April 19, 2014

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Browns analysis: Anderson less than impressive so far

BEREA — Derek Anderson fans — including those in the Browns front office — should start worrying.
The perception entering training camp was that the big-armed Anderson would be given the first shot to win the starting quarterback job. After more than a week of practice, Anderson is letting that chance slip away.
Meanwhile, incumbent Charlie Frye is treating the job like a dog with a favorite chew toy. He doesn’t want to let it go.
The first week gained importance when general manager Phil Savage said the team would like to name the starter as quickly as possible, perhaps as soon as after the first preseason game Saturday.
That just adds relevance to each poor read, bad decision or wobbly pass.
Not only has Anderson thrown the ball poorly, he has held onto it for too long. He hasn’t been hit, because quarterbacks aren’t allowed to be touched, but would’ve been sacked numerous times. He’s also made some head-scratching decisions.
The perfect example of his troubles came Friday night in a controlled scrimmage. Getting most of the repetitions with the starters, Anderson looked and looked in the pocket, before finally firing a ball toward the left sideline right off the chest of cornerback Daven Holly.
Frye hasn’t looked like a Pro Bowler, but he’s been steady, which is something Anderson can’t say.

What about Brady?

Brady Quinn’s ongoing holdout cost him a chance to start the opener Sept. 9 vs. Pittsburgh. It also saved the Browns a different headache.
With the uninspiring play of Anderson and Frye, fans and media would have been clamoring for Quinn to quickly move up the depth chart. With his prolonged absence, the pressure will be lessened for immediate playing time.
The Browns are just fine with that. They are content with Quinn getting in soon, learning the offense and watching for a while from the bench before possibly playing at some point during the season.
One more thought: While negotiations have been slow and contentious, the sides appear close enough that a deal could be reached at anytime.

Line thoughts

The improved depth along the offensive line will be tested immediately. Not only was center LeCharles Bentley’s return delayed for at least a month, right tackle Ryan Tucker was suspended for the first four regular-season games.
The return of neither is guaranteed. Bentley’s had four surgeries on his patellar tendon, and the Browns deemed it not ready before camp opened. Tucker missed seven games last year with a mental disorder, and his state of mind will be tested while he serves the suspension away from his teammates and team headquarters.
However, if either or both is able to make it back onto the field and into the starting lineup, it would provide a big boost.
Tucker will forfeit $600,000 during his suspension, but coach Romeo Crennel could be the bigger loser. The Browns host AFC North rivals Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and Baltimore and travel to Oakland in the first four games. If the Browns go 0-4 or 1-3, Crennel could be replaced at the bye week. He certainly would prefer having his best team as he tries to keep his job.

Final thoughts

Gary Baxter’s recovery from two torn patellar tendons is simply amazing. He’s been limited to individual drills, but he’s moving freely and says he feels good. If he plays in a game this year, he should be immediately named Comeback Player of the Year.
Kellen Winslow has eased concerns about his recovery from microfracture knee surgery. He is running well and looks as strong as ever.
But it was interesting that during an intense tight end blocking drill, where it looked like they were wrestling linebackers, Winslow was running routes with the receivers. Concern for the knee was likely part of the reason, but for a guy who struggled with blocking last year, he could use the work.
Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7136 or spetrak@chroniclet.com.