Gameday Notebook: QB Woes Plague Cleveland

Packer Report publisher Bill Huber empties his tape recorder and notebook in time for today's game. What are the Browns getting for $22 million in guaranteed money to their QBs? Plus, Clay Matthews returns to Cleveland; first-drive fireworks; Corey Williams; Tramon Williams; and much, much more.

The Cleveland Browns have more than $22 million invested in quarterbacks Derek Anderson and Brady Quinn. And that's just the guaranteed part of their contracts.

For that money, over the last 22 games, only the St. Louis Rams and Cincinnati Bengals have scored fewer points and only the Rams have won fewer games.

Anderson will make his third consecutive start on Sunday against Green Bay, which is an indictment of Quinn far more than it is an endorsement of Anderson. Anderson was a Pro Bowler in 2007 after throwing for 3,787 yards and 29 touchdowns. That breakout season netted him a three-year deal that included $14.5 million guaranteed.

Since then, he's completed 48.6 percent of his passes with 11 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. In the game in which he replaced Quinn, a 34-3 loss at Baltimore in Week 3, Anderson had no touchdowns and three interceptions in the second half.

How can that be good enough to surpass the hyped Quinn? Because in two-and-a-half games, Quinn led the Browns to 19 points in 10 quarters. His 60.8 percent accuracy is hugely inflated because of a bunch of garbage-time completions and a touchdown in the opener against Minnesota. His 45 completions this season have gained merely 400 yards, and for all of that dinking-and-dunking, he still had three interceptions.

"Derek is our starter," Browns coach Eric Mangini said in a conference call on Wednesday. "And initially, it was Brady, and he had won the competition and when we made the change, it wasn't as if DA hadn't done a nice job. And I really felt like he deserved an opportunity at that point."

In his two games as the starter, Anderson has completed a hideous 26.8 percent of his passes. His receivers have dropped 15 passes, and overall, Cleveland leads the NFL with 22 drops.

"I think offensively, we can do a lot of things better," Mangini said in a rather large understatement. "There's been some opportunities that we just haven't capitalized on, whether it's because of a dropped ball or miscommunication in the protection or a batted ball, things that to me aren't inherent problems with the system, but correctable problems that we can work on and get better at."

As for Quinn, who like Aaron Rodgers sank deep into the first round, Mangini says it's preposterous to label the former Notre Dame star as a bust.

"Every quarterback develops a little bit differently," Mangini said. "And Tom (Brady), his first year, he wasn't lighting it up. And even when he got in his second year, I wouldn't say he was on fire there. But Tom worked hard, and Tom was very deliberate with practicing things he wasn't good at. And it didn't change, and I imagine it hasn't changed to this date, the way that he approaches each week. The important thing for Brady or for any position is to keep being the same guy every day, to keep coming in and identifying areas of weakness and working on those, and not getting caught up with where you are now but being focused on where you want to go and what you want to do. As we all know, things can change quickly, and you can be the starter in a play. And when you get that chance, you don't want to have let all those other opportunities."

First-drive fireworks

James Jones jumps for joy after a first-drive touchdown.
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Through the first four games, the Packers had been outscored 31-3 on the first drive of the game and second half. Last week against Detroit, the Packers scored their first opening-drive touchdown since Week 4 of last season, and added a field goal on their first drive of the second half.

"Yeah, it was, it definitely was" nice to score a first-drive touchdown, Aaron Rodgers said. "In the preseason, it was one of our points of emphasis. You know, we had a third-and-long on the first one and were able to convert that one; Greg made a nice catch. Then (the) second third down to be good on the snap count and get them to jump offsides, Scotty snapped it and we made a big play (to James Jones for a touchdown). Then we got the ball back on a turnover and went down and went up 14-0."

The 10-0 advantage on first-drive points was a major role reversal. In the Packers' two losses, they had been outscored 24-0 in those situations. Rather than seize momentum, the Packers had been giving it away.

"It is a bit deflating," Rodgers said. "I mean, it's a little disappointing on offense because you spend so much on the first 15 and going over the plays and the looks and the checks and you feel like you should be able to execute.

"We make adjustments at halftime and you feel you should be able to come out and at least move the ball. I think the best thing about our offense last week was that we had no three-and-outs. If we're able to at least move the ball, get a first down or two, change the field position, that's what we want to do. But starting the game out we feel like with how much time we spend on those first 15, 17 thoughts we should be able to at least get the ball in field goal range and get some points on the board."

Homecoming for Matthews

Packers rookie linebacker Clay Matthews III doesn't remember much about Clay Matthews Jr.'s 16-year career with the Cleveland Browns, though he does have his dad's No. 57 Browns jersey hanging in a closet at his parents' home in California.

"Unfortunately, I was a little too young to appreciate what he was doing," the younger Matthews said. "Not only with football but especially out there in Cleveland. I can't really remember a whole lot. I remember going to a few games but I was too young. People have asked me if this game means a little more, but I'm going to approach it like every other game. But at the same time, I understand what he was able to do there."

There won't be any big reunion this weekend. His brother, Casey, is a junior linebacker at Oregon, and his dad went to to Seattle to watch the Ducks blast Washington.

After the draft, the elder Matthews told Packer Report that his son was blessed with superior athleticism.

