Please welcome Chris from Dawgs By Nature . Chris does excellent work covering a not-so-excellent team :) and he's also near the top of the standings in our Pick 'Em Challenge. The guy knows his football, that's for sure. Here's a few questions he was nice enough to take the time to answer.
BehindtheSteelCurtain:Romeo Crennel was supposed to bring a championship attitude with him to Cleveland. After a season and a half, are Browns fans beginning to get restless with the not-yet-dramatically-improved results, or do you still believe in Crennel as a head coach and his way of going about things?
Chris : He hasn't brought the championship attitude yet, but I believe he's brought a competitive nature out of the Browns. When the team was losing earlier this season, I think fans overreacted too quickly by saying "Romeo isn't the guy". Head coaches rarely are able to turn teams around quickly, especially if the systems being put into place is new (of course, a team like the New Orleans Saints are an exception). Our main issue is our offensive line, which the staff did address in the offseason by signing LeCharles Bentley and veteran Bob Hallen. Of course, we all know what happened with our center situation, which only threw the rest of our offensive line, as well as the first half of the season, into chaos. I still believe in what Crennel's doing, even if it's because I realize that things don't happen overnight.
BehindtheSteelCurtain: Can you tell us a bit about what happened this preseason with the Browns? What were expectations like during camp? Injuries? Have there been any significant roster maneuvers since then that have paid off?
Chris: Before the season started, the general consensus was that the Browns would win seven games this season, and play spoiler to the Bengals and/or Steelers. Before the season started, this was the biggest year of free agency the team has had since its return to the league, as the team signed Pro Bowl center LeCharles Bentley, offensive lineman Bob Hallen, linebacker Willie McGinest, defensive tackle Ted Washington, wide receiver Joe Jurevicius, and punter Dave Zastudil. The only two people who have been healthy the whole season from that group are Zastudil(who is doing a fantastic job or us) and Washington(who is now what he used to be, due to his old age). The injury to Bentley really crushed Cleveland fans, because he was the one we were most excited about. Our most significant roster move of the season was naming Sean Jones as our starting safety to start the season. I'm sure some Steelers fans are aware of who he is, because he is having a Pro Bowl like season, perhaps a better season than Troy Polamalu.
BehindtheSteelCurtain: What have the Browns done differently over this past 3 game stretch?
Chris:Well, it's not a coincidence that we fired our offensive coordinator right before winning two of three. Our offense has had the lead in all three of the games, something that we rarely experienced under former coordinator Maurice Carthon. However, whenever we get the lead, we run the football and punt it away over and over again, putting faith in our defense. That philosophy has surprisingly paid off twice, against the Jets three weeks ago and then against the Falcons last week. When the team was on a losing stretch to begin the season, the defense would allow big runs in the fourth quarter due to being on the field so often after our offense would always go three-and-out. Our offense is managing the ball better, which in turn has allowed our defense to get some more rest.
BehindtheSteelCurtain : I haven't watched too much of Charlie Frye, but from what I've seen, he looks like a perfectly capable QB who is developing at a reasonable pace. Tell us a bit about where Frye came from, when he got thestarting job, and what he needs to do to get better.
Chris:Frye came out of Akron, so he's considered somewhat of a "local" boy. We drafted him in the third-round last year when Trent Dilfer was signed in the offseason as our starting quarterback. Dilfer played decent, but about halfway through the season, Frye took over. It was his rookie year, so he obviously had his flaws, just like he does this year. One thing he showed was the ability to make defenders miss but running around backwards, much like Roethlisberger has done previously. Earlier this season, Frye was threw some pretty bad passes in clutch situations, and our receivers dropped balls that led to picks in other critical situations. Frye's ability to make safe throws has been better lately, and for the first time this season, he did not throw an interception last week. In order to get better, Frye needs to stop staring down his receivers, something he worked on last week as well. Against the Chargers two weeks ago, he was locked onto his receivers all day long, and the defenders were ready. However, for us to ever see the real Frye, we need an offensive line that can at least give him one extra second to throw the football.
BehindtheSteelCurtain: Look in to your Brown, muddied crystal ball...who is going to prevail Sunday?
Chris:I almost feel like I have to pick the Browns, because there's honestly no way I'm going to say the Steelers will sweep us in a season. I'm very optimistic about this game due to the condition of Pittsburgh's secondary, and the fact that our poor run defense statistics are overrated when teams think they can run the ball all game long. Most of the big carries that come against us are when we are losing by about three points in the fourth quarter of a game. Yes, I understand that's not something to brag about, but it also is another sign of my mentioning that our defense does wear down. The Browns are obviously ticked off about getting stomped on 41-0 last season in our stadium, but in no way do I think the Steelers will be taking us "lightly" or anything. I have to take the Browns winning this one, 23-20, to complete a dream weekend for most Ohioans hopefully (Ohio State over Michigan, Browns over Steelers).
BehindtheSteelCurtain:Great stuff Chris as always. Thanks for taking the time.