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Hallen Leads Disappointing Offseason Acquisitions

I'll be honest with you, I would have much rather conducted a poll that stated "Who was our best offseason acquisition in the offseason?" than the contrary one that I've had on Dawgs By Nature for the past week or so. A total of 104 votes came in, and your message clearly came across in regards to who the Browns most disappointing offseason acquisition (excluding LeCharles Bentley) turned out to be:

1. BOB HALLEN - Offensive Lineman - 41%

I'm glad that the majority voted for Hallen, because he completely blew up the contingency plan that Phil Savage and Romeo Crennel had created should anything negative happen to our offensive line. Lucky us, LeCharles Bentley went down on the very first play of training camp due to injury. Immediately, the heart of Browns fans sank, because this was not only the biggest signing that the Browns had made in the offseason, but it was regarded as the biggest move of the offseason for any team. We had actually gone out and signed a Pro Bowl player for once that wanted to play for the Browns due to his local connections. In one felt swoop, the entire signing went down the drain for the 2006-2007 season, and possibly for next season. But, with the injury, complete panic was not supposed to set in yet. Why? Because we had a guy by the name of Bob Hallen.

"Bob is dealing with medical and personal issues that he is going to have to work out and get taken care of," Crennel said. "Such to the point where I will investigate the avenues available to me."
- Browns head coach, Romeo Crennel

So much for that idea. The way I saw it, as did many other Browns fans, is that Hallen's only intentions when he signed with the Browns is that he could collect a paycheck, while coming in to occasionally spell a lineman and help block. As soon as Hallen saw Bentley go down and realized that he would be counted on as the full-time starter at the center position, he bolted. I'm sorry, but I don't believe that it was merely a coincidence that he encountered a "personal" problem only after Bentley was done.

Hallen's departure left the Browns in a pickle for the remaining of training camp and part of the preseason. Romeo Crennel had to try out guys like Todd Washington (also retired), Alonzo Ephraim (suspended for drug use), Ross Tucker (traded for), and Rob Smith (rookie). With that type of indecision at the offensive line position, it's not a surprise that our guys blocked so poorly most of the season. Of course, the center situation itself was later salvaged by the Browns trading for veteran center Hank Fraley, but there's no question in my mind that Hallen was the biggest disappointment in terms of offseason acquisitions. Depth and continuity are key, and he ruined both of those.

2. WILLIE MCGINEST - Linebacker - 29%

Next in line came the veteran linebacker from the New England Patriots, Willie McGinest. Crennel was very familiar with McGinest from his days with the Patriots, and that gave the fans high hopes that we added some more experience to the group than only having Matt Stewart. With drafting Kamerion Wimbley, D'Qwell Jackson, and Leon Williams all within the first four rounds, McGinest was expected to set an example and help mold the youngsters into fundamentally sound players. On the year, McGinest finished the season with 45 tackles, 4 sacks, and 1 interception in 14 games.

"He's [Crennel] a big reason why I came," McGinest said. "He's like a father. He makes you feel comfortable and gives you that family atmosphere."

McGinest looked a bit out of place holding a No. 55 Browns jersey and said it seemed odd. He said he held no animosity toward New England for releasing him and looked forward to helping build the Browns into a winner.

"I didn't want to go to a team to sign a contract and get some money," said McGinest, wearing a Browns cap. "I wanted to be a part of a family. They made me feel like family. They made me feel needed, like I could come in and help them."

The main issue with McGinest came with a lack of consistency. McGinest had his fair share of good games, but he stated the season off fairly slow. In the preseason, Crennel seemed to be showing preferential treatment towards McGinest by giving him extra rest. Unfortunately, it seemed to be changed eventually to a weekly injury for McGinest to begin the season, which could be a reason as to why he got off to a slow start. McGinest didn't generate the type of pass rush we had expected, which is the main reason we signed him. He fell into a trap this season where he wasn't necessarily a bad player, he was a disappointing one (which is, ironically, the theme of this article). Did McGinest really make much of an impact to where he should've taken playing time away from guys like Chaun Thompson, Leon Williams, or even Stewart? I'd say the answer would be a definitive "no".

3. TED WASHINGTON - Defensive Tackle - 22%

Following McGinest was another defensive player in big bad Ted Washington. In Washington's case, I think he fell victim of the Cleveland fans believing that one man could change the entire reputation of the Browns defense. While that may be true for playmakers like Brian Urlacher, Champ Bailey, or Bob Sanders, it wasn't for Washington. Washington was a 16-year veteran playing on defense, with another veteran that started to look past his prime on one side (Orpheus Roye) and a guy who would be a backup on just about every other team on the other side (Alvin McKinley).

Throughout the entire course of training camp and the preseason, all of my scouting reports would say, "Man, Ted Washington is HUGE!" or "Man, Washington just hammered one of our offensive lineman!" With Washington's size, we expected him to be double-teamed on every single play. In the end though, how did that help us? With Washington bottled up, our young linebackers and helpless defensive ends still couldn't even get close to the opposing team's quarterback and/or running back. Washington actually had 52 tackles (most he had since 2000) and was one of our few durable players on defense this season. Any time he ended up leaving a game though, as we saw in the season finale against the Houston Texans, we were eaten up even worse than usual on the ground. Again, this is a case where Washington did as much as he was possibly capable of, but his disappointment falls with an expression of fans and the media, including me, being over-hyped when we signed him.

4. JOE JUREVICIUS - Wide Receiver - 6%

You guys finished off the voting exactly as I would have, having Joe Jurevicius finish in last place in the poll. In other words, if the poll was for "best veteran acquisitions", then Jurevicius would have topped the list. The tone of this article isn't really intended to praise though, because even Jurevicius had his faults this season. He was outspoken in the media, which is something I did condone. However, he didn't seem to take that leadership role to a point where he could give guys like Braylon Edwards or Dennis Northcutt a lesson. He seemed to be more of an independent type of player, where as I would have preferred it if he had gone up to Edwards and told him to shut his mouth when it came to trash-talking opponents, or "dissing" your own defensive teammate.

Part of Jurevicius' leadership role may have been hindered by an awful decision by the coaching staff: he did not make his first start at wide receiver until Week 7. Instead, the Browns were starting Northcutt every single week along with Edwards. To this day, I still don't understand why Northcutt wasn't the third receiver, where he has some more versatility. Props to Jurevicius for coming through in several games for us, and even having some chemistry with backup quarterback Derek Anderson late in the season.

Make sure you guys vote for the first offensive position you want me to review this season by voting in the poll to the right. I'll be back later with news on the players the Browns are sending to NFL Europe.