The Browns watched Sunday’s NFL playoff game between the Titans and Chargers entertaining two daydreams: What was. What might have been.
The Browns watched Sunday’s NFL playoff game between the Titans and Chargers entertaining two daydreams.
- What was.
- What might have been.
On Nov. 5, 2006, Cleveland found itself almost exactly where Tennessee was Sunday — ahead in the third quarter at San Diego but with no offensive firepower, knowing the Chargers were a powder keg ready to blow.
The Browns and Titans met the same fate: Defeat.
If only the Browns had been in Tennessee’s shoes Sunday, needing just one more drive to make the Chargers short-circuit. As vulnerable as the Chargers appeared, it was easy to imagine Cleveland advancing to the second round against New England.
Instead, the Browns are left to imagine what will be. What will it take to elevate their offense from good to great after making the jump from almost invisible?
The Browns needed to be better on offense in every way from 2006 to 2007. They got that done. Taking another step will be difficult. Here is one breakdown of what was and what likely will be.
2006: Charlie Frye completed 64.1 percent of his 393 passes but averaged a modest 6.2 yards per attempt and threw more interceptions (17) than touchdowns (10).
2007: Big improvement. Derek Anderson completed just 56.5 percent of his 527 passes but averaged a yard more per attempt than Frye, 7.2, and threw more TDs (29) than picks (19).
2008 projection: Up in the air. Anderson regressed in the second half. He must use the offseason to regain ground lost when opponents caught up to him. If Brady Quinn plays, the guess is he would be as effective as Anderson at first, then face the same challenge of coping as defensive coordinators identify weaknesses.
2006: Reuben Drouhgns, Jason Wright and Jerome Harrison combined for 1,007 yards at 3.3 per carry with four TDs.
2007: Landmark improvement. Jamal Lewis rushed for 1,304 yards at 4.4 per carry with nine TDs. Wright and Harrison combined for 419 yards at 5.1 per carry. Receiving production also was way up — from 42 catches for 298 yards to 56 catches for 600 yards.
2008 projection: Slight improvement, if Lewis comes back. Lewis’ first half was nothing special, aside from 216 yards against Cincinnati. After he returned from a foot injury, he had the best run of his eight-year career since his 2,066-yard 2003.
2006: The top three producers were Braylon Edwards (61 catches, 884 yards, 6 TDs), Joe Jurvevicius (40, 495, 3) and Dennis Northcutt (22, 228, 0).
2007: Notable improvement. Edwards got elected to the Pro Bowl after an 80-catch, 1,289-yard, 16-TD year. Jurevicius had one of the better seasons of his 10-year career, with 50 catches for 614 yards. No. 3 wideout Tim Carter (eight catches, 117 yards) was invisible.
2008 projection: Up in the air. Edwards, who turns 25 next month, can take another step if he quits dropping passes. Wear and tear on Jurevicius is a concern. He’ll turn 34 in 2008.
2006: Kellen Winslow Jr. caught 89 passes for 875 yards and three touchdowns. Steve Heiden caught 36 passes for 249 yards.
2007: Notable improvement. Winslow is a Pro Bowl alternate with an 82-catch, 1,106-yard, five-TD year. His per-catch average jumped from 9.8 to 13.5. Heiden played less, blocked more and caught 12 passes for 104 yards.
2008 projection: Up in the air. Much depends on who is quarterback. Winslow is able to work with Anderson, but there are questions about their chemistry. Winslow’s longest catch in the second half of the season was a 25-yarder from Quinn. Much depends on Winslow’s shoulder and knee injuries. He won’t turn 25 until July, but his body is older than his birth certificate.
2006: Cosey Coleman and Joe Andruzzi started all but two games together at right and left guard. Hank Fraley started all 16 games at center.
2007: Big improvement. Seth McKinney was a more mobile right guard than Coleman. After McKinney got hurt, Ryan Tucker learned a new position and became an excellent run blocker. New left guard Eric Steinbach was a huge upgrade over Andruzzi. Fraley was just trying to survive in ’06 after arriving in a trade a few days before the season. He settled in nicely.
2008 projection: Slight improvement. Tucker, going on 33, still wants to play and will have an entire offseason to complete the transition from tackle to guard. Steinbach is in his prime, turning 28 in April, and knows the system now. Fraley, 30, will never be LeCharles Bentley, but in a sense, unfortunately, neither will Bentley.
2006: Kevin Shaffer started all 16 games at left tackle. Ryan Tucker lasted just nine games at right tackle, where Kelly Butler and Nat Dorsey also got starts.
2007: Big improvement. Rookie No. 3 overall pick Joe Thomas seemed as comfortable at left tackle as he is on a fishing boat. Shaffer spent two uneasy months at right tackle, sharing the job with Tucker briefly before an injury forced Tucker inside and allowed Shaffer to show he can be a longterm solution.
2008 projection: Notable improvement. With Orlando Pace, Johnathan Ogden and Walter Jones past their primes, Thomas is on course to be The Man. Shaffer gained confidence as the season wore on. He felt clumsy in his footwork for a while but will hit the ground running in training camp.
Reach Repository sports writer Steve Doerschuk at (330) 580-8347 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
What a difference
Some of the areas in which the Browns’ offense improved.
Area 2006 2007
Yards per game 264.6 351.3
Rushing average 83.4 118.4
Yards per carry 3.6 4.3
Passing average 181.1 232.9
Yards per completion 6.3 7.2
Points 238 402