Monday, September 14, 2009

The Browns Table: Season Preview

We are back and better than ever!

Welcome to the 2009 edition of The Browns Table, a season-long look at the Cleveland Browns from views of the Browns fans here on Bleacher Report.

We have a special season preview edition of The Browns Table this week. Taking a look at the Browns no longer secret QB situation (Damn you, TO!) along with what we expect on both sides of the ball and where we thing the Browns will finish in 2009.

Thanks to fellow Browns fan Samantha Bunten for her contributions this week and throughout the course of the 2009 NFL season. Anyone willing to participate can contact me by leaving a note on my profile.

As Adam Carolla would say, “Let’s get it on” and let’s talk some Browns football…

Brady Quinn was finally named the starting QB for the Browns. What do you think of the decision and what does he need to do in 2009 to show you he is the QB of the future for the team?

Samantha Bunten:
Quinn was the obvious and correct choice. I agree with the decision, but I don't truly believe he is the quarterback of the future for this team. Quinn will be better than Anderson, but that doesn't mean he will be good. I haven't seen anything out of Quinn that convinces me he can lead this franchise anywhere.

However, nothing would make me happier than to have Quinn prove me wrong. He has the swagger and the mobility to command the position, but he needs to prove he has the ability to make adjustments and to truly be the team's field general, not just the guy taking the snaps.

And speaking of snaps, Mangini hasn't done Quinn any favors by failing to name a starting center for the opener. A relatively inexperienced quarterback needs to establish as much consistency and routine for himself as possible, and that's tough when you don't even know who's going to feed you the ball in a couple of days.

Jeff Smirnoff:
It was the only sane decision. Anyone who didn’t think he was the guy from Day 1 was fooling themselves. Ryan Leaf, Akili Smith, Heath Shuler and many other first round choices got 1-2 seasons to prove themselves (or disprove themselves, I should say) while Quinn has had 3 games, one with a broken finger. The Browns need to know if he is their franchise QB for years to come or if they need to address the position in the off season. Derek Anderson has had a chance to be evaluated and we know his strength and weaknesses and they were still evident in preseason. I think he is a great back-up QB and can still be a starter in the NFL but 2009 is about evaluating Quinn.

The offense failed to score a touchdown in the final six games of 2008. What do you expect from them in 2009 and what position has you most concerned on that side of the ball?

Samantha Bunten:
The offense can only get better, and get better they will. The question is how much better. Feature back Jamal Lewis will be a workhorse as always, but he's well past his prime. I'm excited to see what James Davis can do to bring some youth and energy to the position.

The receiving corps has a huge upside...if any of them can ever hang onto the ball. Robiskie, like Edwards, worries too much about where the hit is coming from to focus on the ball, and Massaquoi spent his whole senior season at Georgia with a mean case of the dropsies. If he can improve upon that though, he looks to be solid at the position and is a huge threat after catching a ball.

What concerns me most...just one position? Ok, ok. I'll go with tight end. The Browns have no stand-outs at this position. Heiden is solid, but not a number one guy. Beyond that, the position is staffed only with mediocre talent like Robert Royal and Martin Rucker.

Jeff Smirnoff:
Consistency. With Quinn at the helm, I expect a lot more sustained drives and a professional looking offense. It will be interesting to see how Brian Daboll works as a first time coordinator. I think the line will gel over the course of the year with Alex Mack and Rex Hadnot and that will help Quinn’s growth. Braylon Edwards and Josh Cribbs can make some plays in the passing game with Mike Furrey being a poor man’s Joe Jurevicius. If Daboll can find a way to work Jamal Lewis, Jerome Harrison and James Davis into the backfield to take the pressure off Quinn it will help the cause.

On defense, there a lot of seasoned veterans and young up and comers but not a lot of impact players. What area of the defense scares you the most heading into 2009?

Samantha Bunten:
Two things about the defense really scare me. The first is that the perpetually troublesome position for the Browns, OLB, is still looking like it will be just as much of an Achilles' heel for the team as it has been in years past.

Wimbley is a great guy and a great teammate, and there is still a chance he can be the guy we thought he would be after watching his rookie season in 2006, but for the most part he underachieves on the field in terms of making sacks and applying pressure. I'm not sold on David Bowens, one of many of Mangini's former "Pet Jets", but youngster Alex Hall may help the pass rush.

