Ten key questions the Browns must answer in training camp-ohio.com
1. Who's at quarterback?
In one sense it's not that big a deal because both Tim Couch and Kelly Holcomb can play. But the quarterback leads the offense, it's the glamour position on the team and if he plays well, everybody is happy because the team's chances of winning increase. Deciding between Couch and Holcomb will be Butch Davis' most important decision this camp.
2. Who's backing the line?
Somebody has to play linebacker, so the Browns will line up three players. Who it turns out to be from among Barry Gardner, Andra Davis, Kevin Bentley, Ben Taylor, Chaun Thompson and Brant Boyer bears watching. If these guys play as advertised, the defense will be fine. ``I like our linebackers corps,'' Davis said. ``I really do.''
3. Can Henry man the corner?
The biggest gamble that Davis took in his player personnel moves in the off-season was leaving himself without a veteran corner to take the place of Corey Fuller. Fuller was not Deion Sanders, but he played smart, savvy, physical football, which helped him win a lot of matchups. Anthony Henry was very comfortable as a nickel back two years ago, but was uncomfortable last season when injuries forced him into the starting lineup. Henry has to come through or the Pro Bowl roster of receivers that the Browns face this season will put up glittering numbers.
4. Where's the beef?
The offensive line ended the season playing very well in 2002. Camp opens with four returning starters and first-round pick Jeff Faine in the middle. But the team seems intent on creating competition at guard, so Barry Stokes and Shaun O'Hara will have to fight off challenges from Qasim Mitchell and Melvin Fowler to keep their jobs.
5. Was William Greenthe real deal?
Sure seemed so. Green's second-half performance was outstanding and logic would dictate he will improve as his understanding of the offense and the blocking schemes grows. If Green does get better, the Browns should be in very good shape at running back for a very long time.
6. Has Gerard Warren grown up?
If he hasn't, he needs to. Warren's candid admission that he spent too much time partying his first two years did not sit well with the front office or the players. Warren basically admitted he was more committed to himself than his team, and he needs to show his teammates he truly is dedicated before he'll have their respect.
7. Will Courtney Brown be healthy?
Time will tell, and more importantly, time will tell if he's lost any speed or quickness from microfracture surgery on his left knee. Brown's brief bursts of excellence the past few years were attributed more to speed than strength. If the complicated procedure on Brown's knee takes that away, it will be a severe blow to the draft's first overall pick in 2000.
8. Is the Word worth hearing?
If Brown can't play, then Mark Word steps in. Word emerged as a pass-rusher last season, but did not play the run well. If Word is going to be an every-down player, he must play every down.
9. Will Griffith be the safe solution?
It's a bit of a surprise that Butch Davis released so many veterans and kept Robert Griffith, who by his own admission did not have a good year in 2002. But Davis said he is counting on Griffith to be effective on the field and a leader in the locker room, and Griffith has vowed to accept the challenge. He could be the only veteran leader on the defensive side of the ball.
10. Can Pontbriand handle the pressure?
Don't laugh. Ryan Pontbriand might have more pressure on him than any draft pick. It's rare for a team to draft a snapper, and Pontbriand must replace one of the league's best in Ryan Kuehl. He will be watched closely, and if he makes one bad snap, the pressure will ratchet higher.