Behind Enemy Lines: Cleveland Browns

The Steelers open their season in Cleveland against the rival Browns, so Steelers fans have plenty of questions about their opponent. Browns beat reporter Lane Adkins of Scout.com's OBR Report answered them in this nifty preview.

SoulSteeler: How is Kamerion Wimbley progressing?

Wimbley is coming off a fantastic rookie season and appears poised to take the next step. He's a rising star. Wimbley has spent a significant amount of time this off-season working out in Cleveland gaining additional strength, while not compromising his terrific quickness. Heading into his second-season as a pro, Wimbley will have the advantage of knowing better what to expect while on the field and now has a comfort level that only experience can provide.

SteelerNJax: Many people anticipated a quick turnaround of the Browns franchise with the hiring of Romeo Crennel, as did I. Since then, and especially this year, there has been an influx of new talent. Do you feel your team is any closer to competing for a playoff spot and do you believe it's a make or break year for Crennel? Best of luck and especially against them Gals and Ratbirds!

The 2007 season is certainly a critical one not only for Crennel, but for the entire organization. Crennel's team must display the ability to be competitive, week-in and week-out, show progress, and win some more games for the head coach to survive. The veteran Crennel could be viewed as being on a short leash, with the first six-weeks of the season being a potentially difficult stretch for the Browns.

I wouldn't discount the 2007 team showing great improvement and gaining consistency, but I do not view this team as a playoff contender. The 2008 season may be the year this team can contend, if the youth on the roster continues to develop and if there are no significant injuries.

Phillysteelfan: I noticed the story that LeCharles Bentley is going to give it a go at training camp if he passes his physical. Will his physical take place soon or will it be right before training camp opens? Guy is a heck of a player. I wish him luck in his comeback attempt.

LeCharles Bentley has cleared numerous obstacles just to become relatively healthy. Attempting to play again at this point is an incredible story. It looks as he will be given the green light to attempt a return, but the process is expected to be very slow at first. While this is a "feel good" story for the team and Bentley himself, there are reservations about his ability to take the pounding of practice, much less game-type conditions. He is strong of faith and body ... if there is a man that can return from his type of injury and medical issue, it is LeCharles, but there is still a tough journey ahead.

ChipTheSteelerFan: I was a Brady Quinn fan when he was at Notre Dame. I think he will be a good NFL QB. But do you think the Browns paid too much for Quinn? I think they potentially overpaid. What is your opinion on moving up for Brady Quinn and what will it take to get value from the move? Thank You.

Quinn was highly rated by the Browns, within their top 5-6 players, so trading a future first-round selection and a second round pick isn't extraordinary from that perspective. Brady is viewed by the Browns brass as a player who is a nice fit with Rob Chudzinski's new offensive scheme. The organization looks at the situation as getting their first-round selection of 2008 into the mix a year early.

The hope of this writer is that the Browns are patient with Quinn. There is really no reason to rush this kid into action, as the Browns are not considered a contender in 2007. He may be best served to get a little time under his belt and see some playing time in the second half of the season. That being said, Quinn is a legitimate contender in the Browns' wide-open quarterback competition against questionable potential starters in Charlie Frye and Derek Anderson.

Steelblitzkrieg: What were your thoughts on Arians when he was the Browns' OC? And which of the three quarterbacks will be the Browns' starter in the opener?

Bruce Arians was often criticized while the offensive coodinator of the Browns. Much of this came from the inconsistency of the offense, and a significant portion of the blame should deservedly have gone to the lack of overall quality along the offensive line. His playcalling was the subject of question while with the Browns, which is no different than any other NFL play-caller.

As for the starting quarterback, I believe Derek Anderson holds a slight lead in the race for the starting role and will have to fend off Charlie Frye and Brady Quinn, as the latter two are better game-day than practice quarterbacks. Right now, I say Anderson, but that could change quickly, as there is not a clear-cut leader.

Tyranid: How is the OL looking? Are there any young prospects? How is the RB position? Will the Browns have a running game to help the young QBs? And finally, what's the DL depth like? Will the Browns be able to stop the run against AFCN opponents?

The offensive line could be a potential strength - something the Browns have not been able to say in recent memory. The off-season addition of Eric Steinbach provides athleticism and experience at left guard. Joe Thomas, a first round draft selection, provides strength and athleticism at left tackle, while Seth McKinney provides experience and consistency at right guard. The 2007 version of the Browns appear to have depth along the line, with youngsters Isaac Sowells and Kelly Butler showing promise.

