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Brooks Looks at Top 3 Browns' Questions

In a column by Sports Illustrated's Bucky Brooks, Brooks analyzes the top three questions for each team in the AFC North. Seeing as we're all die-hard Browns fans (unless there are a few trolls surfing around), let's take a look at what Brooks had to say about Cleveland:

Challenge No. 1: Settle the quarterback debate.

Charlie Frye, Derek Anderson and rookie Brady Quinn are engaged in a heated competition that will be decided during training camp. While it appears to be a three horse race on paper, the battle will come down to the veterans. Last season's starter, Frye, completed over 63% of his passes, but had 17 interceptions during his 11-game stint as starter. Anderson displayed surprising potential in his four appearances at the end of last season. Though his overall numbers were not overly impressive, his ability to rally his team from a huge deficit versus Kansas City and his effectiveness versus Baltimore's highly respected defense won him some fans within the organization. After being penciled into the No.1 spot at the end of mini-camps, Anderson can officially claim the job with a strong performance during the preseason. It will be interesting to see if he can continue to build on the momentum created during the offseason.

I'm no so sure that Anderson was "penciled in" by anyone in the Browns organization, but it's been clear that he has drawn praise from local media writers in comparison to Frye and Quinn. I agree with the fact that one of the veterans will win the starting job, although it's actually difficult to classify either Frye or Anderson as veterans considering the small amount of playing time they've actually received.

Challenge No. 2: Be prepared to enter the season without Joe Thomas

After selecting Thomas with the third overall pick, the Browns appeared to solidify the left side of their line. But with speculation swirling of a lengthy holdout by Thomas, the Browns have to prepare for life without Thomas. Fortunately, they resisted the temptation to trade Kevin Shaffer prior to the draft, so pencil him in as the starting left tackle. Although he struggled a season ago, he has been a solid player throughout his career and should play better with Eric Steinbach beside him. Shaffer was one of their marquee signings in the previous offseason and the coaching staff indicated that they would not give his position away without a training camp battle. The competition between Shaffer and Thomas is one of several taking place along the line. With Kelly Butler vying for Ryan Tucker's spot at right tackle, the preseason will give the Browns plenty of opportunities to use different combinations and improve their overall depth. With more versatility and depth, the offensive line should be stronger when Thomas eventually steps into the starting lineup.

In my opinion, getting Thomas signed should be a priority over getting Quinn signed. If Romeo Crennel wants to establish the Browns early on in the season against our divisional rivals, especially versus the Steelers on opening day, then he needs to make sure a holdout is not even an with Thomas. Settling with Thomas as a backup to open the season, and then "easing" him into the lineup is a sight that would absolutely sicken most Browns fans, and, possibly spell the end of Crennel's coaching tenure with the Browns.

Challenge No. 3: Improve their pass rush

The Browns finished near the bottom of the league in pass defense last season. Though their coverage was spotty, the root of their problems was their inconsistent pass rush. Kamerion Wimbley led the team with 11 sacks as a rookie, but received little help from anyone else in the front seven. Without addressing their personnel weaknesses through the draft or free agency, the Browns will have to creatively come up with ways to pressure the passer. Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham, has some athletic players who have the versatility to be incorporated into an exotic zone blitz, but the Browns have been reluctant to blitz due to the questionable cover skills of their corner. Given the multiple looks that the 3-4 can disguise, the Browns will open up the playbook to create a consistent pass rush. If their young corners, Eric Wright and Leigh Bodden, can hold up during the preseason, the Browns will head into the season with enough confidence to feature the blitz as their primary way to pressure the passer.

Brooks said it perfectly here, because ever single game last year, it still seemed like no one on the Browns could get any pressure. However, I still attribute a lot of that blame to the poor defensive line. Ted Washington was an upgrade over Jason Fisk, but he was never able to generate an ounce of pressure, and teams were often able to run their backs right by him still. With Alvin McKinley over-matched last year as well, all of our blitzers were constantly running into offensive lineman rather than holes.

To see Brooks' full article, you can go here.