Browns: training camp 2007
BEREA — Browns training camp begins Friday with more subplots than a season of “Grey’s Anatomy.”
Will LeCharles Bentley and Gary Baxter complete their remarkable recoveries and be healthy enough to play? Will Kevin Shaffer get traded? When will the top three rookies sign? Will the offense grasp Rob Chudzinski’s new scheme?
But — as usual with the Browns — one story line will dominate conversation on talk radio and in the chat rooms. Who will win the starting quarterback job?
The most visible job in town has been as stable as Lindsay Lohan. Since 2003, the Browns have opened the season with a new starting quarterback each year — Kelly Holcomb, Jeff Garcia, Trent Dilfer, Charlie Frye. They could make it five in a row if Derek Anderson or Brady Quinn ends Frye’s dream of leading the Browns before they got good.
Frye started the final five games of 2005 and the first 12 of 2006. But when he got hurt against Kansas City, Anderson opened eyes in the front office with a stronger arm, quicker decisions and better pocket presence.
Despite a badly injured wrist, Frye returned to start the finale and stake his claim to the job. His toughness was admired, but in 18 career starts — 6-12 record, 22 interceptions — he had done little to ensure his future as the starter.
That became obvious when the Browns traded two draft picks, including next year’s No. 1, to draft Quinn with the 22nd pick. The competition immediately became a three-horse race among Frye, Anderson and Quinn.
Quinn was billed as the most NFL-ready quarterback to enter the draft in years, but his performance throughout offseason practices and minicamp was underwhelming. Combine that with an extended holdout that gets more likely by the hour, and Quinn is a long shot to start the opener Sept. 9 vs. the Steelers. That’s where Anderson comes in.
While coach Romeo Crennel maintained during minicamp that Frye is the incumbent and has a “leg up,” Anderson closed the gap during the offseason and enters training camp neck-and-neck with Frye, or perhaps with a slight edge.
He and Quinn were beneficiaries of the switch to Chudzinski’s system, which leveled the playing field. Frye’s advantage in experience was nullified by the installation of an entirely new offense.
So the competition will be fierce, and the starter will be determined by performance, as Crennel and Chudzinski have promised to split snaps evenly at the outset of camp. That means each repetition in Berea will be scrutinized by fans, media and coaches.
But there won’t be a lot of time to contemplate the decision. Coaches prefer to have their lineups set by the third week of the preseason, so a decision will likely be made after the Aug. 18 game vs. the Lions.
That should make for an interesting next three weeks.
Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7136 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
A QB Quandary
Pros: Has the most experience of the three competitors, starting 18 games in his two NFL seasons. … The best scrambler and improviser. … Showed improved arm strength last year. … Works hard and won’t give up the job without a fight. … Tough.
Cons: Throws too many interceptions (22 in 20 games) and fumbles too much (11). … Gets into trouble trying to save a broken play. … Just 6-12 as a starter.
Pros: Looks like a quarterback. The tallest
(6-foot-6) candidate with the best arm — by far. … Makes quick decisions in the pocket and can make all the throws. … Opened eyes in the front office in three starts last year.
Cons: Despite 33-yard scramble that beat Kansas City in overtime last year, doesn’t move well. … His tendency to throw interceptions resurfaced last year — seven in three starts.
Pros: Thrived in the pressure-cooker of Notre Dame. … Won 29 games and set 26 records for the Irish. … Got better as OTAs and minicamp wore on. … Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis said he was ready for the pros.
Cons: Struggled in big games at Notre Dame. … Didn’t stand out in minicamp. … Doesn’t overwhelm with size, speed or arm strength. … Expected holdout would doom his chance to start.