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Saturday Round-Up: Chosen One Edition
Saturday Round-Up: Chosen One Edition
Much like the waning hours of the Cash for Clunkers program, fans all across the Rust Belt are breathlessly preparing for the kickoff of one our most underrated and clearly mistitled sporting events, the Great Lakes Classic. And just like your neighbor who is trying to haul his weathered, half-eaten rear wheel drive Cutlass Supreme off its blocks and into the local car dealer in time to defraud the government, time may be running out on any optimism Browns fans still possess regarding the 2009 season. Although it's only preseason, the burgeoning offseason promises of hope, self-annoited as they may be, appeared to have dissipated in the artery clogged atmosphere of Lambeau Field. But, despair not ... for there is still hope. Right?
Much like the waning hours of the Cash for Clunkers program, fans all across the Rust Belt are breathlessly preparing for the kickoff of one our most underrated and clearly mistitled sporting events, the Great Lakes Classic. Personally, I would prefer a much more grand title befitting such an epic clash of dysfunctional francises...perhaps, along the lines of...
Something Wicked This Way Battles 2009 Bottom Feeders Cup.
And just like your neighbor who is trying to haul his weathered, half-eaten rear wheel drive Cutlass Supreme off its blocks and into the local car dealer in time to defraud the government, time may be running out on any optimism Browns fans still possess regarding the 2009 season. Although it's only preseason, the burgeoning offseason promises of hope, self-annoited as they may be, appeared to have dissipated in the artery clogged atmosphere of Lambeau Field.
But, despair not...for there is still hope. Right?
After all, the Browns are undergoing a sea change of climate reconditioning in Berea, thanks to the messianic Eric Mangini, and the resulting personnel turnover and revamping of schemes has left the team wading in a pool of generously characterized turmoil. Or, in other words - let's just give Mangini some time.
Or, wait for a new messiah to emerge...like Abram Elam. Abram Elam?
We are so screwed.
Elam Key to Browns Defensive Transition
I admit that I was cautiously optimistic when the Browns first tried to sign Elam in the offseason. This optimism turned to slight envy and perhaps validation when the new Jets boss, Rex Ryan, matched the Browns restricted free agent offer and retained the young safety. Obviously, Ryan knows his defense and the inclusion of Elam in his defensive background elevated his value in my eyes. So, naturally I was excited when the Jets' desire to land Mark Sanchez on draft day helped finally bring Elam to Cleveland.
Although this may not be a popular position, I tend to view Elam as equal, if not better, compared to the player he is essentially replacing in the lineup, Sean Jones. While perhaps not as athletic as Jones, Elam offers an upgrade in run defense and overall toughness.
To aid in the transition, Mangini traded for S Abram Elam, who played for him for two seasons with the Jets. Elam, who's slated to start in the back half of the defense, told PFW that the Cleveland defense is collectively getting better and better at understanding what Mangini expects from it.
"Guys are definitely buying in," he said.
And perhaps most importantly, Elam is certainly a "Mangini guy", who was probably one of the first new Browns to "buy in" to the Boss of Berea's football philosophy.
But is he really the "key" to the Browns' defensive fortunes in 2009? Do the Browns have to play Donald Driver and the Packers again?
Elam, 27, started nine games in 2008, notching a career-high 69 tackles, defending three passes, forcing three fumbles and recording his first career interception. He has made a positive impression on Mangini, who praised him early in training camp.
"He is smart," Mangini told Browns reporters earlier in August. He is a really tough player. He has familiarity with the system. He has value on special teams. He's played multiple roles on special teams.
"There are so many things that I like about him as a person, and the other thing I like is he's gotten better as a player. There are plenty of things he can work on to continue to improve, but he's built that way. He's going to constantly work to get better."
Let's hope the first thing Elam improves upon are his deep coverage skills. Considering he is playing behind a front seven that does not look to be among the league's better pass rushing producers, Elam may be facing a long season of chasing receivers streaking down the middle of the field.
Yet despite the flaws in Elam's game, he is probably the team's best option at safety.
Elam is the only new expected starter in the secondary. Brodney Pool, who has flashed playmaking ability throughout his career, is likely to team with Elam at safety, and Elam has been impressed with what he has seen out of his new position mate. "Brodney is a great athlete," Elam said. "... I really see Brodney as as an emerging player."
How many times over the past four years has someone declared that Brodney Pool is "an emerging player?" Perhaps no player on the team's roster has maintained such a status for as long of a period of time as Pool. While athletic, Pool has struggled in the mental aspect of the game, both in terms of football smarts, as well as having to deal with the effects of multiple concussions.
