2009 Browns: A Unit-by-Unit Analysis

An objective look at the Browns roster from the folks at TSX...

QUARTERBACKS: Starter -- Derek Anderson. Backup -- Brett Ratliff. Injured reserve -- Brady Quinn.

Quarterback was a revolving position for the Browns in 2009. Quinn was declared the winner by default in a training camp quarterback derby and was benched at halftime of the third game. Anderson started the next five and he was benched. Quinn got six more starts and then went on I.R. with a Lisfranc injury to his left foot. Quinn did not prove he should be the starter next season, but Anderson's 2010 contract is for $7.45 million and the Browns are not likely to pay it. Quinn ranked 26th among NFL quarterbacks when he was benched. Whoever starts in 2010 would benefit from better receivers.

RUNNING BACKS: Starters -- RB Jerome Harrison, FB Lawrence Vickers. Backups -- RB Chris Jennings, RB Thomas Brown. Injured reserve: RB Jamal Lewis.

Harrison rushed for 561 yards in the final three games -- the eighth-best three-game total in NFL history. Jennings showed flashes of raw talent when he got the chance to run. Brown was on the practice squad until the last game. Lewis, 30, went on I.R. with five games to play because he was suffering from post-concussion syndrome. He said he would retire, but now he's hedging. Harrison's late surge has the Browns rethinking their priorities at running back. At 205 pounds he can't carry the ball 25 or 30 times a game for 16 games, but he could hold up for 250 carries a season.

TIGHT ENDS: Starter -- Robert Royal. Backups -- Evan Moore, Michael Gaines, Greg Estandia. Injured reserve -- Steve Heiden.

Royal was the first free agent signed after Eric Mangini traded Kellen Winslow to Tampa Bay. Royal was a major disappointment. He played all season with an injured finger on his right hand and dropped so many passes the Browns signed three tight ends after the season started. Moore was the most reliable of the bunch. He caught 12 passes, one more than Royal, but was active for only the final five games. Moore and Gaines will benefit from training camp, but with 11 draft picks tight end should be upgraded. Heiden never fully recovered from the knee injury that ended his season in 2008. He might be forced to retire.

WIDE RECEIVERS: Starters -- Mohamed Massaquoi, Josh Cribbs. Backups -- Brian Robiskie, Chansi Stuckey, Mike Furrey, Jake Allen. Injured reserve -- Syndric Steptoe.

This was the weakest unit on either side of the ball, especially after Braylon Edwards was traded to the Jets on Oct. 7. Robiskie was rarely part of the offense and caught only seven passes. Stuckey was acquired in the Edwards trade and did not make the transition well. Allen was a mid-season waiver pickup and Stuckey had to split his time between wide receiver and safety. Cribbs caught a career high 20 passes, but he was spotty in that role. Massaquoi is a keeper and will benefit from the offseason and another training camp. Often when Quinn or Anderson threw an interception, Massaquoi was the intended target. Sometimes he went one way and the ball was thrown to a different spot. Still, he led the team with 34 catches. Allen could be a player to watch in training camp next summer. He has speed and can jump.

OFFENSIVE LINE: Starters -- LT Joe Thomas, LG Eric Steinbach, C Alex Mack, RG Rex Hadnot, RT Floyd Womack. Backups -- OL Hank Fraley, T John St. Clair, G Billy Yates. Injured reserve -- G/T Ryan Tucker.

Thomas, headed to his third Pro Bowl in as many years, and Steinbach were the only holdover starters from the 2008 offensive line. Mack was the first-round draft choice. Womack and St. Clair played most of the season at right guard and right tackle. It took about half the season for the line to play as a unit, but once it got going the pass protection improved and so did the run blocking. St. Clair suffered what turned out to be a season-ending ankle injury in the 14th game. Womack slipped in smoothly as his replacement and Hadnot settled in at right guard, the spot he played last season with the Browns. Over the last five games the Browns averaged 5.2 yards rushing vs. San Diego, 4.6 vs. Pittsburgh, 7.2 vs. Kansas City, 3.6 vs. Oakland and 4.4 vs. Jacksonville. The Browns allowed 19 sacks in the first eight games and 11 in the final eight.

