Monday, August 31, 2009

Mangini delays decision

This should not come as a shock, but Coach Eric Mangini this morning said he is not ready to name his starting quarterback. No matter how much he is pressed on the subject, he won't crack.

Brady Quinn appeared to pull ahead of Derek Anderson in the preseason game against the Titans, but if Mangini sees it that way he isn't saying. He seems to be having fun playing Clue. He said the same thing happened his first season as coach of the Jets in 2006; he took a quarterback derby to the end of training camp before making Chad Pennington the starter.

The Browns play their final preseason game Thursday night in Chicago. Normally the starters play one or two series and then head to the sideline so they don't get hurt. Mangini said he hasn't decided how he will divide the work between Quinn and Anderson.

At some point this indecision is going to backfire on Mangini. He needs to pick a starter and move on. The Vikings, the Browns' opponent in the opener, aren't being fooled. If they aren't preparing for Brady Quinn it would be a surprise.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Browns still have work left

The Browns get back to work on Monday and you can bet they won't spend much time reflecting on how they beat the Titans, 23-17, Saturday. It was by far their best game of the preseason, and while the focus was justifiably on Brady Quinn and Derek Anderson playing well, Coach Eric Mangini has to be concerned about the pass defense.

Kerry Collins completed 11 of 14 passes for 102 yards and a touchdown. His success was against the Browns starters, and while the Browns did not show any exotic defensive schemes they have cooked up for the Vikings, giving up 28 completions on 38 attempts should be a concern.

Corey Ivy is a liability when he has to play as the fifth defensive back. Roderick Hood was expected to challenge for a starting job. He did not look like a threat to Brandon McDonald or Eric Wright on Saturday.

The Browns got one sack Saturday. That has to improve, otherwise the DBs will do a lot of chasing.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Lewis turns 30 today

Jamal Lewis turns 30 years old today. That is supposed to be the proverbial wall for running backs.

"I thought 30 was the new 20," Coach Eric Mangini said.

More important than his actual age is the fact Lewis has carried the ball 2,399 times in a career that began with the Ravens in 2000. That's a lot of mileage, a lot of pounding his legs have absorbed. He set an NFL record for yards rushing in a game, since broken by Adrian Peterson, when he rushed for 295 yards in a game against the Browns in 2003. This is his third season with the Browns.

Lewis keeps himself in excellent condition with a grueling training program in the offseason, so he is in better shape than most players still in the NFL at age 30. Whether he can carry the ball 279 times as he did last year and stll be effective is another matter. That's why the Browns need to develop another back. James Davis could be that player. He rushed 81 yards for a touchdown against the Lions in the preseason. Things change when games start to count, but speed is speed, and Davis has it.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Shaun Rogers improving

If the first two preseason games have proven anything it is the Browns need Shaun Rogers if they are going to be any threat to stop opponents from running the ball down their throats. And since the first running back the Browns will see in 2009 is Adrian Peterson, they have to get better quickly.

Rogers has not practiced in nearly two weeks because of an undisclosed injury. He did not practice with the team Tuesday, but he worked briefly on the sideline against a blocking sled, a major step in his recovery. All he had been doing up to that point is riding the exercise bike, which is standard for players rehabbing from nagging injuries.

Rogers looked frighteningly quick. At one point he stepped around the sled. At another he buried his shoulder into it and drove it backward.

Ahtyba Rubin started in Rogers' place in the preseason games against the Packers and Lions. He improved in the Detroit game, but he is no Rogers. The sooner the Browns get Rogers back the better.

Monday, August 24, 2009

No quarterback decision yet

Nothing divides a fan base like a good quarterback controversy, and the one going on on the Browns' practice fields in Berea is a doozy.

Coach Eric Mangini on Monday before practice said the competition between Brady Quinn and Derek Anderson "is very close." It wasn't that close Monday. The edge clearly went to Anderson. During the two-minute offense Quinn turned the ball over on downs. Anderson put the offense into position to kick a winning field goal. Phil Dawson's kick sailed wide right of the narrow goal posts designed to sharpen Dawson's kicking.

Mangini said he hopes Quinn and Anderson separate themselves over the next two weeks to make the decision a clear one. If not, he said he'll make a decision and stick with it.

