Tag:Hank Fraley
Posted on: May 27, 2009 5:12 pm
Edited on: May 27, 2009 6:26 pm

Browns Training Camp Battles

Several key position battles highlighted the beginning of organized team activity for the Cleveland Browns. New head coach Eric Mangini and his coaching staff have cleared the depth charts, eliminated bias, and promoted open competition at virtually every position. Drafted or undrafted, rookie or veteran, each player will have a chance to make an impact on the coaching staff and earn a spot on the roster.

Let the best man win.

While no roster spot is completely secure, some positions are more hotly contested than others. Here’s a look at the top 5 position battles heading into training camp.

5. Defensive end

In order to improve upon last year’s 28th rated rush defense, the Browns will need stout play along the defensive line from all 3 down linemen. Former Jets C.J. Mosley and Kenyon Coleman join Robaire Smith, Corey Williams, and Shaun Smith in a competition for the two end spots in Rex Ryan’s 3-4 defense.

Coleman and Mosley appear to be the odds on favorites due to their experience and success with Eric Mangini in New York. At 6’4, 320lbs, Corey Williams possesses the ideal bulk and strength for the position. He and Robaire Smith will need to prove themselves fully recovered from their season-ending surgeries to make a strong run at a starting position. Due to his confrontational demeanor, Shaun Smith has all but fallen out of this regime’s good graces. He will vie for a backup role with the team.

Projection : Kenyon Coleman and C.J. Mosley were part of a Jets rush defense which finished 7th overall in rush defense. Look for that experience to earn both players starting spots with the Browns this fall.

4. Wide receiver

Trading receiving threat Kellen Winslow to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers left the Browns shallow at an already thin position. Winslow’s size, hands, and toughness allowed the Browns to use the tight end as a receiver to create mismatches in the passing game. In light of Winslow's absence, Browns GM George Kokinis wasted little time in assembling a talented cast to help fill that void.

Braylon Edwards will continue to serve as the team’s primary receiver as he looks to regain his Pro Bowl form. Kokinis has turned to a pair of 2nd round receivers to step in alongside Edwards. Ohio State’s Brian Robiskie and Georgia’s Mohammed Massaquoi will compete for a starting position through training camp and the preseason. Both rookies have great size (6’3) and awareness to play split ends in Brian Daboll’s system. Newly acquired veterans Mike Furrey and David Patten will compete with Syndric Steptoe and Donte Stallworth for time in the slot. The ever-dangerous Josh Cribbs may see time as a receiver depending on where he best fits into the system.

Braylon Edwards will need some help if the Browns want to win in 2009.

Projection : It’s hard to imagine a scenario where Brian Robiskie doesn’t see immediate action on the field. His father, a receiver coach in the NFL, has worked with him and developed the OSU standout into one of the most polished receivers coming out of college. His size, route running, and intelligence should give him the nod over Massaquoi, who will provide the Browns with depth in his first year out of Georgia. Mike Furrey has made a name for himself as a slot receiver, so look for him to get the start in the slot.

3. Center

When Eric Mangini took over the Jets, the first move he made was to find a premiere left tackle to go along with a dominant center. That blueprint allowed Mangini to turn the then 4-12 Jets into a 10-6 playoff contender within one season. For the Browns to achieve similar success, Mangini will need a center to match up alongside Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas.

Incumbent Hank Fraley will try to fend off first round draft choice Alex Mack and hold on to his role as a starter. Fraley isn’t the dominant center he once was with the Eagles years ago, but he still possesses the intelligence to make all the calls up front. His three years in Cleveland have enabled the 10-year veteran to establish chemistry with the other offensive linemen – something that can not be taken for granted.

Projection : Eric Mangini and his coaching staff seem to value size and strength in offensive lineman. That bodes well for rookie Alex Mack, as he possesses the edge in both those departments. However, Mangini favors intelligence over strength, and Fraley’s experience in the AFC North should give him the edge heading into the regular season. He will start for the Browns.

