Cleveland Browns Season Preview - 2006-2007 Edition
Offensive Depth Chart
Defensive Depth Chart
QB: Charlie Frye, Derek Anderson, Ken Dorsey RB: Reuben Droughns, Jerome Harrison, Jason Wright FB: Terrelle Smith, Lawrence Vickers WR:Joe Jurevicius, Dennis Northcutt, Braylon Edwards, Josh Cribbs, Travis Wilson TE: Kellen Winslow, Steve Heiden, Darnell Dinkins LT:Kevin Shaffer, Nat Dorsey LG: Joe Andruzzi, Isaac Sowells C:Hank Fraley, Lennie Friedman RG: Cosey Coleman RT: Ryan Tucker, Kelly Butler
DE: Orpheus Roye, Simon Fraser, Jovan Haye NT:Ted Washington, Ethan Kelley DE: Alvin McKinley, Nick Eason LOLB:Willie McGinest, David McMillan ILB: Andra Davis, Leon Williams ILB:D'Qwell Jackson, Chaun Thompson ROLB: Matt Stewart, Kamerion Wimbley LCB: Leigh Bodden, Daylon McCutcheon, Antonio Perkins RCB: Gary Baxter, Ralph Brown FS: Sean Jones, Brodney Pool SS: Brian Russell, Justin Hamilton
Led by quarterback Charlie Frye, the streak continues for the Browns since our return to the league, where we have had a new starting quarterback each and every year. Unlike the past though, our coaching staff appears to know what they are doing. Many "experts" around the league are projecting Frye to be one of the lowest-ranked quarterbacks this season. Can you blame them? Most people who are not Browns fans see our situation as a third-round quarterback trying to learn the game, compared to all of the veterans around the league who have been playing for several seasons. It's not a surprise that Frye is an "underdog" quarterback to the media outside of Cleveland, because quite frankly, you can't get respect unless you win football games. Frye's mobility will allow him to do just that, along with three new weapons this year: Joe Jurevicius, Braylon Edwards, and Kellen Winslow. He played sparingly with Edwards last year, but the time was not significant enough.As far as our backup situation goes, we are trying to get by with two guys who haven't shown that they are dependable. Derek Anderson and Ken Dorsey are not veterans and our prone to making mistakes. If Frye goes down, there is no way that we won't sign a veteran to take his place, because we will not win this year with one of our backups.
Last year, Orpheus Roye was considered a possible defensive MVP for the Browns organization. On the other side of the field, Alvin McKinley racked up a couple of sacks in his first year as an end and played rather well. Our biggest hole was in the middle, where we didn't have a solid nose tackle to stop the run or eat up two offensive linemen. Jason Fisk was basically a complete dud, while Ethan Kelley was still trying to grow into the position. In the offseason, the Browns signed Ted Washington, and based on what we've seen in the preseason, he is a godsend compared to last year.Granted, we shouldn't get too excited about Washington. He is a veteran and will fill up the necessary gaps, but he is also near the end of his career. Kelley's experience late last season will help him heading into this season, because he'll be relied on when the big man needs a break. The depth at the position is a mirror image of last season, with the exception of everyone having an extra year of experience. We should be concerned if one of our starters go down with an injury on the defensive line.
Looking back to last season, the running back decision at the beginning of the year was actually quite complicated. It was thought that Lee Suggs and William Green would compete for the starting job, but then Reuben Droughns was brought in via a trade. Suggs won the starting job until suffering an injury, and Droughns was named the starter by opening day. And, after a twenty-year wait for a 1,000-yard rusher, Droughns finally broke the streak. However, in doing so, he was only able to gain two touchdowns. The Browns lacked a change-of-pace back, and as Suggs was trying to rebound from injuries and Green was trying to learn how to find a hole, the team selected Jerome Harrison in this year's draft.Everyone saw how well Harrison ran the ball in the preseason, and there's not a doubt in anyone's mind that we can utilize him in a similar fashion that the Cincinnati Bengals effectively used Chris Perry last season. Meanwhile, after Suggs and Green didn't do enough last year, they are both removed from the team now, with Jason Wright as the final running back. At the fullback position, Terrelle Smith will still be a tough blocker, while rookie Lawrence Vickers could turn into a short-yardage back like the Steelers do with Verron Haynes.
If you're looking for the most improve position on the Browns, then this is definitely it. In the draft, the Browns chose to select three linebackers - Kamerion Wimbley, D'Qwell Jackson, and Leon Williams. Although Williams may not factor too much into the defensive aspect this year, Wimbley and Jackson most definitely will. Both men could be starters part-way into the season, but regardless, they'll both see significant playing time every game. The unit could have easily been awarded an "F-" last year for their pass rushing ability, but if that's the case this year, then we've all been had. Wimbley has tremendous speed off the edge, and veteran linebacker Willie McGinest will bring more to this team than people expect.Guess who has been quiet during training camp and the preseason it seems? Andra Davis. He led the team in tackles last year, meaning when the people around him start playing better, it'll force the defense to forget about him. The only concern for the linebacking group could be the indecision the coaching staff may face. During certain times of the game, who should go in? D'Qwell Jackson or Chaun Thompson? Matt Stewart or Kamerion Wimbley?