Let's hope so. In two weeks the Browns will be getting ready for the season opener against the Vikings. The Vikings have known their starting quarterback since the minute Brett Favre came out of retirement last week.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Browns show improvement, work remains

So now we know the Browns can beat a team that did not win any games last season. Does that cheapen the 27-10 thrashing of the Lions Saturday night in Cleveland Browns Stadium? It shouldn't.

Derek Anderson bashers will focus on the interception he threw with five seconds left in the first half. It was a bad throw, too high and too hard for rookie James Davis to catch. It also was a contrived situation. He never would have thrown the pass in a real game with the Browns leading 20-0.

Except for that pass to Davis, Anderson threw the ball with authority and confidence. From this perspective he drew even with Brady Quinn.

There were still too many penalties. All 10 Detroit points were scored off Browns turnovers. But the Browns tackled better than in the preseason opener and rookie James Davis showed why he should be the No. 2 running back. He broke out on an 81-yard touchdown run and no one caught him.

The game was a step in the right direction.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

D-Day coming for D.A.

Eric Mangini says all the right things when he declares the quarterback derby between Derek Anderson and Brady Quinn isn't over, but the Browns head coach will have difficulty maintaining suspense if Anderson does not play well against the Lions on Saturday.

Anderson has had the edge over Quinn in day to day practices, but Quinn is closing the gap, and Quinn clearly outplayed Anderson last week in Green Bay.

The pressure is really on Anderson. Mangini has set it up perfectly. The fans are down on Anderson and have made him the scapegoat for the way the Browns played last year. The fans are sour because the Browns played poorly against Green Bay last week. Plus, Anderson has to prove his 0-for-2 performance against the Packers was a fluke. He knows the fans prefer Quinn.

If Anderson can overcome all that and play well against the Lions, the derby should go on another week. If not and Quinn plays well again, the battle should be over.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Anderson expected to start Saturday

Derek Anderson is expected to start at quarterback for the Browns Saturday night in the preseason game against the Lions, but Coach Eric Mangini is keeping his plans a secret.

Brady Quinn started against Green Bay in the preseason opener and took 17 snaps. Anderson took only five snaps against the Packers. Since balance is the name of the game for Mangini, it makes sense to start Anderson. Mangini did say he wants to see Anderson in a hurry-up attack vs. the Lions. Quinn ran a two-minute drill in Green Bay and came up empty when he threw an interception.

At this point in camp it would make sense to settle on a starter so that player can get the bulk of practice leading up to the opener. It would help the team get into a rhythm, but Mangini said it is more important to be right than quick.

Mangini's plan makes sense, even if it is to keep the Vikings guessing, but there also is something to be said for receivers knowing who will be throwing them the ball.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Mangini jumps on team

Fans who were critical of Romeo Crennel for not being stern should like what Eric Mangini had to say about his team after the Browns finished practice Tuesday morning.

Mangini did not like the effort his team showed. It is a carryover from a lack of fire in a 17-0 loss in Green Bay on Saturday in the preseason opener.

It was hot and humid Tuesday. His team was in shorts and without pads. Still, they dragged. Mangini was calm as he criticized the team as a whole.

“In any game you’re going to feel tired," Mangini said. "During the course of the season, you’re going to feel tired. You have to push through that and accomplish the things that need to be accomplished.

"Any time you think you have it hard, look over at some of the visitors we have from the different community groups who are struggling for the basics like school supplies. That’s difficult. What we do to get ready for football games, that in relative terms is not hard at all.”

At this juncture of past training camps former Coach Butch Davis surprised the team by treating them to a day at Strongsville Pool. Another time he brought in a comedian and another time he brought in rapper Run-DMC.

“They could watch practice and get comic relief,” Mangini said dryly. “They could yuk it up over that.”

The Tuesday workout wasn’t the first bad practice of training camp. Mangini has been critical before, but never in terms as harsh.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Don't crown Quinn yet

Eric Mangini says he wants to see more of his two quarterbacks before he declares a winner. Brady Quinn had better stats than Derek Anderson in the preseason game against the Packers on Saturday. Quinn was 7 of 11 for 68 yards. Anderson threw two passes. One was incomplete and one was intercepted.

Media and fans believe Quinn now has the lead over Anderson. Not so fast, says Mangini.

"I think at this point it's too early to make an assessment on both guys," Mangini said Monday. "I liked some of the things Brady did. D.A. didn't get as many reps. We'll try to balance that off (against the Lions Saturday)."

Both quarterbacks had two series against the Packers, but as it turned out Anderson had only five plays because one possession ended without a first down and Anderson threw an interception on the other. He was hit as he threw the ball on the interception.

