Game day got here fast! While today's final preseason game of the 2010 season may not mean much to our starters, it is certainly a chance for some of the "bubble" guys to step up and try to make something happen. Lovie Smith has stated that the final 53-man roster is generally already set, but there is still a bit of wiggle room with 60 minutes of football yet to be played.
1- Mike Holmgren is El Presidente, Tom Heckert is the GM, and Eric Mangini is the HC. The Browns have a staff where the President is the mastermind, where the Bears have a GM who rules the roost. How is that relationship and dynamic working out in Cleveland?
DBN: Everything has been positive since the arrival of Mike Holmgren. When he speaks to the media, he is very open and is able to share his years worth of experience. The critical thing I’ve watched is whether Eric Mangini and his coaching staff would feel disrespected or on the hot seat. While they might feel the hot seat if the team gets off to a terrible start, they have focused on coaching and it looks like all the work they put into shaping the offense and defense last year will continue into this year (remember, this team finished the season on a four-game winning
Holmgren was very active at training camp sessions, driving around in a golf cart as he watched practice or chatted with players and coaches. There have been a few fans who are irked about small things that have changed (Holmgren wants a more family-friendly stadium environment, and the tail-gating hours have changed), but overall we couldn't have asked for things to go better up to this point, given the fact that we were convinced Mangini would be fired around Week 12 last year.
2- How are the rookies performing so far this year, and what sort of impact could they have in the regular season?
DBN: The Browns had four draft picks from the first three rounds, so I'll give some quick input on each of those players. First round cornerback Joe Haden has had a pretty good camp and has shown signs of improvement over the weeks. He will begin the season as a cornerback playing the outside receiver in nickel packages, which gives us better depth for the regular season than we had all of last year.
In the second round, the Browns drafted safety T.J. Ward and running back Montario Hardesty. Fans are extremely pumped about Ward because he brings a nice physical presence to the team -- he hit's HARD. He will start and will be counted on to help stop the run this season. Hardesty hasn't played the entire preseason, and will actually make his debut against the Bears. At some point, he could become the team's starting running back this year. Finally, the other well known rookie is third-round quarterback Colt McCoy. Since a question below asks about him, I'll comment there.
3- What do you see as being the biggest strength for the Browns this season, and what will be the biggest weakness?
DBN: The biggest strength of the Browns is the left side of our offensive line, also including the center. If you can find a better combination in the NFL than Joe Thomas at left tackle, Eric Steinbach at left guard, and Alex Mack at center, I'd like to hear it. Based on what I've heard about the Bears, I'm guessing that Jay Cutler would be foaming at the mouth at the type of protection they'd be able to provide him.
Our biggest weakness is at linebacker. We have about ten guys on the roster who we think are "pretty good football players." Basically, they have the smarts and some physical upside. However, none of them appear to be game-changers, and when you try putting four players who are average on the line, teams are going to try to take advantage of that. We'll have to hope that the "smarts" of the unit, combined with exotic "schemes" from defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, are able to compensate for the weakness at the position.
4- It looks like Jake Delhomme is the guy for 2010, but do you think Colt McCoy has the ability to be the future?
DBN: Honestly, it is too early to tell. Delhomme and Seneca Wallace have received the most playing time in the preseason, and when McCoy has played, he has done so behind our atrocious second-string offensive line. That usually results in McCoy getting sacked, taking off and running, or fumbling the football. If I had to guess, I think the Browns will commit to a quarterback in the next year or two of the draft in the first round, allowing veterans like Delhomme and Wallace to man the ship until then. It helps that since McCoy is a third rounder, if we don't play him, it's not like the team wasted a lot of money.
5- Who should we keep an eye on this Thursday that we might not know about for the Browns?
DBN: Mangini likes to rest almost all of the starters in the final preseason game, so it's tough to say if some of our "gems" will even play (otherwise I'd say to watch for FB/HB Peyton Hillis). You might see a lot
of outside linebacker Marcus Benard, a second-year undrafted free agent who seems like a pretty good pass rusher.
Bonus round: Predict the final score for Thursday's game, and you'll win a peppermint courtesy of WCG.
DBN: Heh, the final score of a preseason game? Well, while I am excited about our first-string offense and defense, I think our second-string offense and second-string defense are pretty terrible. Therefore, I anticipate the Bears beating us by a score of 24-10, or something along those lines.
Chris, we really appreciate your insights. You've got a great website in Dawgs By Nature... keep up the good work!
Also, everyone make your way over to DBN's version of this post, with five questions we've answered about the Bears!