2. Outside linebacker

Outside linebacker is said to be the most important position in the 3-4 defense. Defensive pressure created through a tenacious pass rush forces opposing offenses into mistakes and subsequently causes turnovers. The Cleveland Browns have struggled with this for years. In order for Rex Ryan’s defense to be successful, two outside linebackers will need to emerge as legitimate pass rushing specialists.

Eric Mangini brought David Bowens along with him from New York to compete for a starting spot. Bowens is a smart player with limited upside, but his presence ensures Cleveland will have solid play from at least one of the linebacker positions. Kamerion Wimbley has seen a drop-off in production, partially due to Mel Tucker’s defensive scheme and a suspect secondary play. Cornerbacks Eric Wright and Brandon McDonald have gained an additional year of starting experience. This should allow Rex Ryan the confidence to commit several linebackers to the quarterback and generate the pass rush this team sorely needs.

Projection : Kamieron Wimbley will likely start as the team’s weak side outside linebacker. Rookie David Veikune will compete with Bowens for the job, however it is unlikely either player will prevail. Second year player Alex Hall looks to be the favorite to start on the strong side. The physically imposing 7th round pick from St. Augustine’s has really impressed the coaching staff thus far. He has worked with the first team defense for the majority of OTAs, so don’t be surprised if he lines up for Cleveland on opening day.

1. Quarterback

The quarterback competition will undoubtedly determine how the Browns fare in 2009. Brady Quinn and Derek Anderson have much to prove to the new coaching staff. From here on out, every throw, decision, and read will be heavily scrutinized by offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, quarterback coach Carl Smith, and head coach Eric Mangini. At some point before the preseason, all three men will come together and decide which player is the best fit for the Cleveland Browns.

Derek Anderson's NFL experience should give him the edge over Brady Quinn.

Projection : When Eric Mangini evaluates a player during a press conference, he refers to what he saw when he coached against him as a member of the New York Jets. In 2007, Derek Anderson threw for two scores and led the Browns to victory over Mangini’s Jets. During the 2008 preseason, Anderson completed 4 of 5 passes and a touchdown against the Jets last season. Derek Anderson has more starting experienced than Brady Quinn, and in the end that will be the difference in the competition.

Posted on: October 17, 2008 11:57 am

Too Much Yellow for Browns

"Football is a game of errors. The team that makes the fewest errors in a game usually wins."
~Paul Brown

Take a minute to reflect on that statement by legendary Cleveland Browns football coach Paul Brown. The team that makes the fewest errors in a game usually wins. Brown's philosophy on professional football indicated that success is determined not by the good you achieve, but the bad you avoid.

If this is true, the 2008 Cleveland Browns have a very long way to go.

The current incarnation of the Browns is the sloppiest version we've seen in quite some time. The Browns have shot themselves in the foot a grand total of 47 times through week 6, making them the fourth most penalized team in all of football. When you look at the team since 2005, the figures are alarming:

  • 2005: 6.19 penalties per game (16 games)
  • 2006: 4.63 penalties per game (16 games)
  • 2007: 7.13 penalties per game (16 games)
  • 2008: 9.40 penalties per game (5 games)
To put that number in perspective, the Browns have run 283 plays from the line of scrimmage and committed 47 offensive penalties. That roughly amounts to 1 penalty for every 6 offensive plays!

In times of peril, it's natural for fans to look to the head coach to explain exactly what is going on.

"Crowd noise impacted [the penalties]," Coach Crennel said. "I think what we're going to do is get a bit more crowd noise [at practice] to solve that problem."

Crowd noise, Romeo? Is that the reason for all the false starts, holding, and illegal shifts we've seen to this point?

Perhaps looking at the head coach was a bad idea. Center and offensive co-captain Hank Fraley was asked why the Browns have had so many penalties through the first 5 games of the season.

"[Penalties] are just sometimes your lack of discipline," Fraley said. "You're so reved up to go, and you just move a tad early. These refs are good - they see you. Sometimes you get away with it and you see that a lot - people get away with it. If they happen to have the eye on you and you do flinch, they're going to get you."

Hank Fraley, back up for a second here. You mean to tell me penalties are just a lack of discipline? Why in the world is "getting away with it" something that has even crossed your mind?

Timout here.