We can take a sigh of relief for the moment and try to gather ourselves: the Browns will be entering the season with a completely healthy group of receivers and tight ends. Antonio Bryant, who did well with the team last year, is now in San Francisco. He wasn't a bad player, but will we miss his costly drops? No way. One big reason why the Seattle Seahawks made the Super Bowl last year is because they had receivers who were no longer dropping passes. Joe Jurevicius happened to be a starting receiver on that team, but remember one thing: he's a possession receiver. He will not come close to 1000-yards receiving, but he'll make that third down catch at a critical juncture of a game. After Braylon Edwards shocking recovery, he will not be held back heading into the season. Edwards showed solid chemistry with Frye last year and will be starting over Dennis Northcutt very soon. That's not a bad thing for Northcutt either, who is notoriously known for having success in the slot. Travis Wilson probably won't be involved in the offense too much, and the same goes for Josh Cribbs.Part of the reason Cribbs and Wilson will be held out is the fact that Kellen Winslow and Steve Heiden form the best tight end combination the Browns have had since returning to the league. Technically, they had the combination two years ago, but it didn't last long due to an injury to Winslow. The playbook with Winslow seems to have been kept to a bare minimum throughout the preseason, and hopefully that's not the case come the regular season. As for Heiden, we've seen in the preseason exactly how he will be used. Every time he has gotten the ball, he has been wide open. It doesn't hurt having your starter from the past several seasons as your top backup.
This is our biggest concern heading into the season due to injuries. Without injuries, the group would be solid. Unfortunately, if Gary Baxter gets hurt again, we'll be forced to having cornerbacks start that have been burned often during their career. The best we can hope for is Baxter to stay healthy through he first three weeks at least, until Daylon McCutcheon is able to return. Leigh Bodden was battling him for the starting cornerback job entering the season, but at this point, I'd rank him ahead of Baxter. Bodden was one of the few gems that Butch Davis was able to discover. At safety, the Browns really didn't upgrade from last season. Brian Russell is well-liked by the team, and his job does not appear to be in any jeopardy. Sean Jones edged Brodney Pool at the safety position, but both players will see their fair share of time on the field. Teams did not throw over the middle very often against the Browns last year, and attacked the running game instead. If our run defense is indeed better, the safeties will see more plays coming their way and will be depended on to step it up a notch.
I thought about summarizing our center debacle again, but quite frankly, I think we're all sick of hearing about it. Instead, here's a thought: if the only thing you told me is that we signed Hank Fraley as a replacement for Jeff Faine this season, guess what I would say? I would say that it sounds like we've made an upgrade. Kevin Shaffer still has to prove that he's worth what we signed him for, but the rest of our line has plenty of experience to hold their own. Ryan Tucker has been with the team for years, Andruzzi held his own last year, and Cosey Coleman's name isn't heard very often(meaning he's quietly doing his job efficiently).Of course, there is still the depth issue. Unless you're the Bengals or the Colts, chances are your offensive lines aren't going to stay healthy all year. Our backups consist of a rookie who was injured all of camp(Isaac Sowells), a guy who started 16-games for Detroit(Kelly Butler), a guy who doesn't look very good(Nat Dorsey), and a veteran center in Lennie Friedman. Granted, it's hard to find depth for an offensive line, but the backups looked a lot better when LeCharles Bentley was the starter and Bob Hallen was a utility man.
We still have Phil Dawson, who despite the ridiculous claims that he can't kick deep enough, gets the job done. We still have Ryan Pontbriand, a guy who I don't believe has botched a snap. We still have Dennis Northcutt returning punts and Josh Cribbs returning kicks. The only newcomer is punter Dave Zastudil, who unlike our punters since Chris Gardocki, is not known to shank the ball. He's overkicked it a couple of times in the preseason, but having it at the 20-yard line is better than shanking it out of bounds at the 40-yard line.One major question will be if we continue to have holding calls on solid kick and punt returns. Yes, all teams seem to have those problems, but it is certainly possible to find the right personnel to block if you have good coaching.
How The Season Will Go
New Orleans - Win
at Cincinnati - Loss
Baltimore - Win
at Oakland - Win
at Carolina - Loss
Denver - Loss
New York Jets - Win
at San Diego - Loss
at Atlanta - Win
Pittsburgh - Loss
Cincinnati - Loss
Kansas City - Loss
at Pittsburgh* - Win
at Baltimore - Loss
Tampa Bay - Loss
at Houston - Win
*Thursday Night Football
I'm just like the rest of you when it comes to each week: in my mind, I'll think to myself that we have a chance to win every single game in the league. On a projection basis to begin the season though, this is what I'm going with. It seems kind of crummy that after so many improvements that we could only be one game better, but it's too tough to get past the Bengals and the Steelers this season. I have us starting the season going 3-1, and ending the season in a 2-5 slump to finish the year at 7-9. I'm optimistic that if we start good, we'll get stronger as the season goes on though, and maybe we'll have a chance to upset some of the playoff-contending teams on our schedule near the end of the season.