What We've Been Told
- As reported in the Ask The Insiders Forum at The OBR, rookie quarterback Colt McCoy is not on the roster bubble. From what The OBR has been told, McCoy will remain a member of the Cleveland Browns when the season commences Sept. 12.
- With the season just around the corner, Jake Delhomme has strengthened his grasp on the starting quarterback spot. Seneca Wallace will backup Delhomme. Wallace has impressed the coaching staff with his ability and leadership qualities. If Delhomme were to falter, the staff would have no reservations about starting Wallace.
- If the season were to start today, wide receivers Mohamed Massaquoi, Brian Robiskie, Chansi Stuckey, Josh Cribbs and Carlton Mitchell would make the team. Veteran Bobby Engram and Jake Allen could be in the mix, dependent on how the 53-player roster is constructed.
- Running back Peyton Hillis, acquired from the Denver Broncos in trade for quarterback Brady Quinn last March, has endeared himself to not only to Browns fans, but also the coaching staff. Hillis is bright, athletic and a physical presence whether it's running the football or as a pass receiver and he can block. While rookie Montario Hardesty, Jerome Harrison is the starting running back, Hillis is gaining additional reps with the first team and figures to play a significant role.
- Harrison, Hillis and fullback Lawrence Vickers appear poised to be on the 53-man roster. James Davis and Chris Jennings are battling for what could be the last roster spot at the position, with Davis holding a slight edge because of his play on special teams.
- The right tackle position needs to gain stability with Tony Pashos, who is back from an injury, or John St. Clair, who is battling issues against quicker defensive ends and outside linebackers. If not, the Browns will not hesitate to move Floyd Womack to right tackle and rookie Shawn Lauvao to right guard. Presently, the team would like to see Pashos or St. Clair elevate their play.
- Veteran linebacker Eric Barton and second-year linebacker David Veikune could be in danger of not making the team. While neither player has been delegated to the end of the bench, others at the position have gained an increasing number of quality reps and have displayed promise. The next two weeks will be very important for Barton and Veikune.
- Early in training camp, cornerback Eric Wright wanted to get the opportunity to cover the slot receiver in some nickel and dime packages. Wright has been getting that opportunity. It has not been a lot of opportunities for Wright, but he is getting the chance nonetheless. Wright has impressed the coaching staff this summer with his desire to be more physical at the spot and in run support.
- Cornerback Sheldon Brown has been instrumental in helping mold a different mindset in the Browns' defensive backfield. A season ago, Brown struggled with a partial hamstring tear. In training camp, Brown has consistently improved while learning the Browns' 3-4 defensive scheme.
Tales from the Inbox
Q: As the Browns were fumbling and bumbling early in the preseason game against the St. Louis Rams, the Rams held onto the football. Do the Browns practice in the elements to hopefully eliminate this negative play?
LA: Less and less teams practice in the elements on a consistent basis. Years ago, it was common to see teams practice in the same weather they see on game day.
As the years pass, teams build indoor facilities to practice in lousy weather. Rainy weather didn't make its way to Cleveland often during practice sessions, which may have played a role in the fumbling issues.
You can bet head coach Eric Mangini will have wet footballs in practice sessions and expect this team to see some practice time in the rain and winds.
Q: How can the Browns offense look so much better then it has the past couple years in Cleveland? Granted, there has been a few players added, but the difference has been night and day, what gives?
LA: The quarterbacks now on the roster are vastly more accurate than those that departed. Along with the improved accuracy, each of the new quarterbacks has been around the game for a significant period of time and has gained the trust of the head coach and offensive coordinator.
Improved play at the quarterback position, surround them with some quality players, add experience with some skill position players and have the combination of input from Mike Holmgren and Gil Haskell, the recipe for success improved two-fold.
Despite some promising signs in training camp and in preseason games, we really don't know how this offense will achieve when the lights go on for the season opener. The wide receiver position remains young and inexperienced and it will have to become viable.
Q: There has been mixed signals as to exactly what the injury to D'Qwell Jackson is and how long he will be out of action. What's the story and do you believe this is a result of holding out from the Browns offseason conditioning program and practice sessions?
LA: Jackson suffered a significant pectoral strain. This type of injury often is accompanied by a slight tearing of the muscle. It is the type of injury that prohibits some serious physical conditioning training, including some weight work.
Jackson worked with an independent trainer this offseason and came into camp in very good shape. I am unsure as to whether his involvement in the Browns offseason training and conditioning program would have made a difference.
Q: Have the Browns been in any significant contract talks with some of their own players this summer? With key contributors like Matt Roth, D'Qwell Jackson, Lawrence Vickers, Abe Elam all being RFA-type players, wouldn't it be advantageous to utilize this time to get something done?
LA: My understanding is the Browns have held minimal to no discussion regarding contract offers and extensions.
And yes, I would believe it would be to the Browns' advantage to get deals on the table for those players -- if they are believed to be part of the future in Cleveland.
Q: When you look at this Browns team as it is constructed, what do you perceive as the weaknesses on each side of the ball?
LA: The overall quality and depth along the defensive line could be a problem. Ahytba Rubin has been solid at the nose, but Shaun Rogers has yet to suit up and he has not proven to be the same talent at defensive end as he is as a nose or defensive tackle. Robaire Smith and Kenyon Coleman are up there in age and the balance of the roster at this position is unproven. This group should be better at maintaining their gap assignments against the run, but they will provide little presence against the pass.
The safety position and nickel/dime defensive packages are facets that could lead to the defensive backfield having some rough moments. Abe Elam has been very average, while rookie T.J. Ward is active with plenty to learn and experience to gain. The Browns offense has been able to beat the safeties in practice sessions and the same has been on display in preseason game conditions. Teams have been successful in finding the match-up weakness and exploiting it.
Offensively, the wide receiver position readiness is an obvious area of potential concern. Two second-year players (Massaquoi and Robiskie) look to start, with another relative inexperienced wide reciever (Stuckey) in the slot, while Cribbs is basically a wide out in training and rookie Carlton Mitchell fills out the depth chart.
If this group doesn't rise to the occasion, it could be a long season in Cleveland.