Passan's Training Camp Observations
Rich Passan

Posted Aug 6, 2009


Fresh off a trip back "home", our decrepit curmudgeon gives his thoughts on the first four days of camp -- including a surprising prediction as to who will be under center come September.

 

Brady Quinn will be the Browns’ starting quarterback in the season opener against the Minnesota Vikings Sept. 13.

Despite the protestations of coach Eric Mangini, the job is Quinn’s to lose. He’s got to be bloody awful in the exhibition games to lose it. And that’s not going to happen.

No matter how well Derek Anderson plays in the four meaningless games, No. 10 will be under center against the Vikings. He was a first-round draft choice, labeled the club’s future franchise quarterback and it’s time to display his wares. The future is now. The club needs to know now if Quinn is the man.

In the early going at training camp, both quarterbacks displayed inconsistency, but that could be attributed to a month’s layoff. They’ll hone their games as the exhibitions approach.

The best quarterback, unfortunately, is a combination of the two. Too bad Quinn doesn’t have Anderson’s rocket arm and gunslinger mentality and Anderson doesn’t have Quinn’s feel for the game, cerebral acumen and touch in the short game. . . .

Alex Mack will be that center who snaps the ball to Quinn against the Vikings. The Browns didn’t draft him in the first round to sit on the bench or play guard. He’s a center and despite the games the coaching staff is playing with the various line combinations in camp, Mack starts at the pivot.

So what does that mean for Hank Fraley? Depends on whether the Browns feel they need the veteran center to mentor the rookie. If the kid is a quick learner, Fraley is gone. He’s given the club three relatively solid seasons. . . .

Could the pressure be getting to Anderson? When asked what his major problems were last season, he turned testy. “Not talking about last year,” he answered tersely. What’s gone is gone then? “Not talking about it,” he said. “We’re here to start this season and we had a good day to start our season.” Could he handle being the backup to Quinn? “My role is to be determined and I’ll embrace whatever it is,” he said. . . .

Some people might not know that Anderson is ambidextrous. Signs autographs with his left hand. One media member said Anderson throws a pretty good pass left-handed, too. No jokes please. . . .

Didn’t take long for the Browns to start hitting. First hour of the first practice, to be exact. Last season, the first four days yielded no hitting. Could this be a sign that tackling this season will be a lot crisper than at any time during the Romeo Crennel regime? There’s nothing wrong with playing the game fundamentally right.  . . .

The second day saw one-on-one open-field tackling with decidedly mixed results. Why in the world didn’t Crennel stress this part of the game in practice when it was blatantly obvious the Browns’ defense was one of the worst in the National Football League when it came to that aspect of the game? . . .

Sort of disappointed that no fights broke out in the first four sessions. With all the hitting Mangini has prescribed, it should just have been a matter of time before fists flew. Tempers, however, were held in check. For the time being. It’s just a matter of time before someone loses it. . . .

Many differences between a Mangini camp and a Crennel camp. No standing around idly with Mangini. There’s always something happening. Whether it’s position drills or situational drills, there’s no time lost. The laid-back atmosphere of the Crennel days is gone. . . .

And right in the middle of it is Mangini, walking slowly, almost stoically, from group to group, hands on hips. Just making certain everything is happening as planned. . . .

Several officials on hand at the first practice. Can’t remember when I saw the zebras show up so early at training camp. And they just weren’t standing around. They flagged penalties. It’s obvious Mangini means business. . . .

Screw up and you run a lap. Or in Shaun Rogers’ case, creep a lap. The huge defensive tackle messed up the first day and did a lap so slowly, it had to be timed with a sundial. He looked like someone power walking in super slow motion. Funny sight. . . .

Cornerback Eric Wright is called for interference in Sunday’s practice and tries to lobby the official who flagged him. As Wright begins his lap, he passes the official and probably says something like “this is your fault.” . . . .

Interesting drill with the defensive backs working against a single tackling dummy with a football placed atop it. The idea is to tackle the dummy, jar the ball loose and take the dummy to the ground. Then each man had to recover and go after the ball. As each man went through the routine, secondary coach Jerome Henderson barked, “Keep those feet moving. Keep those feet moving. Don’t stop. Don’t stop.”

Another interesting drill had linebackers and defensive backs running a gauntlet and at the end slap away the football, held by a ballboy, with a raking motion. The ball is attached to a bungee-type cord.  Situational football. Thinking of everything. . . .

The fence on the west side of the field has been raised, blocking the view for houses behind them. Maybe Mangini thinks NFL spies live in those houses. . . .

For the first time in memory, music cuts through the Berea air randomly during practices. And with a sound system that would fit right in at a rock concert, it is LOUD. It begins and ends with no rhyme or reason. The play list ranges from hip-hop to hard rock to country to soft rock to rap. No classical, smooth jazz or Frank Sinatra.

It appears as though Mangini is trying to simulate the noise level at enemy stadiums during games and wants his players to get used to the noise so they can operate efficiently. Seems to me recording crowd noise and amplifying it would be a better way since music is not blasted during play. . . .

Unlike last season’s training camp, when the fans were boisterous, fans early on were more reserved, applauding politely after each session. No “Super Bowl” shout-outs this season. . . .

Why do I get the feeling Eric Steinbach will open at left guard despite the coaching staff moving him to left tackle on the second team?  . . .

Mangini’s love of versatility among his offensive linemen is mindful of Eric Wedge’s love of player versatility with the Indians. A bad omen? The only constant on the offensive line is Joe Thomas at left tackle. . . .

John St. Clair has taken the lead for the starting offensive right tackle spot. He’s quicker than George Foster and a better pass blocker. Right now, it’s his job to lose with Ryan Tucker looking good at right guard, although Pork Chop Womack is getting a long look.  . . .

Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan appears to be very hands on with his men. He knows what he wants and makes certain they know what he wants. . . .

Was that really Cleveland weather in early August? Low to mid-80s with virtually no humidity and light breezes? Nah. Couldn’t have been.


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