BEREA - Whether they were named to the Pro Bowl or as first alternates, the Browns know much of their success this season can be traced to the additions of Joe Thomas and Eric Steinbach. Those two have solidified the left side of the line and have helped to produce a 1,000 yard rusher, two potential 1000 yard receivers and a 3,000-yard passer.
“I’m surprised Steinbach and Thomas didn’t make it,” Jamal Lewis said. “Those two guys have meant a lot to us. Both of those together are a great duo.”
Besides helping pave the way for Lewis to rush for 1,084 yards and nine touchdowns, the line has been very important to the passing game. Braylon Edwards was just named to his first Pro Bowl as he has 69 receptions for 1,170 yards, including 13 touchdowns. Kellen Winslow needs just 29 yards receiving to give the Browns their first duo of 1,000 yard receivers to go along with a 1,000 yard rusher.
Derek Anderson has 3,384 yards passing with 26 touchdowns. The key is he’s only been sacked 12 times.
As a team, the line has allowed just 17 sacks, which is tied for the second lowest total in the NFL. The Browns are currently tied with the Patriots and trail only the Saints, who have given up just 12 sacks. Since the Browns returned to the NFL in 1999, the next best seasonal mark was 35 sacks in 2002.
“The offensive line has just been terrific,” Anderson said.
What is more remarkable is the fact the Browns gave up six sacks in their season opener to the Steelers. Charlie Frye was sacked five times and then Anderson was sacked once in the game. Since Anderson has taken over as the starter, the line has given up just 11 sacks in the next 13 games.
“The whole line has meshed well,” Winslow said. “They have given up one of the least amount of sacks in the NFL.”
Steinbach came in as a prized unrestricted free agent from the Bengals and has impressed his coach.
“He’s done a great job for us and has helped us solidify the offensive line,” Romeo Crennel said. “He along with Joe (Thomas) has helped the left side.”
Crennel thinks he has helped in Thomas’ development.
“They have good interaction,” Crennel said. “They have worked well together and generally, offensive linemen get along.”
Crennel said he thinks both Steinbach and Thomas could be Pro Bowl players.
“They are good players for us,” he said. “Hopefully, they’ll be rewarded at some point, but the biggest reward would be helping us to have a winning season and play well.”
Hank Fraley said the line has knitted together well from the beginning.
“Other than Joe, we’re a veteran group,” he said. “We’re communicating and playing well. The trust is there and that helps.”
Fraley says Steinbach has brought a presence to the Browns.
“The way he comes out and plays,” Fraley said. “He just goes out and plays well. He’s a hard working guy, who prepares well.”
Fraley thinks both Thomas and Steinbach could’ve been voted to the Pro Bowl.
“They could’ve been voted in,” he said. “They’re playing well together.”
Shoot Out in Cincy: Most people were taken by surprise when the Browns and the Bengals engaged in a 51-45 shootout in week two of the season. The Bengals are known for their firepower, but up until that time the Browns had not been.
“In the first game, what I was happy with was we were able to score whenever we needed to keep the lead,” Crennel said.
The Bengals still have an explosive offense with QB Carson Palmer, WR Chad Johnson, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Rudi Johnson and Kenny Watson.
“I know they are a dangerous team because of the weapons they have,” Crennel said. “They seem to match up pretty well against us. We’re expecting their best.”
The Bengals have added WR Chris Henry, who was under suspension the last time the Browns played the Bengals.
“He’s a speed receiver and we can’t let him get behind us,” Crennel said.
Crennel said he’s alright with a shoot out.
“If it turns into a shoot out, as long as we win, I’m fine with that.”
RAC on Pro Bowlers: WR Braylon Edwards and KR Joshua Cribbs were named to the Pro Bowl. It was the first time a Browns player has achieved the honor since LB Jamir Miller did so in 2001. Besides the pair, QB Derek Anderson, LG Eric Steinbach, LT Joe Thomas and TE Kellen Winslow were named first alternates. FB Lawrence Vickers was a second alternate and K Phil Dawson was third alternate.
Crennel said he acknowledged the Pro Bowl recipients in a team meeting on Wednesday morning.
“This morning, we congratulated the Pro Bowl winners,” Crennel said. “I think it’s from support from their teammates and the team. We’re proud of all of those guys and the first alternates as well. It’s a result of playing good and working hard.”
WR Braylon Edwards was very appreciative of accomplishing a personal goal.
“I’m happy,” he said. “It means a lot to me because I’ve dreamed of this day. The team has been very supportive of me.”
TE Kellen Winslow was selected as an alternate, but understood the results.
“I knew it would happen,” he said. “(Tony Gonzalez) is a Hall of Famer and (Antonio) Gates. Making the Pro Bowl was an individual goal of mine, but I know my time will come.”
Crennel said he reminded the team of the task at hand.
“I reminded them that it doesn’t do any good to think about Hawaii and the palm trees because it’s going to be cold in Cincinnati on Sunday.”
Banged up D: Crennel said that four players, all on the defense, will not practice on Wednesday. Those are LB Antwan Peek, DL Orpheus Roye, DL Robaire Smith and DL Shaun Smith (back). Crennel is hopeful all might be able to play against the Bengals.