Mangini said he hasn't decided Anderson will start against the Lions. Quinn started against the Packers. It is no surprise Mangini won't say Quinn is in the lead, but let's put it this way; Anderson will have to light up the Lions to stay in the race.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Browns showed no fire

The streak without an offensive touchdown is now at seven games for the Browns. Sure, the 17-0 loss to the Packers on Saturday nigh in Green Bay was an exhibition game, but I expected the Browns to show more fire than they did.

The Packers ran through the Browns defense. We've seen that before. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers had all the time in the world to throw for the most part. We've seen that, too. And Braylon Edwards dropped another touchdown pass. We saw that a lot last year.

Brady Quinn took the lead in his quarterback derby with Derek Anderson. Quinn threw an interception in the end zone, but Anderson did nothing positive in two chances.

This team needs a lot of work. Fortunately for Coach Eric Mangini, the season opener is four weeks from Sunday. He'll need that time to correct the flaws of Saturday night.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Time for Browns to win one

There is no history proving winning preseason games has a carryover to the regular season.Eric Mangini was a secondary coach with New England in 2003 when the Patriots were 4-0 in preseason. They went on to win the Super Bowl. In 2004 they won their preseason opener and then lost the next three, yet they won the Super Bowl that year, too.

Mangini is not coaching a Super Bowl contender in Green Bay tonight. But when he runs out of that visitor's tunnel in Lambeau Field, he will be leading a Browns team that has forgotten how to win. The Browns lost all four preseason games last summer, and that did have a carryover into the regular season. That's the main reason the Browns needed a new coach.

Don't play the starters four quarters. That would be ridiculous. And don't unveil all the trickery on offense or defense planned for the regular season. But the best way to change the attitude around Berea is to win. Afterward the players can say it doesn't count, but it has to feel a lot better saying it doesn't count after winning than pretending the game means nothing after a loss.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Ratliff moving up

The player who made the biggest advance in the four practices this week was arguably quarterback Brett Ratliff. He threw a touchdown pass of 71 yards to David Patten and a pass 46 yards to Patten to set up another touchdown in the intrasquad scrimmage on Sunday. He threw a touchdown pass to Braylon Edwards in the two-minute drill Tuesday and on Thursday, from his own 4, threw a touchdown pass deep to Brian Robiskie over Rod Hood. The ball was in the air about 50 yards.

Ratliff was acquired in the draft day trade with the Jets in which the Browns gave up the fifth pick in the first round for the 17th pick, Ratliff, defensive end Kenyon Coleman and safety Abe Elam.

Ratliff has a smooth, easy delivery. He is clearly ahead of Richard Bartell for the third quarterback spot. If he continues making progress and convinces the coaches he can be the No. 2 quarterback, the Browns might be tempted to trade Derek Anderson or Brady Quinn despite Coach Eric Mangini saying neither contender for the starting job will be traded.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

ESPN starts a brushfire

No wonder pro athletes regard some sportswriters as snakes.

Derek Anderson and Brady Quinn were on opposite teams Sunday in the Brown vs. White scrimmage in Cleveland Browns Stadium. Anderson's team,the team in Brown jerseys, won, 17-14. Anderson ran for one touchdown and put the Brown team in position to kick the game-winning field goal. On the negative side he threw an interception at the 4 after a long drive.

After the scrimmage Anderson made a crack about Quinn feeding the White defense the hand signals Anderson was using to communicate to the Brown receivers. The reporters who know Anderson laughed, but turned it into a story, and then on Wednesday picked it up and made it out that Anderson accused Quinn of trying to sabotage him to get an advantage in his duel with Anderson to be the starter.

"What I meant is we were having a good time and everybody was doing everything they could to win," Anderson said. "Obviously we had some incentive to win. They scripted fun plays. We did things we normally wouldn't do. It was all in fun. Whoever took it and ran with it, obviously I have to be careful what I say."

"The defense already knows our hand signals," Quinn said.

Bottom line: There is no rift between Quinn and Anderson. Coach Eric Mangini says their competition is still even. The preseason starts Saturday in Green Bay, Wis. Mangini hasn't named his starter.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

No depth chart surprises

Eric Mangini revealed his first depth chart as head coach of the Browns Tuesday morning. It contains no shocking revelations. Mangini admitted he didn't put a lot of time into reviewing it, but he was required to produce one with the preseason starting Saturday, so he did.

