Observations after watching four Browns exhibition games and a rather unusual roster trim to 53 . . .
It's going to be a long season for the Browns, folks, a very long season during which significant changes will be made as club President Mike Holmgren seeks to change the culture and direction of the team.
What you see now with the Browns a week away from the season opener down in Tampa will look significantly different a year from now as General Manager Tom Heckert Jr. and Holmgren massage and reconstruct what is undeniably the worst team in the AFC North.
If the Browns win six games this season with the roster they have, they should be thrilled. Especially with a 35-year-old quarterback who has averaged roughly an interception a game throughout his career (and who is the fourth-best quarterback in a four-team division), a receiving corps that might be the worst in the National Football League as a unit and an offensive line that sags badly on the right side.
Defensively, it looks like this same old, same old. Little resistance to the opposition's running game, a mediocre pass rush and a secondary that looks more vulnerable than last season's Swiss-cheese gang.
This is a slow, plodding team. With few exceptions, there is no appreciable speed or quickness on either side of the ball. And in the NFL, you had better have at least one of those attributes or you're in trouble.
And now that the regular season is about to commence, the speed and quickness of the game will ramp up even more. Exhibition games are for honing skills, nailing down the timing, getting into the rhythm of the game.
Other observations . . .
Don't get too excited about Peyton Hillis. He's determined, sure, but he's slow. He's not an every-down back. Barring injury, you'll see him more down by the goal line where he is most effective. . . .
Jerome Harrison, the every-down back now due to Montario Hardesty's season-ending injury, will have a bull's-eye on his back after his spectacular finish last season. And he had better learn how to hold on to the football. His fumbles in the exhibition season have to be a major concern to the coaching staff. . . .
With their gambling luck, Heckert and Holmgren should stay far away from Las Vegas. They took a huge chance when they traded three picks in last April's draft to move up and take Hardesty. Risky at best at the time and disastrous the way it has turned out. . . .
The surprise of training camp has to be Shawn Lauvao. The fifth-round draft choice arrived with the reputation of being smart and a hard worker and has parlayed those attributes into a starting spot at right guard. . . .
Tight end Evan Moore will be more beneficial in the passing game if he was used a a wide receiver. Of course he doesn't have the speed or quickness of most wideouts, but neither did Joe Jurevicius. Moore was a wideout in college and knows the nuances of the position. Besides, he's a terrible blocker as a tight end. . . .
Speaking of tight ends, Benjamin Watson should become one of Jake Delhomme's favorite targets based on his exhibition showing. Nice soft hands and he knows how to get open. . . .
Rookie safety T.J. Ward looks like a keeper if he can avoid the same fate as Hardesty. Ward, like Hardesty, was drafted despite a history of injuries. And the highly aggressive way he plays the game does not bode well for the future. . . .
It looks as though defensive coordinator Rob Ryan is going to use the blitz ad one of his main weapons this season. Overuse of the blitz usually disguises a weakness. . . .
Based on his play toward the end of last season and during the exhibitions, nose tackle Ahtyba Rubin will be a hard man to dislodge from the starting lineup. Unfortunately, he didn't get much help from his ends. Perhaps the arrival of Shaun Rogers will help. . . .
Brian Robiskie is slow and has trouble getting open. But the second-year receiver has wonderful football instincts. Unfortunately, the first two attributes stand in the way of any success he might enjoy in the NFL. . . .
Reggie Hodges is no Dave Zastudil and needs to be replaced. Certainly there is someone out there who can punt better than this guy. . . .
Nice to see Brian Daboll unveil the no-huddle and sugar-huddle looks that weren't part of a two-minute package at the end of a half. Gives opponents something to think about. . . .
Biggest surprise (negative edition): The release of rookie safety Larry Asante, a noted big hitter Heckert and Holmgren were relying on to spark the secondary. . . .
Phil Dawson = one of the most reliable placekickers in the NFL. . . .
If he can stay healthy, maybe James Davis will be able to give Harrison some relief at running back. He sure looked good during the exhibitions. . . .
Rookie receiver Carlton Mitchell is big and fast and that's all. Strictly a special teamer. . . .
Bold prediction: Coach Eric Mangini does not make it past game eight and is replaced by Ryan.