On paper, this team looks like they will be able to run the football. There are a couple of concerns in regards to the rushing attack, however. The health of Jamal Lewis is one concern, and whether the level of play at the quarterback position keeps the opposing defense honest is another. Lewis is looking very good physically, but the depth chart behind him (Jerome Harrison, Jason Wright) is relatively inexperienced. The play of the QBs is going to be important. Too often, the Browns offense has had to deal with the opposition lining up eight players in the box and attacking at will.

The addition of Shawn Smith and Robaire Smith is expected to help gain some consistency along the defensive line. The overall upgrade in talent along the defensive line is noticeable, but the play of the linebackers also needs to improve if the run defense is going to display the ability to stop the run.

Snake42279: What do Cleveland fans think of the rumor about Bill Cowher coaching the Browns next season? I have a good friend who's a Browns fan and he's mortified at the thought of rooting for "The Chin."

Overall, Cowher's name provides some excitement for an organization that has had little to be excited about. I do not personally see Cowher coming to Cleveland next season, unless Phil Savage were to either agree to hand off his personnel decisions authority (which is in his contract and he will not do) or leave the organization, which is not likely as he and Randy Lerner (team owner) are on the same page.

Mr. Smooth: Do the Browns have a curse? And if so, is Modell responsible? All joking aside, it's amazing the bad luck that has engulfed the Browns of late. Is this something that is brought up with the players/coaches or do you just not address it?

Yes, this organization has a curse.

It was cursed with an organization and fan-base controlled by a few men with egos larger than the game itself. The continued failures of the front office and previous coaching staffs set the wheels in motion for the prolonged drought of winning football in Cleveland. Once the sewage was flushed from the system, the ship began to float again. Phil Savage has the organization headed in the right direction, but I have serious reservations about Crennel being the right coach for the job.

One could say if there was not bad luck surrounding this organization, there would be no luck at all. Tough breaks are common in professional sports and the Browns have had more than their fair share.

As for Modell, he is responsible for some good times and some bad times. His last moves really hurt his reputation and legacy in the NFL. It's certainly possible to look at what he did to Cleveland football and relate some of the present day issue to him.

psk984: Will Romeo Crennel's defense improve in a way we'd expect from watching his Patriots units? What are the team's options at center? I was at the final MNF'er against the Browns and the spectacle of 60K+ fans of two heated rivals joining together to chant "Art Modell, go to hell!" is one of my favorite teenage memories.

I expect the Browns defense to show improvement this upcoming season, as they have added some quality talent to the roster. Injuries played a major role in the demise of the Cleveland defense last season and could again, although depth has been improved. I don't see this Browns defense being on par to the New England defenses of the past, but this could be a solid, competitive unit.

At center, the Browns have options. Hank Fraley is penciled in as the starter, Seth McKinney has experience at center, Lennie Friedman can play center, while youngster Rob Smith will see some time in training camp. Also, LeCharles Bentley is going to try to make comeback and could be a wildcard for the Browns. While the Browns don't have All-Pro caliber players, other than Bentley, the talent should be sufficient to maintain a viable presence.

I remember many crazy events after Modell made his announcement, some I simply remember as if they only happened yesterday.

stlrnews: Anyone in the supplemental draft of high interest to them? What do they see their biggest needs being right now and into next year?

At the Orange and Brown Report, we have been told the Browns have minimal interest in the Supplemental draft at this time, some of this due to the team having dealt their 2008 first round draft selection away in acquiring quarterback Brady Quinn..

Right now, this team could use quality along the defensive line, quality depth at receiver and running back, and another legitimate starting quality linebacker who can play three downs effectively.

Dirtwinston: What are the common misperceptions about the Browns? What about them will surprise those of us who don't follow them closely? And how's Phil Savage doing after his rocky start?

A false perception is that this team does not have any significant talent. If you look at lists of best players in the national media, you won't find many Browns listed, but that should change soon.

If this team does not suffer multiple injury issues and the play at quarterback is solidified, they will give opponents a tough battle each week. This may not be the season for this team to emerge, but they have the talent to make their presence felt.

Savage has been done a good job with his first-day draft selections, while many of his second-day selections have not panned out. Through free agency he has brought some players aboard to provide stability or bridge the gap until youth or better talent could be secured.

NYCSteel: Will the Browns re-sign Andra Davis?

Davis is under contract through 2010 and not in the position to leave anytime soon. Still, I would keep an eye on inside linebacker Leon Williams. He is putting the heat on Davis and 2006 second-round pick D'Qwell Jackson. Williams could be a player who steals time away from either inside linebacker, and who has the potential to shake up the depth chart.


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