DEFENSIVE LINE: Starters -- LE Kenyon Coleman, NT Ahtyba Rubin, RE Robaire Smith. Backups -- DL Corey Williams, NT Derreck Robinson, DE Brian Schaefering. Injured reserve -- NT Shaun Rogers, DL C.J. Mosley.

Injuries forced defensive coordinator Rob Ryan to jumble his line throughout the season. Rogers suffered a lower left leg and ankle injury with five games left. Rubin stepped in and held his own against the run, though he did not crush the pocket the way Rogers did. Williams might have been miscast as a 3-4 end for two years; he had seven sacks in 2006 and '07 as a DT with the Packers. He played nose tackle for one half of a game with the Browns and sacked Ben Roethlisberger twice. Smith battled back from a torn Achilles' in 2008 to lead the Browns' linemen with 62 tackles. He is a locker room leader. Coleman added stability at left end, but a knee injury and then an ankle injury plagued him in the second half of the season.

LINEBACKERS: Starters -- WLB Matt Roth, ILB David Bowens, ILB Jason Trusnik, SLB Kamerion Wimbley. Backups -- ILB Kaluka Maiava, OLB Marcus Benard, ILB Titus Brown, ILB Blake Costanzo, OLB Alex Hall. Injured reserve -- ILB D'Qwell Jackson, ILB Eric Barton, ILB David Veikune.

Jackson and Barton were on injured reserve with half a season left. Bowens, an 11-year veteran, moved inside. Trusnik, acquired in the Braylon Edwards trade from the Jets, started six games at outside linebacker and the final three inside. Roth was another in-season pickup. The Dolphins waived him and the Browns eagerly claimed him. He started playing for the Browns in the 11th game and ended up with four sacks. He added a ferocity that was missing from the linebackers. Wimbley had his most active season since his rookie year in 2006 and finished with 6.5 sacks. He benefitted by moving from the weak side to the strong side. Linebacker is an area that needs addressing. Jackson is heading to free agency and Barton looked old and slow before a neck injury ended his season. Veikune was invisible as a second-round draft choice trying to make the jump from defensive end at Hawaii to a pro linebacker. Costanzo was a fiery addition to special teams, both in return and coverage units.

DEFENSIVE BACKS: Starter -- LCB Eric Wright, RCB Mike Adams, SS Abe Elam, FS Mike Furrey. Backups -- CB Brandon McDonald, CB Coye Francies, DB Hank Poteat, S Gerard Lawson, S Nick Sorensen, DB Ramzee Robinson, S Ray Ventrone. Injured reserve -- FS Brodney Pool.

Pool went on injured reserve with five games to play, forcing a chain reaction in the secondary. Normally, Adams would have stepped in, but Adams started six games at cornerback because McDonald struggled, particularly against Baltimore WR Derrick Mason. Mike Furrey started two games at safety, Poteat one and Adams two in Pool's absence. Wright covered receivers well all season, but the Browns struggled in nickel coverage because opposing quarterbacks picked on Poteat constantly. Poteat's pass interference in the end zone with no time left in the game against the Detroit Lions was the critical play in a 38-37 loss. Ventrone and Sorensen were key parts of the special teams. The Browns gave up 22 passing touchdowns in 2009, seven fewer than in 2008.

SPECIAL TEAMS: PK Phil Dawson, P Reggie Hodges, LS Ryan Pontbriand, KR/PR Josh Cribbs. Injured reserve -- P Dave Zastudil.

Cribbs was the star of 2009 for the Browns. He returned three kickoffs for touchdowns and one punt for a touchdown. Now he is in a contract dispute that has fans choosing sides. Dawson was Mr. Reliable, as usual, but he missed five games with a calf injury. While he was mending, Billy Cundiff made six of six field goal tries. Dawson ended up 17 of 19. The punting situation was a strange one. Mangini did not have an extra punter or an extra kicker in training camp to take the load off Zastudil and Dawson. What role that played in their injuries is difficult to know, but Zastudil went on I.R. after eight games with an injury to his right knee, his plant leg. Surgery to repair it was required. He was second in the league with 25 kicks inside the 20 when he went on the shelf. Hodges filled in, but did not punt as accurately or as long as Zastudil. Once again, Pontbriand was Mr. Automatic, except for one snap that went awry in Kansas City. Hodges, standing in the Chiefs' end zone, was not ready to receive the snap, then he stood by and watched the Chiefs recover the ball for a touchdown.

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