Camp Day 1: Thoughts on the QB “Competition”

The Browns took the field for the first full team practice today and Brandon Weeden was reportedly awful. I’ve been thinking on this for a while, and figured it would be a good point of discussion…what if the .1% probability happens and Colt McCoy wins the starting job?  Well, Weeden’s shaky first day, coupled with a bit better day by McCoy sent the gears a churnin.

Is it truly a tragedy if Brandon Weeden is a bust if it causes Colt McCoy to elevate his game as a starter? As Brown’s fans, we have long forgotten what the benefits are when your team has a talent laden roster. Certainly, the ability to compensate for injuries is the first thing to come to mind.  But competition is the less evident but perhaps more important side effect.  When the “ones” are facing a much more competitive group of “twos”, the quality and impact of practices increase. More importantly, when someone is breathing down your neck to take your job, it is a primitive instinct that makes that fire burn a little hotter.  So if Tom Heckert’s purpose at pick 22 was to grab a quarterback who can win some games in the playoffs, it really shouldn’t matter whether it be Weeden or McCoy…if Weeden is the driving force behind McCoy’s improvement, the pick is not wasted. I’m betting 7 out of 10 browns fans would disagree with me, but I’m not about splitting hairs, just give me a quarterback that can win for us, I don’t care who it is. Colt is younger, can avoid pressure better and wins with Colt starting count the same as for Weeden.

Even Colts detractors must concede that last year was not a fair assessment of what McCoy brings to the table. Sure, his arm strength leaves a lot to be desired, but without a running game and with a less than mediocre right side of the offensive line, his strengths, accuracy and intangibles, weren’t ever given a chance to flourish. He was thrust into a new, more complicated offense without an offseason. Finally, factor in that his top two receivers were a rookie who hadn’t played football in a year and a special teamer, and it’s fair to say the deck was stacked against him. Long story short, 2011 Colt McCoy is not the best version of Colt McCoy.

I’m not saying McCoy should or will win out, he probably won’t. I also think if Weeden is the quarterback Heckert and Holmgren have projected, he will be better than McCoy ever could be. But if that slim chance that he does take the reigns comes reality, then I’m not asking why Tom Heckert drafted a bust at #22, I’m hoping that pick made Colt McCoy a franchise caliber QB.

-JW


Browns Offense Will be Better Thanks to Rookies

Yesterday, Browns rookies reported to camp, and hope has yet again proven to spring eternal in the local media.  GM Tom Heckert’s prized draftee’s (and some non-draftee’s) were on display as the countdown to the 2012 NFL season hits another milestone. This got me to thinking about Heckert’s strategy in this the latest Cleveland Brown rebuild.

Heckert was cautious and slow in taking two drafts to rebuild the front and back of the defense, using a first and second rounder on both the line and secondary. Perhaps inspired by an additional first round pick this year, Heckert seems to have gone for broke on offense. He went so far as to concede a 2013 second rounder to acquire the services of Josh Gordon in the supplemental draft, getting the talent a “year early” so to speak. In total, two first rounders, two second rounders and a fourth round pick were used, with all but one coming at the skill positions.  This strategy doesn’t necessarily reek of desperation, but it does concede that last year was unacceptable, thus the complete facelift. Lets take a look first at what Heckert grabbed, and then at what his thought process could have been:

Trent Richardson: As close to a sure thing as Clevelanders are are willing to admit. Richardson will immediately come in and fill a significant role on offense. Let’s be honest for a second here, record notwithstanding, the 2010 Browns were better than the 2011 version for one reason…2010 Peyton Hillis was far better than his 2011 namesake.  If Richardson can give a 1,000 on the ground and 40 receptions, it will give our rookie QB more time in the pocket and more short yardage situations, just as HIllis did for his rookie QB in 2010.

Brandon Weeden: Selected 22nd, the same as Brady Quinn, Weeden is destined for…oops! While many fans believe Weeden was drafted too high, the fact is Heckert lost his ideal choice at 22, Kendall Wright, to Tennessee two picks prior, and went with his next best option. While he may have lasted a bit longer, I can believe that a quarterback hungry team would trade up for a guy with top 10 talent prior to the Browns next selection at 37, so I’m OK with the pick.  Bottom line, the guy has a top 10 arm which is certainly mitigated by his age, but I’ll take it at 22.

Mitchell Schwartz:  Please be Ryan Tucker, please be Ryan Tucker, please be Ryan Tucker.  One would find it tough to argue against Schwartz at #37 if he could play at Tucker’s best level for the next 10 years. Love the pick, although it was likely made possible only by missing out on Wright at 22, as #37 and other picks would have been used to move up and acquire Weeden, and Schwartz wasn’t getting much further down in the draft. The offensive line could be very good.

Josh Gordon:  Hopefully this pick will amount to a low second rounder, both in terms of value and the Browns 2012 record. I must say I love this pick too. Heckert really seems to shine in the second round, even with Montario Hardesty on his record. TJ Ward, Jabaal Sheard, Greg Little and now Schwartz and Gordon, I will take that package any day even if it means Hardesty comes with it. The first rounds are a must to get right, but contenders really separate themselves in rounds 2 and 3. Gordon has all the tangibles including….gasp….a set of soft hands! Haven’t seen a set of those in Cleveland since Evil Knieval #80 left town. Is he a risk? Yes, but whether injury or off field issues, prior to this year, all 4 of Heckert’s second rounders have had red flags, and he has delivered on all but one. Have a little faith in this one.

Travis Benjamin: Strength hurts, speed kills, but when you weigh 175 lbs in the NFL and your role doesn’t involve using your foot, you are at a distinct disadvantage. Some fans are getting really excited about this guy thanks to his sub 4.4 speed, but he’s a fourth rounder for a reason. Probably closer to a project than a contributor on day one, the pick addresses an overall lack of speed and helps with depth at receiver.

So what did Heckert do here? I honestly think he addressed need instead of best available, but that’s what happens when the best available in prior drafts pan out and you have young proven talent at certain positions. The Browns had needs at some spots, so Heckert went for it. Perhaps this is nothing but a strategy of saying “Our offense was awful, we need to fix it,” then playing a numbers game by throwing some picks against a wall and seeing what sticks.  Weeden being a quarterback is a must hit for contention, but for simple offensive improvement, he doesn’t need to be a Heckert home run. If Gordon or Benjamin surfaces and offers a realistic 40+ catches, then it will rest solely on the shoulders of Greg Little to be a #1 receiver and our wr group would take a huge step towards respectability. Factor in the assumption Heckert is right on the two “safe” picks in Richardson and Schwartz, and he has already greatly improved the offense.

JW


Hello Cleveland Fans!

Please bear with me, as I got a little cocky and thought I could whip me up some bloggin’ real quick like…whoops! Apparently it’s not as simple to put together as an Ikea end table, so I’ll actually have to review some instructions here first. That said, my intent is to ultimately deliver Cleveland fans with some fresh insight on our beloved yet beleaguered and beaten down teams, with a strong bias towards the Browns and Cavs. So again, please be patient, some good content is heading your way really soon, and, as always, Pittsburgh sucks!


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