The first team quarterback for the preseason opener in Green Bay is Derek Anderson/Brady Quinn. The slash indicates neither player is ahead of the other. Eighty players in camp, and Anderson/Quinn gets the only slash. That reflects how sensitive the quarterback battle is.

The listing doesn't mean Anderson will start against the Packers. Mangini said he hasn't figured that out yet. He said the contender for the starting job that doesn't start against Green Bay will probably start against Detroit a week from Saturday.

No rookies are listed as starters, but that isn't a surprise, either. Coaches usually give veterans the start in the first preseason game. On Tuesday morning Hank Fraley played center with the first team. Alex Mack, the first-round draft pick, was with the second unit.

"You want it, show us you should have it," Mangini said, speaking in general about the rookie class.

Rookie running back James Davis is listed fourth behind Jamal Lewis, Jerome Harrison and Noah Herron. Davis is not the fourth best running back in camp, so the depth chart doesn't mean much.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Scrimmage shows secondary vulnerable

The scrimmage at Cleveland Browns Stadium showed what the Browns need to work on most before the season begins five weeks from today.When training camp resumes Tuesday, Eric Mangini has to concentrate on shoring up the secondary.

Lance Leggett caught a 51-yard touchdown pass from Brady Quinn and David Patten caught a 71-yard touchdown pass from Bret Ratliff. Patten also caught a 46-yard pass from Ratliff to set up another touchdown.

The scrimmage wasn't totally realistic because the defense could not go all out on the pass rush, but the long completions nevertheless exposed the Browns as a team that could be beaten deep. Last year they were near the bottom of the league in sacks with 17.

Rod Hood and Nick Sorensen were beaten on the touchdown pass to Leggett. Patten appeared to have pushed off Gerard Lawson on his touchdown, but he got away with it. None of the three DBs smoked for the touchdowns are starters.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Take another lap

The Browns continue to commit penalty after penalty despite Coach Eric Mangini's edict declaring any player flagged or fumbling in practice has to run a lap.

Most of the penalties called on the offense in training camp have been for false starts. That follows a pattern prevalent in the entire NFL, according to a chart produced by NFL game officials.

Referee John Parry was in the Browns facility Friday to work both practices, plus the practice Saturday and the scrimmage at Cleveland Browns Stadium on Sunday. Last year false start was called 653 times in the NFL. offensive holding was second with 587 penalties followed by defensive offsides at 317.

Mangini is determined the Browns will cut down on their mistakes. They committed 100 - 10 more than the league average. Mangini said false start and other pre-snap penalties involve a lack of focus. On Friday morning Floyd Womack, Eric Steinbach and Isaac Sowells each ran a lap for a false start penalty. The Browns will have to do better than three false starts a game if they're going to cure last year's ills.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Browns move on without Stallworth

The Browns do not seem particularly moved by Donte Stallworth's apology to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell for killing a pedestrian in Miami Beach while driving drunk in March. Their attitude, and it is the correct one, is "It's a league matter."

Stallworth was suspended indefinitely by Goodell after pleading guilty to DUI manslaughter for killing 59-year-old Mario Reyes. He ended up spending only 24 days in jail.

Stallworth met with Goodell on Tuesday seeking reinstatement and then issued another apology in a letter today. Goodell has yet to rule on Stallworth's request. When he announced the suspension, Goodell said what Stallworth did was "inexcusable," even though Reyes was partially at fault for not being in the crosswalk.

"I recognize that there is a difference between the legal standard in my criminal case and the standard to which NFL players are held," Stallworth's letter read. "It is clear that I exercised poor judgment and caused irreparable harm to Mario Reyes, his family, the NFL, its owners, coaches, employees and to my fellow players. Going forward, I am committed to conducting myself in a manner that more accurately reflects who I am and meets the high standard expected of all NFL players. I tried to convey this commitment to Commissioner Goodell yesterday."

When Stallworth was sent to jail I wrote the Browns should take him back, because although what he did was horrible, he is not a horrible person. I still believe that, but now is not the time. If Goodell were to allow Stallworth to attend training camp while under suspension and then banish him when the regular season starts it would be counter-productive for Stallworth to practice.

The preseason begins a week from Saturday. Stallworth would just be taking up space and taking practice time from a receiver who will play. He would be a distraction the Browns do not need.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Browns need Edwards

I know many fans don't want to put up with Braylon Edwards but the Browns need him. They are a better team now that he's back practicing after missing the first four days of training camp with a leg injury.

