I have been putting off my training camp previews in hopes that the Browns would sign some of their draft picks. This way, I wouldn't have to include or not include certain players that will or will not be with the team come July 25. However, if I wait any longer, training camp will have started before I've cranked any of these out.
The Browns are entering the 2008-2009 campaign with three of the four quarterbacks that were on their roster last year during training camp. In the 2007-2008 season, scouts and media experts heralded Cleveland as having one of the worst quarterback situations in the league (since Brady Quinn was holding out for awhile). Now, we have one of the most luxurious quarterback situations in all of football: two starters, a coach-like backup, and a firm decision.
Why is the last line highlighted? In every season since the Browns have returned to the league, the quarterback position was up for grabs. That's not the case this year. Let's take a look at the three signal-callers on this year's squad:
1. DEREK ANDERSON - STARTING QUARTERBACK
After losing the starting job competition in training camp last season to current Seahawk Charlie Frye, Anderson quickly assumed the role of the team's starter in 2007. In fact, he started all 15 games after the opener, and saw a good chunk of playing time in the opener. Anderson has clearly been battle tested. This isn't a Kelly Holcomb who had huge games once every six weeks: this is a guy who consistently got the ball to our playmakers.
Worst Attribute: Middle Zone Throws - It's inevitable that Anderson is going to throw interceptions. He likes to take chances and fire the ball to Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow in tight situations. To try and take that natural instinct away from him would quite frankly ruin him, much like Frye was ruined when he stopped being a mobile quarterback. What does need to change is Anderson's stubbornness in certain situations. Two games come to mind from last season: one against the Oakland Raiders in Week 3, and the other against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 16. Combined, those two games accounted for 31.5% of Anderson's picks on the season. After Week 3's mistakes of throwing the ball right into zone coverage over the middle, Anderson wasn't haunted again until what turned out to be our biggest game of the season against Cincinnati.
Best Attribute: Clock in Head - Last season, Anderson was sacked only 14 times. There were five games in which he wasn't even brought down a single time. That's unheard of for a Browns quarterback in today's day of age. As much as the offensive line deserves all of the props in the world for giving Anderson the "opportunity" to stand in the pocket, it also takes a quarterback with a good clock in his head to complete the package (we saw the opposite of that with Frye's Week 1 meltdown against the Steelers). Anderson's timing with Braylon Edwards was unparalleled to Frye's, and although his chemistry with Winslow still yielded for more desirable results, it was definitely adequate. With Donte Stallworth added to the mix to help stretch the field this year, Anderson's ability to get rid of the football at the right time can only improve: Stallworth has historically excelled at catching quick passes on crossing routes before turning them up the field for yards after the catch.
Various Concerns / Comments - The biggest question mark is whether or not Anderson is a one-hit wonder. Any way you look at it though, the Browns should be in a win-win situation. If Anderson fails after six weeks, bring in Quinn. If Anderson excels, you either have a huge trade coming up in a year or two, or you have your franchise quarterback for the next decade.
Job Security: A-
Player Quality: A-
Final Roster Odds: 100%
2. BRADY QUINN - BACKUP QUARTERBACK
I called for him. You called for him. Heck, I'm sure even in the back of a lot of the minds in the Browns locker room, even the players were calling for him. After the disastrous first game last year against the Steelers, coupled with the mediocre performances from our other quarterbacks in training camp, everyone wanted to see just what the 22nd overall pick in the draft could deliver on gameday. Quinn's playing time never materialized due to Anderson's unforeseen year, but that doesn't mean the youngster is hanging his head.
How many times have we seen quarterbacks go down in this league? The Panthers seem screwed just about every season because Jake Delhomme goes down with an injury. Quinn is hungry to play, and that means he's going to be preparing his tail off. I'm sure he's hoping he won't have to wait as long as Aaron Rodgers had to wait in Green Bay (and Brett Favre may STILL be coming back), but Quinn knows he's going to start in this league sooner than later. Whether that be with the Browns or another team, it's hard to say. That all depends on how good Anderson is and the type of trade proposals that come our way next season or the year after.
Worst Attribute: Creation of a Distraction - This isn't a negative attribute of Quinn himself, but more so of what could develop. What we don't need is for fans to jump onto the Quinn bandwagon with the first mistake that Anderson makes. Also, Anderson was not a "great" quarterback in training camp last year. I actually expect Quinn to out-perform him somewhat in certain situations in camp, but I can only hope that it doesn't stir up discussions like "Quinn's ready now, why let him sit?" Anderson is our starting quarterback, period. Anything positive that we see from Quinn should only be interpreted as positive -- not confrontational.
Best Attribute: Taking Advantage - In the very limited time that Quinn was on the field against an opponent last season, he performed well. During two preseason games, he entered the games and wowed the fans. In his only appearance of the regular season last year -- Week 17 against the 49ers -- he was only 3-of-8 for 45 yards. However, Edwards and Winslow each had drops, and Quinn really should have had his first career touchdown pass if it weren't for that. Quinn is a gamer: if Anderson goes down for a quarter, I'm confident that our offense will not suffer a breakdown under Quinn.
Various Concerns / Comments - How long is too long to let him sit? If the Browns become the type of team that blow out opponents this year, should we give Quinn some playing time during the fourth quarter of games?
Player Quality: B+ (Incomplete)
Final Roster Odds: 100%
3. KEN DORSEY - VETERAN QUARTERBACK
Dorsey is exactly who the Browns should be comfortable with as the third quarterback: he has a coach's mentality and reportedly knows the system very well. If he had the gifted skills of an Anderson or a Quinn, he'd be a starter in this league. Since he doesn't, he's accepted his role and is lending his brain to the other two quarterbacks. On a note for the future though, if and when the Browns part ways with either Quinn or Anderson, I would not be comfortable leaving Dorsey as the No. 2. That's why you might see the Browns draft another quarterback in a year or two.
Worst Attribute: Arm Strength - If we're down in a game and are without both Quinn and Anderson, we're going to have a difficult time coming back. Teams will sit back on Dorsey, giving him the short routes that he excels at.
Best Attribute: Managing an Offense - When presented with the right situation, Dorsey can do the little things to hold onto a lead and minimize the mistakes: he'll make the correct reads underneath and let the players try and get the job done after the catch.
Various Concerns / Comments - Dorsey has only played about two or three snaps during the regular season in two years with the Browns. If we get into a blowout situation, would it actually be more beneficial to play Dorsey?
Player Quality: C-
Final Roster Odds: 95%
QB Position Quality (Overall): A
The Browns should be scheduled to bring in a fourth quarterback soon, because it is usually unacceptable to overburn the arms of the three quarterbacks who will make the final roster. Anderson and Quinn will get the amount of reps they need, but with three quarterbacks, Dorsey will be unnecessarily overworked. Sometimes, you don't need an accurate quarterback for those third- and fourth-string receivers / backs: it's more about how they run their routes and stand out amongst the crowd.
As far as using Joshua Cribbs at the quarterback position, I'd give it a definitive "no". I'm not saying "no" for trick plays, I'm saying "no" for regular reps. The last thing we need is for one of the most important players on our team to suffer an arm injury practicing something he won't be needed for on gameday.
Finally, as far as who we'll bring in for our fourth quarterback, I have no idea. I'd recommend simply an undrafted free agent. If you have any thoughts you'd like to add to the Cleveland Browns quarterback situation heading into training camp, please feel free to elaborate to your heart's content!
NEXT UP (FRIDAY): Running Back