Thoughts, notes, questions, suggestions and random snottiness as the Cleveland Browns pop the top -- get it? "pop the top"? This is a six-pack and... screw it -- on the fake portion of the 2009 season versus the Green Bay Packers at historic Lambeau Field.
- The excitement is palpable. There's an air of excitement brewing in the Greater Cleveland area that you could cut with a butter knife. Yes, that's right, the exhibition slate is about to kick off. Are you ready for some fake football!!! Only in the NFL do you have the inalienable right to pay full-price money for half-ass play.
Regardless, it's the dawning of the Eric Mangini Era, and I for one am absolutely intrigued by what the new ball coach will bring to the field.
Will they be more disciplined than they were under the previous regime? Will the aggressive, attacking defense that's been all the talk this offseason be implemented when the real footballs start to fly? How much of their no-huddle hand will the offense tip? Will I be able to drink enough Bud Lights to stay awake through the end of the fourth quarter and produce some semblance of a notebook?
Tonight, we'll begin to see the questions being answered in earnest.
- Of course, the major storyline heading into the game is whether or not John St. Clair and/or Floyd Womack can hold off a charging Ryan Tucker for one of the two starting spots on the right side of the offensive line.
(Just kidding. Wanted to see if you were paying attention/still awake.)
Obviously, by far the biggest storyline is the ongoing (never-ending) quarterback battle between Brady Quinn and Derek Anderson. The Browns desperately want one of the two to reach and grab the job by the throat. Thus far, both players have both hands shoved in their pockets, seemingly waiting for the other to be the first to pull a hand out and whiffing at an attempt to latch on to the starting spot.
It's really inconsequential who starts tonight; whichever one doesn't will get the nod at home against the Detroit Lions.
One school of thought that's been bandied about by a Browns source is that Quinn will start tonight, if for no other reason than to see how DA reacts to a home crowd that's decidedly pro-#10. That being said, I have no definitive clue as to who will get the nod tonight. Like everyone else, I'll learn from the official mouthpiece(s) in the run up to the game.
- After Braylon Edwards, the Browns have... well... uhhh... a whole helluva lot of questions right now at the wide receiver position.
Put it this way: if Mike Furrey is on the field for the first offensive snap of the regular season, and the Browns are not in a three-wide set, there's a problem.
And that's not a knock on Furrey. However, he is what he is at this point in his career, which is a very nice slot receiver who will move the chains on the third downs.
The Browns desperately need one of their two second-round receivers to step up. Brian Robiskie may have had a leg up entering training camp, but Mohamed Massaquoi has been gaining ground most expeditiously in the last two weeks. Robiskie is the more polished talent, but Massaquoi has an explosiveness that the Ohio State product just can't match.
By the way, did you notice I'm marking down Edwards as a non-question mark -- provided he's healthy -- at the position? Edwards is in line for a monster year in 2009, one that would make his Pro Bowl season of 2007 look downright pikerish. He's more focused this year than at any point since leaving Michigan. His attention is focused on on-the-field performance, not off-the-field pet peeves that stripped him of both his concentration and confidence last season.
Granted, this is the last season of his contract, but Edwards is poised to re-emerge as one of the top talents at receiver in the NFL.
- Earlier I mentioned the question of whether or not the talk of a more aggressive defense will be just that, talk.
Just once in this new edition of the Cleveland Browns I'd love to see a Browns defense put an offense back on its heels instead of vice versa. Force the other sideline to make adjustments to what you are doing. Force a quarterback to throw a pass a split second before he wants to, and create more opportunities for turnovers. Move Kamerion Wimbley to the other freaking side of the defense every once in awhile.
And would it kill this team to stop the run, you know, once every decade or so?
Ya know, stuff like that.
As much as I'm looking forward to seeing how the QB battle plays out, I'm probably more intrigued by how the new defensive philosophy will play itself out over the course of the preseason. Although, again, Mangini is likely not one to put everything and anything on the table when it doesn't count, but we could get glimpses here and there of what's to come.
- Way back in early May, I was espousing the virtues of James Davis as a potential steal in the sixth-round of the 2009 draft. (To answer your question, no, I didn't pull anything patting myself on the back or reaching into the cupboard to get myself a cookie.)
Now that every member of the media has hopped on the Davis bandwagon, it'll be interesting to see how the talented rookie from Clemson performs under the bright Lambeau Field lights. No doubt he'll likely see the vast majority of his action against players who'll be wearing brown shorts and driving the same colored truck in a few weeks, but today will be his first chance to show the fans exactly why the coaching staff is quietly buzzing about him behind closed doors.
And lest you think my love affair with Jerome Harrison has ended, you couldn't be more wrong. I have a ménage-à-back going on here. (I hope I didn't just type that out loud. I did? Awww crap...)
With Jamal Lewis on the wrong side of 30 these days, I can certainly envision Davis and Harrison being Cleveland's version of Thunder & Lightning in the very near future. Speaking of Thunder and Lightning, is there a more annoying nickname for a tailback duo than that? We really need to come up with a different nickname even as it's way too early to dub the duo anything.
- All in all, not a lot will be gleaned from this initial encounter with people wearing different colored uniforms. It will, however, give some usable data points in several areas, including, yes, the QB position. But, again, especially when it comes to the signal callers, not a lot of meaning should be attached to this first fake game.
Now, my apologies but I must bid you adieu.
(Editor's note: Translation? He needs to make a beer run before the start of the game.)