The quarterbacks look better having Edwards as a target. He knows what routes to run. Derek Anderson and Brady Quinn are confident he will catch the ball despite the problems Edwards had last year when he led the NFL in drops.

Edwards is in the final year of his rookie contract. Should the Browns re-sign him? That's a different story. It depends on how well rookies Brian Robiskie and Mohamed Massaquoi play.

Edwards last year said fans don't like him because he's from Michigan. No one cared about him being from Michigan when he caught 16 touchdown passes in 2007 and they won't care he's from Michigan if he catches 10 touchdown passes this year.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Quarterbacks still need work

The good news for the Browns is the season opener is more than five weeks away. The bad news is it might take all 40 days to settle on a starting quarterback.

Derek Anderson and Brady Quinn were erratic again Tuesday on the fourth day of training camp. It was the sixth practice since camp started on Saturday.

On Tuesday the Browns worked on third and fourth down situations. Unofficially, both were 4 of 9 with one interception. They weren't much better in the two-minute drill. Anderson, working with the first team against the first defense moved from the Offense's 30 to the Defense's 44. Quinn moved the ball three yards in four plays.

In defense of the quarterbacks, they still do not have Braylon Edwards as a target. Edwards is out with a mysterious leg injury. The best receiver over the last two days was Paul Hubbard. Brian Robiskie, Mohamed Massaquoi and Syndric Steptoe have been inconsistent. A lot of passes go the the tight end and running back in dumpoff situations. It isn't all on the young receivers, though. Quinn had Massaquoi and Steptoe open deep on two separate plays and overthrew both because his passes were too flat.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Rookie Davis impressing coaches

Keep an eye on running back James Davis if you're looking for an early candidate for Rookie Star of training camp. The Browns drafted him in the sixth round in April, and so far he looks like a bargain.

Davis bursts through the line without dancing while the hole closes. He usually keeps running until he gets to the end zone. Make no mistake, Jamal Lewis is still the starter, but if Davis keeps playing as he has he will earn playing time that would otherwise go to Jerome Harrison. On one play Monday morning, Hamza Abdullah tore through the line on a blitz. Davis picked him off, allowing Brady Quinn time to throw a deep pass about 55 yards downfield to Lance Legget. The play went for a 98-yard touchdown.

"James has done a really nice job," Coach Eric Mangini said. "What I like about him is he's done it since the day he got here. There have been multiple drills when he's the first one down on special teams. That's what gets you noticed."

Some players from past drafts, such as Lee Suggs (fourth round in 2003)and Harrison (fifth round in 2006)have let being drafted late nag them. Davis said he isn't letting being picked in the sixth round affect him.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Offense runs a lap

Some days training camp goes to the offense. Some go to the defense. Sunday belonged to the defense.

The offense was so miserable during the hurry-up portion of practice with dropped passes, botched snaps and penalties that at one point Coach Eric Mangini made the entire offense run a lap. The innocent ran with the guilty.

The offense is ahead of where it was in minicamp, but the Browns are fortunate the season opener is six weeks away. Derek Anderson and Brady Quinn are throwing passes to rookies and inexperienced players such as Lance Leggett while the team's best receiver, Braylon Edwards, rides an exercise bike because of a mysterious leg injury.

The inexperience is a fair excuse for the offense looking choppy, but not for the penalties and botched snaps. On Sunday the Browns looked a lot like they did last season.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

No rest with Mangini, Edwards still out

Eric Mangini had a reputation with the Jets of running a hard, grinding training camp that leaves players spent after practice. A better word might be 'efficient' judging by the way the first practice of Browns training camp went Saturday morning.

There is no standing around for players. Yes, players will be on the sideline in team drills waiting for their group to go onto the field, but that isn't the standing around I'm talking about. I'm talking during group drills when players are standing around doing nothing. There was a lot of that the last four years, and it was reflected in the reason records - 6-10, 4-12, 10-6 and 4-12.

It was good to see players who were nursing injuries in June back on the field, particularly tight end Steve Heiden (knee), defensive end Robaire Smith (Achilles tendon) and defensive end Corey Williams (shoulder).

Braylon Edwards isn't practicing. He is on the non-football injury list, still recovering from an injury he incurred in June. Allegedly he hurt his ankle playing basketball. He isn't saying and neither is Mangini.