The Cleveland Browns first training camp practice open to fans is Saturday, July 28. Finally, after months of rehashing another losing season and debating possible free agency signees and draft picks, the attention turns to the 2012 season.
As evident by the discussion on theOBR forums, there are plenty of areas to discuss about a young Browns team full of potential. The staff at theOBR zeroed in on five questions relevant to this year's squad:
1. Are you happy with the job Tom Heckert has done since becoming GM in January 2010? Read the guys' takes here.
2. Which area of this team do you think is the most improved since the end of the 2011 season, and which area needs the most work entering 2012? Read the guys' takes here.
3. What will you be looking for in the first few weeks of camp leading into the Browns' preseason opener Friday, Aug. 10 at Detroit? Read the guys' takes here.
4. Last season, the Browns defense allowed an NFL fifth-best 19.2 points per game. Yet they were third-worst against the run allowing 147.4 yards per game. Well, are you glass-half full with this defense or is it just more of the same? Read the guys' takes here.
5. Is it too simplistic to say that the only way to win in today's NFL is to have a top-tier quarterback? Will Brandon Weeden be that guy or is it more likely he'll join the long list of never-have-beens?
Join the fellas by providing your take in the comments below.
Finally, question No. 5.
Is it too simplistic to say that the only way to win in today's NFL is to have a top-tier quarterback? Will Brandon Weeden be that guy or is it more likely he'll join the long list of never-have-beens?
I suspect that the answer is in the middle, where Weeden's limited time in the NFL will reveal a Grade B quarterback. That's just a guess (see "not smart", above), since we need to see him in action against professional competition, of course. But I have long-standing worries about the level of defensive backfield competition he faced in college, as well as his ability to withstand the fierce rush that will be generated by our AFC North opponents. I stand ready to be pleasantly surprised, but am not expecting Weeden to emerge as one of the league's top 10, or even top 15 quarterbacks.
The NFL is a QB driven league, especially due to the rules established against the passer and receivers. Teams that display the ability to move the ball through the air and score generally win the battle on the scoreboard.
In Cleveland the realization was acknowledged the team did not have the tools in place to effectively move the ball, execute and control the time of possession. While the Browns have added numerous pieces to stretch the field and execute, the additional of a RT and RB will help the offense immensely.
These pieces added (RB, WR, RT) will provide rookie QB Brandon Weeden the opportunity to be successful early and often. The Browns love his make-up and big-arm potential, all missing in past years in Cleveland.
Until Weeden gets and proves he can deliver the goods, only speculation can suffice about his potential. Weeden certainly has the arm strength and mentality you like to see in a QB, he reportedly has the leadership qualities a team would desire.
Training camp will be interesting to say the least. Will head coach Pat Shurmur display confidence in the rookie QB to change the culture of the Browns offense? Can Brandon Weeden step in from the college ranks and lead a Cleveland team desperate to win?
I suppose all we can do is watch the festivities.
Now, get the young man on the field and see what he can do.
There's no question a top flight quarterback is very important, but teams have shown with a great defense and an efficient offense they can be effective, as in the 2011 49ers.
Weeden will have a learning curve and I think he will show he has the arm and temperament to hande the job, but it will all come down to how he picks up the offense and is able to handle the quick decisions he has to make with NFL defenses. He will benefit from having weapons that Colt McCoy did not have, starting with a running game led by Trent Richardson.
It's obvious that today's NFL is designed to reward passing teams. From Ty Law-era changes in cornerback contact to last year's crackdown on James Harrison-over the middle blowups, the NFL's best teams are those who exploit the league's current landscape. There's a reason why slot receivers like Victor Cruz and Wes Welker now put up video game stats – and why defenses have to play three cornerbacks on 70 percent of downs.
So in answering the question – then yes, having a top-tier quarterback certainly helps teams to win. However, also having a progressive head coach, competent offensive line, strong pass rush and secondary depth also factor into winning.
As for Weeden, anyone who answers the top-tier question in mid-July hasn't been paying attention to the Browns over the past decade. With the slight exception of Derek Anderson in 2007, the expansion Browns have not provided an adequate structure for a quarterback to exceed. It is impossible to predict success before Weeden has even signed his rookie contract – let alone before he takes a regular season snap.
The NFL has become glorified flag football and the lynchpin to any good flag football and professional tackle football team is the quarterback.
Before the Browns can get excited about anything else, the quarterback question must be resolved.
Weeden, for the first time since 1999, embodies everything this team needs in a quarterback. Strong arm. Accurate. Winner. He had all those in college. It doesn't necessarily translate into the NFL, but I'll take those traits over quarterbacks who grew up Browns fans (Quinn, Frye), one who is wildly inaccurate but can throw it a country mile (Anderson), a first-overall pick with questionable arm strength (Couch) or a crafty veteran free agent who is past his prime (Dilfer, Delhomme).