And perhaps even more telling about the defensive backfield's prospects for 2009 is the fact that Elam is being characterized as the more experienced of the two players. Pool has roughly three times the amount of NFL starts, yet in many ways is still considered a project player. In some respects, Pool's play is a symbol of Phil Savage's draft strategy, which often has produced talented players who fail to fit into one distinct position.
In Pool's case, he resembles a cornerback who doesn't quite have NFL speed, or perhaps he is simply a safety who does not handle contact well. Throw in the fact that despite Pool's NFL experience, he still seems clueless at times on the field...and well, I guess that Elam is the key to the Browns defensive fortunes.
How depressing is that?
Is Brian Russell still on the roster?
And speaking of ex-players...or at least their lingering spirits...it looks like you can take the Cleveland out of Shaun Smith, but maybe not take the Shaun Smith out of Cleveland...or something like that.
Cox, Leonard Go Toe to Toe
Defensive lineman Louis Leonard has been with the Browns for about 22½ months.
It will be interesting to see if his tenure gets to 22 ½ months and day.
Leonard got into a little tiff with defensive line coach Bryan Cox during training camp on Thursday and had to run four laps around the field as punishment. What the exact problem was is not clear, but the two exchanged some rather heated words before the third-year pro made like a cross country runner.
In a crowded field of defensive linemen, I guess this is one way to make a name for yourself. So...when was the last time you really thought about Louis Leonard?
Perhaps after Thursday's practice, Leonard will be on the mind of several fans, as well as in the dangerous crosshairs of Coach Mangini. However, unlike Cleveland Reboot's own wayward son, Shaun Smith, it appears that Leonard is actually somewhat of a professional.
But if Leonard saves himself, then it will be because he was apologetic when he met with the media afterwards. Smith didn't meet with reporters after his incident a couple of weeks ago because the interview period for that day was already over, but at the same time, he didn't seem sorry for his actions with the way he brooded and pouted on the field, appearing to make Cox even more upset.
In addition, Leonard had no previous record of acting up with the Browns before the incident. He is extremely quiet and soft-spoken and has never seemed to cause a problem since signing with the Browns in October 2007 after being released by the St. Louis Rams the day before. He's been a good teammate and good in the locker room.
Leonard seems to have as good of a shot as any other reserve linemen to make the Browns final roster. While certainly not dominating, Leonard is big and has a decent punch that could fit well in a surprisingly deep line rotation. Leonard has a bit of experience playing in a 3-4 alignment, which could further help his cause. However, if this incident has any lingering effects that result in Leonard eventually being cut, then yet another example of the culture change in Berea will have been demonstrated.
Though mostly friendly, Smith, on the other hand, did indeed have a record after punching quarterback Brady Quinn in a locker room incident last December. Along with that, Smith he was always talking and sometimes said things just to rile up people. It was his way of joking, but not everyone took it that way.
Last year, for instance, as the team was warming up before a practice, Smith made some personal remarks to former Browns tight end Kellen Winslow, some of which involved Winslow's father, Pro Football Hall of Famer Kellen Winslow. Finally, Winslow nearly came after Smith while the lineman just kept talking and trying to push his buttons.
Yes, the good ole' days...when men could be men...and wild mood swings were merely frowned upon.
But obviously things are different in Berea now. While the results of the infant stages of preseason suggest that Stadium tickets will be readily available in December, at least we know that the inmates are not running the asylum. Especially considering that Bryan Cox is now playing the role of a corrections officer straight out of
The Longest Yard
...the Burt Reynolds original version mind you, not the bastardized one of a few years ago.
Cox is a good friend of Browns head coach Eric Mangini. To cross Cox is to cross Mangini. And to cross Mangini, a no-nonsense, strict disciplinarian who doesn't like it when players go over the line with their personality, shall we say, is to write your own ticket off the roster.
"I'm a player and he's a coach, and I abide by the rules," Leonard said, who was smiling and seemed calm and good-natured. "It was in the heat of the moment. He's a good coach. If you pay attention to what he says, you'll learn a lot. And I've learned a lot from him."
And really, who would want to mess with Bryan Cox? Do these players even know who he is? Outside of some calcium deposits and perhaps occasional bouts of incontinence, I could easily envision Cox beating out Beau Bell and Kaluka Maivia for a backup linebacker job...then flipping off the fans of a division rival.
But then again, Abram Elam could probably beat out those two. And what does that say about our defense in 2009?
It tells me that Elam is indeed the key to our defensive fortunes.
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