Rich's Rant: I'll Believe It When...
Browns RB Jerome Harrison
OBR Columnist
Posted Jun 16, 2009


What? Rich Passan is a tad skeptical of some of the stories emerging from the Cleveland Browns mini-camp? Say it isn't so! Regardless, Rich turns his practiced eye to several stories and says "I'll believe it when I see it...."

 

From the department of I’ll believe it when I see it . . .

Jerome Harrison will see much more playing time under coach Eric Mangini and could shoulder the majority of the workload.

A lot of Browns fans ache to see that eventuate. Those are the same fans who wondered as loudly as they could on this Web site the last two seasons why Romeo Crennel tethered the running back to the bench.

Whenever Harrison was called on, he responded positively and was rewarded with more bench time, puzzling fans and the media. Crennel explained that Harrison wasn’t good enough to contribute on special teams and was a liability on pass plays, offering little or no blocking resistance for the quarterback.

That, of course, is something with which Mangini will not put up. So unless Harrison has miraculously learned the intricacies of picking up the blitz, his talents as a runner might land him right back where he was the last two seasons.

Then again, a slow start by Jamal Lewis in an attack that will feature the ground game could prompt an early move by Mangini. That situation bears close scrutiny and . . .

I’ll believe it when I see it . . .

Eric Steinbach very well could start at offensive right tackle and has been asked to put on some more weight.

The latter I can buy, but not the former. Mangini is smart enough to realize you don’t weaken one position in an effort to strengthen another. Moving an incipient Pro Bowl player to a position he has never played in the National Football League would be counterproductive.

Steinbach is a guard, more specifically a left guard. He and left tackle Joe Thomas are not the problem with the offensive line. To break them up would be a huge mistake.

The right side of the line clearly needs fixing, but not at the expense of messing with the left side. Besides, Steinbach is not strong enough or quick enough to handle defensive ends rushing from the strong side.

When all the pieces and parts have been fiddled with by the coaching staff, Steinbach will wind up back where he belongs. To the right of Thomas, not right tackle. Thus . . .

I’ll believe it when I see it . . .

Ryan Tucker will play somewhere along the offensive line this season. If it’s anywhere but right guard, hold your collective breaths.

At 34, the big Texan is no longer the player he was several years ago and his ability to remain healthy enough to contribute is in question. He cannot be relied on anymore to line up and play 16 games in a season.

It’s no coincidence that the Browns’ best game offensively last season was the where-did-that-come-from upset of the New York Giants in week 6. But that happened to be the only game Tucker played last season. It was at right guard, his best position.

And when Tucker took over for Seth McKinney at right guard midway though the 2007 season, the Cleveland offense didn’t miss a beat.

However, he is no longer quick enough to be effective at right tackle against quicker defensive ends. He is much more useful inside as a mauler for the running game. And we are being led to believe that aspect of the offense will be stressed more this season than in recent memory. But he needs to show up for every game. So . . .

I’ll believe it when I see it . . .

Joshua Cribbs could see some playing time in the secondary. That’s a puzzler even though the spectacular return specialist has the athleticism to pull it off.

Why would Mangini or defensive coordinator Rob Ryan consider placing a man who has played offense throughout his career on the opposite side of the ball? Sure, it’s been done before, most notably by Mangini when he was the defensive coordinator in New England and the Patriots’ secondary was racked with injuries.

But this is different. There are no injuries in the Browns’ secondary and the club either drafted or hit the free-agent market to bolster that part of the defense.

The club now lists 13 defensive backs on the training-camp roster and all of them have played nothing but the secondary. Why would the Browns consider playing Cribbs, who has no experience back there?

His conversion to wide receiver has been an abject failure. But he remains as one of the NFL’s premier return specialists and his reputation as a gunner on return units has gained him league-wide praise in that role.

Why not just leave him alone and be one of the best in those aspects of the game? You can spread a guy just so thin. However . . .

I’ll believe it when I see it . . .

Rob Ryan will bring a whole new approach to the defense this season. After watching the Browns play such conservative football on defense the last four seasons, this could be the most exciting news this season.

Unless, of course, it’s nothing more than lip service.

That style of football flies in the face of a more conservative bent by Mangini. If the head coach allows his defensive coordinator to be daring and different, allows him to occasionally push the envelope, allows him to take the Cleveland defense to brand new levels of aggression, then maybe, just maybe, Browns fans will see what real football is about.

It’s been too long since a Cleveland team played with reckless abandon on defense. Instead of putting relentless pressure on the opposition and forcing mistakes, the Browns have tried to play fundamentally sound football on that side of the ball under Crennel. It clearly hasn’t worked.

The best bet Browns fans can hope for is that Ryan has brought some of the family football DNA to Cleveland and we’ll see some of the attitude and swagger this defense needs to succeed. But . . .

I’ll believe it when I see it . . .

Kamerion Wimbley will play a larger role in the defense this season. At least that’s what the Browns are saying.

“Kamerion has done a lot of positive things at outside linebacker already in his career,” said Mangini. “We’ve been having him work at both sides and in other different roles because the more versatile he is, the more we can give him.”

Unless Ryan and his defensive staff gets extremely creative and plays “where’s Kamerion?” with opposing offenses, that versatility won’t mean a thing.

I’ll believe it when I see it . . .


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