Michael Lombardo: Eric Mangini is getting killed in Cleveland, but it's not like he inherited a winning program. Does he deserve another season (and another draft) to turn things around?
Barry McBride: Very few here believe that another season is merited. The product on the field has been embarrassing, but the most damning thing is that there hasn't been any sign of progress, particularly on offense. While the defense has put together a few decent games of late, the offense has been bad enough to threaten team and league records for futility.
In addition to the awful play, Mangini's decisions have given both national and local critics and muckrakers in the press a great deal of opportunity, which they have pursued with great relish. While team owner Randy Lerner would like to see the situation play out such that his decision to hire Mangini is salvaged (along with Mangini's long-term deal), he will trust in a new football executive to make the decision about Mangini's fate. It is unlikely to be in Mangini's favor.
QB Brady Quinn
BM: I think it's easier to assess Anderson, since the Browns have seen him play over the parts of three different seasons. Anderson's basic strengths and weaknesses really haven't changed in years and he requires more help to be successful than he's likely to get in the near future. A team with a strong offensive line and big, physical receivers might give him a shot at recapturing the glory days of 2007.
Quinn, on the other hand, remains a bit of a mystery. He's in a poor situation to play this year, but has done better statistically than Anderson. He was able to exploit Detroit's soft secondary to great effect two weeks ago, giving Browns watchers some hope, but returned to having problems with accuracy against the Bengals last week. The next five weeks, which will be challenging to say the least, will be an acid test for Quinn.
ML: The Browns have suffered a lot of key injuries this season. Which players are the latest to land on the injury report and who will be replacing them on Sunday?
BM: Jamal Lewis wound up on IR this week, likely ending his playing career. His replacement will be a mix of Chris Jennings, an ex-CFL player who has looked decent in his opportunities, and Jerome Harrison, a running back who provided some spectacular runs at times but never gets a consistently high number of carries despite his production. Harrison has challenges with blitz pickups and other elements of the game when he isn't carrying the ball. Neither is a power runner like Lewis.
Brodney Pool went on IR, like Lewis with a head injury, and has a history of concussions that places his career in jeopardy. He will be replaced by Mike Adams, Hank Poteat or Ray Ventrone, none of whom the Browns would really like to see starting. Pool's absence will be felt.
Also, the Browns will feel the absence of their best defensive player, Shaun Rogers, a dominating lineman who eats up blockers and can disrupt an opposing offense. His replacement will be a rotation of players featuring Ahtyba Rubin and Corey Williams. The former is a young player who has done well in places, and Williams is was a coveted lineman the Browns acquired in 2008 who has yet to perform at the level expected when the Browns traded draft picks to the Packers to bring him on board.
What the Chargers will face is a 1-10 team that won't even be able to field some of its best starters due to injury. The Browns are, to say the least, in rough shape at this point. It's not unlikely they will lose all five remaining games.
WR Josh Cribbs
BM: If Harrison gets carries, he can be dangerous, as he showed last year when he scored the team's final running touchdown of the season with a dash of 70-plus yards. Mohamed Massaquoi has also shown the ability to burn defenses deep, as he has had excellent games against the Bengals and Lions. Unfortunately, he's not quite ready to be a No. 1 wide receiver. Chansi Stuckey has started to pay some dividends as he gets into the flow of the offense, scoring a TD against Detroit. That's about it, sadly.
ML: The Chargers come to Cleveland with one of the NFL's top passing offenses. Do you expect the Browns defense to counter with frequent blitzes? Or are they more likely to play zone and drop extra players into coverage?
BM: Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan hasn't been shy about blitzing, particularly with the defensive secondary. Mike Adams, in particular, has been effective blitzing at times. A key element of the Browns' pass rush, Kamerion Wimbley, has been injured, and the team is unsure of whether he will play this weekend. Matt Roth joined the team last week and was surprisingly effective from the other side.
Unfortunately, the team really doesn't have a lot of confidence in its personnel and you may see a more conservative "keep the ball in front of you" approach employed to try to slow down San Diego. The injuries the defense has suffered to some of its leading talents probably renders any choice of strategy moot.
ML: Besides Cribbs, who are some of the Browns' key contributors on special teams?
BM: Special teams are an area where the Browns are as solid as anyone in the league, partially because Mangini has stocked the roster with mid-level talent of the sort that excels on special teams. The Browns lost their excellent punter -- Dave Zastudil, who we only half-ironically were calling their MVP -- several weeks ago, which hurt them, but now have reliable PK Phil Dawson back. Their long-snapper, Ryan Pontbriand, is as good as there is.
Coverage teams are pretty good with Cribbs and Adams able to terrorize opposing returners and a mass of solid special-teamers like Blake Costanzo and Ray Ventrone making up a darn good coverage unit.
The Browns' problem, of course, is that once the punt or kickoff is over they can't move the ball or stop it consistently. But their special teams can stand up with any team.