What I'm hearing from members of the Cleveland Browns' organization is downright disturbing. Crowd noise and lack of discipline are in no way justifiable excuses for being penalized. Preparation and discipline are the two most fundamental parts of the football, and this team has been severely lacking in both areas for going on two years.

Romeo Crennel does not have to be a stonewalled disciplinarian to be an effective head coach. However, if he is unable to demonstrate his team can play with the two most basic football principles, something may need to be done.

This year's Browns team has done a good job proving doubters wrong. Looking forward to the week 7 matchup against the Redskins, we need to see a drastic improvement from this team if they want to consider themselves a legitimate contender. To the chagrin of Romeo Crennel, there WILL be crowd noise on Sunday, and the Browns need to be prepared to deal with it. To the chagrin on Hank Fraley, NFL officials WILL be watching them, so they need to execute and play sounds offensive football.

Penalties are similar to studying for a test. Generally speaking, the more you study, the better you will do on the exam. The Browns have the feel of a team who refuses to study, but excuses it because they managed to ace their last test. Sooner or later it is going to catch up with you, and if this is not addressed soon, I fear the worst for this team.
Posted on: September 4, 2008 10:35 am

Cleveland Browns Name Team Captains

The Cleveland Browns named six team captains for the 2008 season yesterday, according to Clevelandbrowns.com.

Two captains were named for each football team. Here they are along with my thoughts on the nominations...

  • QB Derek Anderson: This one is almost cliche. If you don't name your quarterback a captain of your team, what message are you sending to your signal caller and your team in general? Anderson's play last year and importance to this year justify his captain status.
  • C Hank Fraley: Fraley is the capain of the trenches. Hank is responsible for making all of the protection calls for the offensive line - an essential task to a successful offense. Seeing as how the Browns are an offensive-based football team, I like this pick as captain.
  • LOLB Willie McGinest: McGinest is the oldest member of the Browns with the most experience - so I have no problem with naming him a captain. I'm curious to see how McGinest impacts this team in '08. While he clearly isn't the every down player he was in New England, I hope he at least proves serviceable.
  • MLB Andra Davis: He's been here the longest, so this nomination makes sense. Davis has been the lone bright spot on a below average defense for the past 4 years. I'm glad that he gets a chance to play on a contender before his time in Cleveland comes to an end.
Special Teams
  • K Phil Dawson: You win and lose games with kickers and we have a good one. I'm glad that Dawson is a team captain again - especially after the clutch kicks in Baltimore and Seattle.
  • KR/WR Josh Cribbs: Cribbs was easily the MVP of our special teams unit last year. His contributions on kick returns AND kickoffs are a big reason why '07 was a great year.
Any time there is an fan-based award, there are "snubs." For the sake of simplicity, I'll list two.

Braylon Edwards
It's hard to lead a football team from the wide receiver position; however if anyone could do it, Braylon Edwards is your guy. Edwards has grown and developed from the arrogant 3rd overall pick from Michigan. He has turned into a playmaker, a top 10 receiver, and a vocal team leader on and off the field. I would think that his passion and energy would make him a great fit to hold the prestegious "Captains C," but the fans must have thought otherwise.

Sean Jones
This one has more to do with the future of the team moreso than anything else. Jones has a contract situation coming up next year. From a logical standpoint, it would make sense to name him a defensive team captain for the sake of negotiations. I'd be willing to bet that it would be harder for Sean Jones to walk away from the Browns after he performed well as the defensive leader of this team. NFL players (especially defensive backs) seem to have HUGE egos. Give him a leadership role, let him be recognized as a prominent figure on this defense, and hope that would generate at least a touch of guilt about walking away for money and playing elsewhere.

Closing thoughts: Now that Cribbs has garnered captain status, could we finally see him referred to as "Captain Cribbs?" Joshua doesn't have a nickname and with his bright personality and dynamic skills, it's almost a tragedy. I remember an interview he did after a 99 yard near touchdown run against Pittsburgh where he described the run as "happening in slow motion" in an almost superhero-like way. Captain Cribbs...I hope it catches on.

If anything, Cleveland fans could use a new "CC" to replace the old one we lost.

I miss you CC. Come back to us.
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com