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News » Cleveland Browns Inside Slant 2008-08-28

Cleveland Browns Inside Slant 2008-08-28

Cleveland Browns Inside Slant 2008-08-28
Long before training camp began, the national media embraced the Browns as this year's warm and fuzzy pick to make the jump from outsider to playoff team in, appropriately, their 10th year back in the league since being reborn in 1999.

Training camp and the preseason, however, has been anything but warm and fuzzy. With the start of the regular season on the horizon, the Browns have more questions now than they did at the end of July. They remain hopeful there is enough time to answer them. For example:

The offensive line was not stellar in preseason games against the Giants and Lions. It did not cope well with the speed from the pass rush of either team. The Giants knocked Derek Anderson out with a concussion and the Lions harassed Brady Quinn continuously for nearly three quarters while the starting offensive line was in the game.

That begs the question, was it really the line that protected Anderson so well last season, or was Anderson sacked only 14 times because he releases the ball so quickly? Can he cut down on his 19 interceptions -- a by-product of passing quickly -- and still stay on his feet if he has to hold the ball a split-second longer?

The Lions got to Quinn in a hurry, so not all the problems can be blamed on it being Quinn's first NFL start.

Anderson's playing time was cut short by a thunderstorm in the first game and a concussion in the second. He did not play in the third game and was doubtful for the fourth. Offense is all about timing. The Browns have not had as much time to work on their timing as they would like. The good news on that front is Anderson became the starter in the second game of the season and quickly developed timing with Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow Jr.

The other bit of good news is the slate is wiped clean on the morning of Sept. 7 when the Browns are 0-0. But players feel a sense of urgency. They do not want to wait until the week before the game against the Cowboys to stop the downhill slide.

"Our window of time is closing very rapidly," cornerback Jason Wright said. "We have to up our pace about getting better and getting everything corrected."

The Browns have been banged up, and that is another contrast from last year. They stayed remarkable healthy throughout 2007. By contrast they faced the Lions minus seven starters, including safeties Brodney Pool (concussion) and Sean Jones (knee).

Quinn and Wright can say all they want about how the second unit should be able to step up and replace the starters, but there is no getting around the fact the Browns are not the same team without Anderson (29 touchdown passes last year), Edwards (16 touchdown catches) and Jamal Lewis (1,304 yards rushing, 11 touchdowns). Edwards was sidelined with a lacerated heel and Lewis with a pulled hamstring. Coach Romeo Crennel hopes all the injured, including return specialist Josh Cribbs (sprained ankle) will be back for the Cowboys, but there are no guarantees, and if they are cleared there is concern they might be rusty.

"When those guys come back, it's going to take some time to knock the rust off," Crennel said. "So it's not going to automatically happen that we're going to be back where we want to be. We're going to have to work at it to get back to that because nothing in the NFL is guaranteed."

COACHING: Romeo Crennel, fourth year, fourth with Browns (20-28).

REMEMBERING: 2007 record: 10-6 (2nd in AFC North). Missed playoffs because they lost tiebreakers to the Steelers and Titans.

PREDICTING: 2008 regular season record 9-7 (2nd in AFC North) miss playoffs again.

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: August 28, 2008

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Mike Adams Name: Mike Adams
Position: S
Age: 27
Experience: 5 years
College: Delaware
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