering linemen, much more suited to play a physical style rather than an athletic type of scheme. There is a reason each player was available in free agency, neither player
Ryan Tucker will battle for a spot at either RT or RG. Injuries may have caught up to Tucker, but in his swan song of a season ago against the New York Giants, the Browns offensive line may have played its best game.
Underachieving veteran George Foster will attempt to find the tools which made him a high draft selection years ago and make an impact on team screaming for someone to rise to the occasion along the right-side of the line. When motivated, Foster plays at a high level. Keeping this player focused has been an issue throughout his career and Cleveland could be the final stop for Foster, successful or not.
As most everybody eagerly awaits the outcome of the Quinn/Anderson QB derby later this summer, there are plenty of other issues surrounding this team on the offensive side of the ball.
In addition to the offensive line, running backs and wide receivers are areas of concern for one reason or another -- and we will delve into these areas in the coming days.