The second thing about the defense that scares me is the lack of depth at safety. I like Brodney Poole a lot, and Abram Elam is, for better or for worse, a very similar player to Sean Jones, the guy he will be replacing. The problem is that beyond those two, there's nobody waiting in the wings who I am comfortable sending onto the field on any given Sunday.

Jeff Smirnoff:
Linebacker. The 3-4 defense is all about the front three eating up blockers to allow the linebackers to make plays at or behind the line of scrimmage. This requires hard hitting, aggressive ILBs and OLBs who can generate a pass rush. The Browns have no such playmakers at linebacker currently. Maybe Alex Hall can develop. Maybe Kamerion Wimbley can return to his rookie form but those are maybes. D’Qwell Jackson is a solid second ILB but not an impact ILB the Browns sorely need. Until they address the LB core the team’s growth will be stunted.

Which player on the defensive side of the ball most needs to "make the leap" to help the Browns evolve into a competent defense?

Samantha Bunten:
D'Qwell Jackson is the guy who needs to "make the leap", and for once, the Browns may actually get what they need, as Jackson is capable of doing it. Jackson is already a standout at LILB and should only get better.

He's very accurate and misses blocks well. What he needs to improve on is his aggressive play, from forcing more turnovers to performing better in coverage and adapting to the new 3-4 scheme adopted by the defense this season. Jackson has the athleticism and the mental ability to do what he needs to do to make the leap, and hopefully, this will positively impact for the entire defense.

Jeff Smirnoff:
Abram Elam, no doubt. It would help if Alex Hall could develop into an impact OLB or Kamerion Wimbley would revert back to his rookie form but it all rests on Elam. The Browns have needed a leader and hard hitter in the defensive backfield since Brian Russell was not resigned. The 3-4 is all about impact LBs and a smash mouth safety. There are no impact LBs evident as of today but Elam has shown flashes of being able to take control at safety. If he can fill it, its one less huge hole they don’t need to address in the off-season. If not, someone page Taylor Mays of USC.

The Browns have a number of rookies that have a chance to make an impact. Who do you think steps up and becomes a player this season?

Samantha Bunten:
If Alex Mack can own the Center's position and wrest it away - permanently - from Hank Fraley, he could have a huge impact on helping Brady Quinn's game. Mack struggled in camp, but lined up at Center for the final three pre-season games, indicating that Mangini is considering him for the position as much as Fraley. Mangini has stated that he isn't opposed to playing both, but I think for Quinn's sake, it would be far better to be lined up behind the same guy every week. If Mack steps up, he could be that guy.

Massaquoi, as mentioned above, could be an impact receiver if he can hold onto the ball, particularly in heavy traffic. David Veikune was great at getting to the quarterback in college. If he can duplicate that in the NFL, he could be huge.

Jeff Smirnoff:
Kaluka Maiava on special teams and James Davis on offense. Maiava was in on every tackle on special teams. Rookie WRs hardly ever make a huge impact so Brian Robiskie and Mohamed Massaquoi are out. David Veikune is adjusting to moving NFL OLB from NCAA DE which will take time. Alex Mack will start but offensive lines take time to gel. Davis has a chance to take advantage of a worn down Jamal Lewis and injury prone Jerome Harrison and become and intricate part of the Browns’ offense. The second year in a row that the Browns’ last draft pick is their best.

OK, call your shot. What record do the Browns finish at in 2009 and why?

Samantha Bunten:
I'll say the Browns finish at 5-11, but will be better than their record indicates. The schedule-makers didn't do the Browns any favors this year, just as being in the tough AFC North hurts them by forcing them to play a quarter of their schedule against the likes of Pittsburgh and Baltimore.

Their weakest opponents, like Kansas City and Denver, are unfortunately road games. The Browns are going to have to fight hard for every victory this season. Let's hope they're up to the challenge

Jeff Smirnoff:
Until I actually see the Browns punch the Appalachian Inbred and Ratbirds back when they get punched themselves I can not pick them to beat their two historic rivals. Throw in the Bengals being improved if Carson Palmer is healthy and I don’t see more than one win in the division. I see them splitting the other 10 games for a 6-10 record. I think the offense begin to gel under Quinn with the O line and rookies developing but the defense will hold them back until they get playmakers at safety and linebacker. Too many good QBs on the schedule to exploit the defense.

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