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Browns Team Report


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Browns Team Report

Yahoo! Sports

13 hours, 46 minutes ago




During training camp and preseason, Jake Delhomme(notes) looked like a rejuvenated quarterback one year removed from throwing eight touchdown passes and 18 interceptions with the Carolina Panthers.

But starting Sunday with a road game in Tampa the defenses testing Delhomme will be more exotic and more tenacious than those he faced in August when he completed 38 of 48 passes for 345 yards and two touchdowns. His passer rating was a glittering 110.5. In his final year in Carolina his passer rating was 59.4.


"I keep saying it over and over—it's a fresh start for me," Delhomme said after practice Monday. "It's new and it's exciting. I enjoy the guys, I enjoy our locker room and I enjoy the way the guys work. This atmosphere doesn't happen at all places.

"That's what makes it so enjoyable and they're fun guys to be around, very intelligent guys. The coaches ask a lot of us and we are just trying to put plans together and win some football games."


No one can expect Delhomme to complete 79 percent of his passes in the regular season, but regardless the Browns are ahead of where they were last year when Coach Eric Mangini had to choose between Brady Quinn(notes) and Derek Anderson(notes). He ended up picking Quinn and then switched to Anderson when the Browns started 0-3.


On the day the Browns signed Delhomme in free agency, team president Mike Holmgren said there would not be a prolonged quarterback battle as there was last year. Delhomme has been the starter, if not in name, since the first practice of OTAs.

"We were just at a different place last year," Mangini said. "We were trying to find the right answer. You see that happening around the league currently where teams are trying to make decisions. You try to gather a bunch of information and at the end of the day you are just trying to make the right decision. That's where we were at that point last year."

Delhomme had a primary go-to guy in Steve Smith during his seven years with the Panthers. By contrast he will spread the ball around in the Browns offense with Mohamed Massaquoi(notes), Brian Robiskie(notes) and Josh Cribbs plus tight ends Benjamin Watson(notes) and Evan Moore(notes) as targets.

Last year, Massaquoi led an inept offense with 34 catches. Barring a total collapse by Delhomme the leading receiver should have more than 34 catches, and even if he does falter the coaches have confidence in Seneca Wallace(notes).

But this is definitely Delhomme's show, and with good reason. He was 9-2 against Tampa Bay as a starter when he played for Carolina. Obviously the cast he is with now is different and the Bucs defense improved by drafting defensive tackle Gerald McCoy(notes), but his new teammates believe in Delhomme. That wasn't always the case last year no matter who started at quarterback.


Series History: 8th regular-season meeting. Browns lead the series, 5-2. The Browns have played Tampa Bay twice in the expansion era and lost both games. The Browns beat Tampa Bay five straight times in the pre-expansion era. In the two games post-1999 the Browns scored one field goal and one touchdown.


• For better or for worse, the first edition of the Browns team constructed by Mike Holmgren and Tom Heckert is about to play games that count, starting with the season opener Sunday against the Buccaneers in Tampa.


Fifteen players are new to the roster. The biggest additions on offense are quarterbacks Jake Delhomme and Seneca Wallace, tight end Benjamin Watson and running back Peyton Hillis(notes). On the defensive side of the ball the new names are linebackers Scott Fujita(notes) and Chris Gocong(notes), safety T.J. Ward(notes) and cornerback Joe Haden(notes).

The turnover could have been more dramatic, but it wasn't. The wide receiver unit is virtually intact. Heckert, who has the final say on the roster, held onto aging linebackers Eric Barton(notes) and David Bowens(notes), both in their 12th season.


"We said this when we came in here," said Heckert, in his first season as Browns general manager. "This is not going to be rebuilding deal where we're just going to wipe out everybody and start all over and be whatever we are.


"It would be easy to sit here and say, 'Yeah, I think we're a playoff contender and all that.' We think we're a good enough team that we're going to compete in every game. We'll have to wait and see how the season goes."


If Heckert's prediction holds true the Browns will be markedly better than last year when they lost 27-6 at Denver, 34-3 at Baltimore, 31-3 to Green Bay and 30-6 to Chicago in a span of seven weeks.

All four of those losses occurred in the first half of the season. Delhomme said one reason he signed with the Browns was they won their final four games.

There are more questions about the defense than the offense. The starting quarterbacks in the first three preseason games completed 30 of 36 passes on the Browns.

The Browns posted only four preseason sacks. It remains to be seen whether defensive coordinator Rob Ryan was playing possum or whether opposing quarterbacks will remain untouchable.


"We do have to get pressure on the quarterback," Heckert said. "There's no question about it.


"We haven't shown what we're going to do. Shaun Rogers(notes) coming back will be a big bonus for that. He can collapse the pocket and get us some pressure there. We'll see how it goes. But we do have to get more pressure on the quarterback. There's no doubt."


The Browns sacked quarterbacks 40 times last year.




• In February of 2009 the Browns traded Kellen Winslow(notes) Jr. to the Buccaneers. Given Winslow's fragile knees, Sunday might be the only time they have to face him. Last season Winslow led the Bucs with 77 catches.


• For the third straight year and seventh time in eight years the Browns will have a different starting quarterback in the opener. This time it's Jake Delhomme.


The last quarterback to start back-to-back openers for the Browns was Charlie Frye(notes). The 2005 third-round pick started the 2006 opener and the 2007 opener, but he was benched in the second quarter and then traded the next day.