"He says I must have got the speed from my mother," Clay Matthews III said with a laugh when told of his dad's comment. "I don't know. If I can have the half career he did, then we can be in the same talks. Obviously, I've got a long ways to go."

The Packers' Williams

With Will Blackmon on injured reserve and Jordy Nelson out with a knee injury, Tramon Williams will be handling punt returns on Sunday.

Tramon Williams shoves Jerome Harrison in the preseason.
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
After spending the end of 2006 on the practice squad, Williams made a name for himself returning kicks in 2007. He averaged 22.8 yards on kickoffs and returned a pooch punt against Carolina for a 94-yard touchdown. After Nelson went down last week, Williams returned a punt 45 yards.

"Just fearlessness, I guess you could say," Williams said about what makes a successful punt returner. "Guys on that punt team are coming down trying to basically kill you. You've just got to trust your teammates that they're blocking and doing what they're supposed to do. The main thing is to catch the ball, first of all, and then go from there."

Catching the ball is what Williams does well.

"He was the returner when we played Seattle in that snow game in the playoffs," special-teams coordinator Shawn Slocum said. "He was catching the ball; I couldn't even see it and he was catching the ball with no problem that night, so I felt good with that. Watching his big return (last week), one of the things that showed up when I saw a close copy was his eyes following the ball into the catch, which is exactly what you want him to do."

Ideally, the Packers wouldn't be risking what is essentially their 12th starter on defense on special teams. But with the injuries, the Packers don't have a lot of choice.

"Well, you can go through the list just like I have," coach Mike McCarthy said. "It's getting to that point that all the available candidates are playing offense or defense. Pick your poison if you want to take the negative outlook. I look at it as a positive when he gets the ball in his hands. He's an exciting returner. We're at that point right now. Everybody has injuries, and that's where we are."

The Browns' Williams

It was a big deal when the Packers named Corey Williams their franchise player, sent him to Cleveland and used the corresponding second-round draft pick on quarterback Brian Brohm.

The best trades work well for both teams. This one hasn't worked well for either. Brohm's future in Green Bay hardly is secure, and Williams has been a six-year, $38 million disappointment. He has nine tackles and one sack in six games. His sack total is double the 0.5 he had last year; Williams had seven sacks in both 2006 and 2007 for Green Bay.

Mangini swears Williams isn't in the doghouse. He's just not playing much.

"One thing we do here with all or players is try to play them in some kind of role," Mangini said. "Sometimes your role is going to change, week-in and week-out, and we're always going to play guys that give us the best chance to win, the best combination of guys. I like the way that Corey has worked, I like the way that he's committing to really learning how to be a better and better two-gapper and I've seen some progress there. And his play time has reflected that and it's increased over the past weeks."

Recipe for losing

Most of the Browns' voluminous pregame package is highlighted by the feats of kick returner Josh Cribbs. Yeah, Cribbs is good, but what else does the PR staff have to write about?

The Browns are at or near the bottom of the NFL in almost every meaningful stat. Total offense? 31st. Total defense? 32nd. Turnover margin? tied for 28th. Third-down offense? 29th. Third-down defense? 21st. Red-zone offense? 31st. About the only stat in which the Browns rank first is a stat you'd like to rank last: dropped passes.

To say the Browns are going through some growing pains in the first year of the Mangini regime would be an understatement.

"It's been," Mangini said before pausing, "it's been a process, and that's something, going through the experience in New York and the things that we had to do there, and then come here and having some more experience with it and seeing some of the challenges more clearly, it's been a lot of hard work. But I do like the way that the players have worked throughout this. We're making strides I think as a team we're making strides and some of it is more apparent than others. One of the things that I talked to the players about is that last year at this time, we were 32nd in the league in penalties. This year, we're third. That's progress, and that will help us as we continue to improve. And I think we've played some close games. If we can fix some of the issues that we have, those close games will turn."

Four-point stance

— Much has been written about A.J. Hawk's lack of playing time the last two games. That figures to change this week, defensive coordinator Dom Capers said.

"I like A.J. I think A.J.'s a really good football player," Capers said. "You know, A.J.'s lack of playing time these last few weeks is not an indication that I don't like A.J. It's more, you're going to try to match up what you think fits best against the people you're playing. I think A.J. will play a lot more this week, not to tip our hand. His not being on the field has nothing to do with — I like him, I think he's a good player."

More playing time would be good, considering the investment. A source with NFL salary data said Hawk's cap figure is $5.9 million this season.

— The Packers enter the weekend tied for sixth place in the NFC. Minnesota (6-0), New Orleans (5-0), the Giants (5-1) and San Francisco (3-2) lead the divisions, and Atlanta (4-1) is atop the wild card list. Philadelphia, Dallas, Arizona, Chicago and Green Bay are all 3-2.

— The Packers' running game, to be kind, has been mediocre. But patience has paid off. On carries 21 and beyond in a game, the Packers rank third in the NFL with a 6.4-yard average.

— The Packers' passing attack has been all or nothing. Beyond the league-high 25 sacks allowed and third-ranked 18 drops, the Packers are tied for the league lead with 16 passing plays of at least 25 yards.

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at and Facebook under Bill Huber.

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