Today is a wierd day. The Tribe lost in a pretty awful fashion so I'm basically avoiding all sorts of online media that would have a picture of Josh Beckett on the front page. I just don't want to relive that pain. However, I'm not really all that down, quite the contrary. We still have Fausto gunnin' tomorrow, that's always a good thing. Plus my beloved Brownies are playing some great football going into the bye week and I wanted to take a break from my baseball obsession to properly reflect on this success.
I'm going to break down the Offense and Return units in this section, and later today I'll do a post about the Defense and rest of the special teams.
Quarterback: Derek Anderson has been a surprise. A real fucking awesome surprise. Going into this season the only thing you could hear was, "Brady," the babyfaced 1st round pick which the hopes of the franchise sat. The chorus got louder as the preseason rolled along with Brady making a bunch of solid showings and making some great throws. Brady is obviously the future, but the present was left to the pu-pu platter of Charlie Frye and Derek Anderson. The opening game against Pittsburgh was rough, and it was clear to everyone (even Phil Savage, finally, fucking retard) that Charlie Frye is not an NFL quarterback. He can't make short or long throws and either holds the ball too long in the pocket, taking a sack, or bails on a play too soon and runs for a minimal gain.
Needless to say, the last 5 games have been a different story. It's amazing what a team with two top-10 draft pick playmakers can do with someone who can get them the ball quickly and that's the thing, DA is not a great QB by any stretch of the imagination but he gets the ball where it needs to be much faster. Despite shredding Miami's D, he's not overly accurate and tends to try and force things into tight spaces. Sometimes, like on Braylon's 2nd TD against Miami, it works, other times, like the Pats and Raiders games, it fails miserably. But those are mistakes I'm willing to accept for an aggressive gameplan that fits our team perfectly. DA has a cannon for an arm and the vertical stretch of the offense is really opening up the gameplan and it's really hard to stop. DA has been the surprise of the year and this could not be any better a situation for the Browns to be in moving forward. Grade: B+
Running Backs: Jamal Lewis has been nice, some good stuff, some frustrating stuff. Truth be told, I don't think he comes back next year (I think the Browns will go aggressively after Michael Turner from San Diego). However, he is the perfect back for this offense, a massive bruiser who defenses hate tackling. He's missed some time but after the Bye, I wouldn't be surprised to see Jamal run off a string of 100 yard games. The Browns are stretching the field and defenses aren't going to want to give up huge chunks of yards through the air and Jamal will have opportunities to make some plays. His game against Cincy was a thing of beauty and exemplifies this strategy, burn 'em deep, batter them later. Jason Wright is a solid backup and Jerome Harrison really played well against Miami so there's some optimism. Grade: C+
Recievers/TE's: Braylon and Lt. Winslow. Defenses are fucked. Braylon is turning into a hybrid of Plaxico Burress and Hines Ward, easily one of the top-5 WR's this year. Around the goal line, you're helpless, he can jump through the roof or just physically dominate and will the reception into his hands. Braylon is also one of the most dangerous deep threats in the game, his unreal speed for someone his size gives CB's nightmares. Even more important, he's opening up the field for Joe J. and even Tim Carter, evidenced by Joe getting a bunch of TD's this year and DA's incredible numbers.
K2 is easily the 2nd best TE in the game, I mean Antonio Gates is still the man, but honestly, K2 is in another realm. He's not going to be your Steve Heiden blocking and receptions in the flat TE, no, he's going to eviscerate the middle of the field. Safety help is one of the hardest things to plan for when facing the Browns now and K2 is benefiting from the confusion that Chud's gameplans are forcing on opponents. There isn't a better TE in the game running a seam pattern up the middle, splitting safeties in Cover 2 and just burning slower LB's and dominating smaller CB's. As important as Braylon is to the offense, its Kellen that makes it run. He is a mismatch all over the field, a bigger version of Anquan Boldin. After the catch, he is demonically nasty, looking for contact and just demanding the extra yards. All you need to know about how good Braylon and Lt. Winslow is in YPC. Braylon averages a lovely 19.0 ypc, definately upper tier but Lt. Winslow gets 17.4 ypc, for a tight end, on 29 catches. Read his numbers again. 29 catches for an average of 17.4 yards per reception. He plays TE. That is a historic number and it shows no signs of slowing down. When you have a TE who can do that, your offense is almost impossible to stop (if you have a QB who doesn't kill you with interceptions. I'm not knocking DA here, but with better decision making, the Browns would have beaten the Pats and Raiders). Grade: A
Offensive Line: Joe Thomas, you are my new favorite player. Eric Steinbach, I want to get hammered and drive your boat (drive boat? is that right?). The line is unreal this year, opening day nonewithstanding. When LeCharles comes back, we have depth and versatility with Tucker, LeCharles, and McKinney all being able to play mulitple positions along the line. With more time, DA has been able to find recievers and the runners have been able to get huge chunks of yards. This is easily the most improved unit on the field and it has been paying dividends all season long. With performances this good, the Browns have a chance to beat anyone and I can't remember the last time a Browns QB just sat in the pocket comfortably on the majority of offensive plays. This is a great thing to see. As awesome as Brady Quinn is, it's easy to forget that Joe Thomas was the marquee draft pick this year, and from the looks of it, he's going to be a perennial Pro Bowler for the next decade. His athleticism and technique leave nothing to be desired, and the more he learns how to play in the NFL, the better he'll get. Football Outsiders mentioned that while Adrian Peterson might be the best draft pick this year, later down the road, Joe Thomas looks like the guy who will be the best player. Grade: B+
Returners: This is really just for Josh Cribbs. The offense is explosive, yes, but what if we weren't starting every series past our own 35? A shorter field means it's easier to score, and Josh Cribbs is fucking tearing it up. Outside of Devin Hester, there isn't a better return man in the league, and just because Cribbs is no. 2, that's hardly a slight seeing as Hester looks like he'll go down as the greatest returner of all time. Cribbs routinely gives the offense a short field and it has been paying off all year. Teams are downright frightened by this guy. Josh is crazy, he just flies down the field at full speed, finding seams in the blocking and it must absolutely suck to try and tackle him. Fucking A. Grade: A
Overall Grade: A-
Possible Pro Bowlers: Joe Thomas, Kellen Winslow, Braylon Edwards, Derek Anderson, Josh Cribbs, Eric Steinbach
Biggest Surprise: Derek Anderson
Biggest Disappointment: Travis Wilson, you gotta come through at some point dude...
Offensive MVP: Kellen Winslow (case could be made for Joe Thomas, Braylon and DA)