The trend of quick hooks started early. Ty Detmer started the 1999 opener in the expansion season. The Browns were hammered, 43-0, by the Steelers and he was benched in favor of Tim Couch(notes). While the Browns have been trying to straighten out their quarterback situation they have had two winning seasons in 11 years.


That shouldn't happen this year, though. Delhomme is 9-2 as a starter against Tampa Bay.


• The Browns have to figure a way to get to Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman(notes), who escapes from pressure similar to the way Browns quarterback Seneca Wallace does. The Browns registered 40 sacks last season—but just four this preseason.


The Browns traded their sack leader, Kamerion Wimbley(notes) (6.5), but aren't worried about replacing his numbers because in Eric Mangini's scheme the sacks can come from anywhere. Last season 16 different players had at least one sack.


• Opening the season Sunday in Tampa will be a first for the Browns. Their previous 11 openers in the expansion era were all in Cleveland Browns Stadium. The Browns won just one of them when they beat the Ravens minus Jonathan Ogden(notes) in 2004.


• The Browns will be spending a lot of time in Florida this season. In addition to playing in Tampa on Sunday they play in Jacksonville on Nov. 21 and in Miami on Dec. 5.


By The Numbers: 6—Phil Dawson(notes) will become the Browns' all-time leader in field goals with six more, surpassing Lou Groza (234).


Quote To Note: "I'm excited for the world to see our new Cleveland Browns offense. I'm just ecstatic. Coach (Eric Mangini) is trying to just calm everyone down basically because we're excited about this season and we are ready."—Browns receiver/special teams star Josh Cribbs.




The Browns had 12 linebackers on the roster when they cut to 53 on Saturday. It was no surprise the group was reduced, but instead of cutting Eric Barton or David Bowens they cut David Veikune(notes), a second-round draft pick in 2009.

Veikune was a defensive end at Hawaii and did not make the transition to the NFL well. His roster spot went to defensive back Derrick Roberson(notes). Roberson bounced around practice squads in Houston, Minnesota and Tampa Bay before playing six games with the Bucs last season.

The Browns were thin at corner with Joe Haden, Eric Wright(notes) and Sheldon Brown(notes) as the only true corners plus corner/safety Mike Adams(notes). Roberson might earn playing time, if not Sunday in Tampa then down the road.


Player Notes


• Rookie G Shawn Lauvao(notes) missed practice Thursday with a twisted ankle. His status for Sunday is uncertain.


• Floyd Womack(notes) practiced for the second straight day after missing all preseason recovering from knee surgery. Coach Eric Mangini said he is comfortable starting Womack.


• OL Billy Yates(notes), waived on Monday, was re-signed because Lauvao is injured. LB Titus Brown(notes) was waived to create a roster spot.


• Practice time increased for NT Shaun Rogers Thursday. He will likely start against Tampa Bay despite missing all preseason on P.U.P.


• A concussion S Nick Sorensen(notes) suffered on Aug. 28 in Detroit is preventing him from practicing.


• Rookie Joe Haden is listed as the backup right cornerback on the depth chart. When the Browns are in nickel he plays left corner and Eric Wright moves over the slot receiver.


• TE Robert Royal(notes) was limited in practice Wednesday. He is recovering from an ankle injury.


Game Plan: The Browns finished the 2009 season running the ball and that is how they'd like to start 2010. They signed right tackle Tony Pashos(notes) and drafted running back Montario Hardesty(notes) plus guard Shawn Lauvao to make that happen.

Hardesty is out for the year with a torn left ACL, but Lauvao and Pashos are set on the right side. Jerome Harrison(notes) is eager to pick up where he left off—561 yards in the last three games.

The Browns figure if they can force the Buccaneers to drop a safety into the box the pass offense will open for Jake Delhomme.


Matchups To Watch: Browns SS T.J. Ward, a hard hitting rookie, vs. Buccaneers TE Kellen Winslow Jr., a Browns 2004 first-round pick: Winslow could have some extra motivation to prove to the Browns he wasn't finished when Eric Mangini traded him in the winter of 2009. Ward seemed lost early in training camp but got better quickly. He'll have to watch for Winslow subtly pushing off. Winslow was an expert at that when he played for Cleveland.


Browns rookie RG Shaun Lauvao vs. Bucs rookie DT Gerald McCoy: McCoy is going to be pumped to play his first real NFL game. This is also the first start for Lauvao unless Eric Mangini decides to start veteran Floyd Womack. Lauvao was difficult to push out of the way in preseason.


Injury Impact: Except for LB D'Qwell Jackson(notes) (pectoral) and special teams leader Nick Sorensen (concussion) the Browns are in good shape heading into their opener.

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I don't believe there is any way of stopping the Browns offense. They will run the ball, and Delhomme will have a real fine game.


This Browns team is excited, and talented, and they play as a TEAM.


Browns will win. 40-17. GGG

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The offence cant be any worse than they were last year. Can they? Of course they can. However, I dont think they will be. In fact I predict they will be a suprise to most everyone. Jake had only one bad year. Dont throw him on the garbage heap yet. He is a far more stable element at the QB position than we had last year. I'm happier to be in our postion than a Cardinals fan.

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The offence cant be any worse than they were last year. Can they? Of course they can. However, I dont think they will be. In fact I predict they will be a suprise to most everyone. Jake had only one bad year. Dont throw him on the garbage heap yet. He is a far more stable element at the QB position than we had last year. I'm happier to be in our postion than a Cardinals fan.


Funny, it's exactly where you found him.

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