Q: The media continues to report running back Montario Hardesty had a great camp and is on the verge of taking the starting job, despite how well Jerome Harrison performed a season ago. Is it that simple or is there something else not being reported?
LA: Hardesty did perform well in the OTA and mini-camp setting, as well as being impressive from all accounts in film study. His recognition skills are believed to be special relative to most rookie RBe.
In training camp, the pads are put on, hitting commences and the practice sessions at times can be compared to game conditions due to the speed of the game, plays called and defensive aggressiveness.
Hardesty must pass that test before being anointed anything other than being a rookie RB in the National Football League.
Also, I wouldn't be so short-sighted as to overlook Jerome Harrison and what he accomplished a season ago. The young man is talented, has the required speed, quickness and vision to carry the ball in this league.
Q: With a recent report by a perceived insider on NFL.com, the Browns have blown another first round draft selection with the pick of Joe Haden. He ran a slow time at the combine and is NOW believed to be too slow to play cornerback? How can this organization continue to blow these important draft picks?
LA: It's far too early to deem Haden a bust or unable to be an effective CB at the professional level. Haden did have some early struggles in the OTA and mini-camp setting, but he also improved his recognition and practice habits as these sessions progressed. It's that progress that the coaching staff is looking for.
Haden did run a pedestrian time at the combine, in the 4.57 area, which for a starting quality CB is poor. On the other-hand, Haden did run a 4.42 at his workout in Florida. On film, the rookie appears to have the base technique and tools to be a successful player at the next level, but anything can happen on the practice and playing fields.
Corner is arguably the toughest position to play at the professional level and the young man is going to suffer through plenty of hills and valleys in this his rookie campaign.
Q: I was reading back through some of the pre-draft articles from the Orange and Brown Report and noticed you were basically the only writer to go on the record stating the Browns were looking at WR Carlton Mitchell. What was it in his game that led you to that conclusion?
LA: Mitchell is one of those athletes that has a huge upside and limited downside due to his draft position. The young man is tremendously athletic and physically strong. His lower body strength is very favorable and he has the ability to beat a corner due to his size and striding ability.
Mitchell is a raw product and he needs development and refinement. At the professional level he will gain the up-close and personal coaching he requires. Also, Mitchell will be spending endless hours catching balls off the JUGS -- this will only help his consistency and vision.
Q: With the Browns defensive backfield being so shaky again last season, how can the team expect to significantly improve in only adding one starter, and an aging one at that? Sheldon Brown is old, Eric Wright is inconsistent, and the safeties proved to be poor. How will this defensive improve with this type of talent?
LA: Granted, the Browns basically added one veteran presence in the defensive backfield, but I wouldn't be quick to state Sheldon Brown is old or washed-up.
Brown has been productive as a member of the Philadelphia Eagles and played more than half of the 2009 season with a hamstring injury. Despite the issue, Brown remained fairly consistent and was not an embarrassment.
Brown provides this defensive backfield something it has lacked -- a productive veteran presence and a physical type of player, which is already rubbing off on those around him.
Eric Wright will gamble and take chances which leads to be being beaten on occasion. I wouldn't call him inconsistent, as he continues to improve and progress. Could he get better? Absolutely... and having a quality CB opposite him will help his game and the Browns in general.
Now, in the defensive backfield, I do agree, the safety positions worry me.
Abe Elam did not play well a season ago, he was average at best. Mike Adams filled in admirably, but again, the safeties consistently were a step slow in pass coverage and lacked impact against the run.
In adding safeties T.J. Ward and Larry Asante in the draft, the Browns hope to have added starting quality and depth immediately. Both Ward and Asante can deliver a blow to a ball carrier or receiver and have coverage skills.
The athleticism at the safety positions has improved with the addition of the two rookies and the emergence of either or both could enhance the defensive backfield immediately.