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Positioned to Excel

Postby slowkidz » Tue Jul 22, 2003 6:10 pm

Positioned to excel

Jeff Schudel, Staff Writer 07/22/2003

Couch and Green are among the keys as the Browns
approach training camp

The bottom line in the NFL? It comes down to
individuals performing well.
At least once in the 2003 season, it is safe to
say, Butch Davis and the 31 other coaches in the
NFL will describe failure by saying, "Ten guys
are doing the right thing and one isn't where
he's supposed to be. The problem is, it's a
different player breaking down on different
plays."
Starting today and every Tuesday through the
balance of training camp and the preseason, The
News-Herald will focus on one key player from
each segment of the Browns.
Today, a look at the player at his position who
is being scrutinized more than any other:
QUARTERBACK
Tim Couch
Everyone has an opinion about who should start at
quarterback for the Browns. Most fans - at least
the vocal ones - seem convinced now the Browns
made a mistake using the first pick in the 1999
draft on Couch.
The Browns, though, were not the only team
convinced Couch had star quality. Were all those
other teams wrong, too, or is Couch being
unfairly condemned because he was with a rotten
team for two years and didn't have a running game
worth spit until the final seven games of 2002?
We're about to find out.
There can be no more excuses, no more coddling
Couch by the coaches. He is under tremendous
pressure from fans. Offensive coordinator Bruce
Arians said Kelly Holcomb will have to "knock out
Couch" to win the starting job. Public
perception, though, is Couch will have to knock
out Holcomb.
Couch will have the best season of his career and
the Browns will have their best season since
returning to the NFL in 1999 if he rises to the
challenge.
RUNNING BACK
William Green
Green rushed for 726 yards the last seven games
of the regular season, yet he can still be
stopped if a defense puts its mind to the task,
as the Steelers proved in their playoff win over
the Browns in January.
Green was a no-show early in the offseason
program. He had legitimate personal reasons for
not being in Berea, though, and he was trim and
fast during minicamp last month. He has chosen
Westlake as his permanent home rather than living
in New Jersey in the offseason, and that's a good
sign.
Yes, Green improved as a runner the second half
of the season, but he still must improve as a
receiver to be a complete player, and he can get
better as a blocker. These are things he will
continue to work on in training camp.
It would be a surprise if Green has a sophomore
jinx. Running backs coach Todd McNair got to
Green at midseason last year and won't let him
coast in 2003.
WIDE RECEIVER
Dennis Northcutt
Northcutt went from no touchdowns his first two
seasons to eight last season. Now he is in his
contract year and does not apologize for wanting
another big season.
Northcutt doesn't have anything to prove in
training camp. The key for him is staying healthy
for 16 games. He is strong enough, but his
slender build makes him susceptible to injuries.
The Browns were 5-2 after the bye week last
season. Northcutt missed most of one of those
losses (Carolina) and also the Indianapolis game
with a knee injury.
Receiver is the deepest position on the roster,
yet that could change quickly if Northcutt
doesn't duplicate 2002.
TIGHT END
Darnell Sanders
Mark Campbell was the Browns' leading receiver
among tight ends last season and he was shipped
to Buffalo for a conditional draft choice. Davis
is counting heavily on Sanders, who is in his
second season out of Ohio State.
Sanders did not do much last season to merit all
the optimism, catching just three passes and
playing only 11 of 17 games. According to the
coaches, though, he worked very hard in the
offseason program. He is a big target at 6-foot-6
and 267 pounds for whoever plays quarterback.
The time in the offseason program should have
been enough for Sanders to digest the offense.
OFFENSIVE LINE
Ross Verba
Davis did not praise Verba last season as often
as he did in 2001, and according to two sources,
that was no oversight.
Verba is not fighting to hold on to his starting
job, as teams are fortunate to have one good
starting left tackle. But if the Browns are to
become the dominant running team they hope to be,
Verba must become more forceful. To that end, he
got bigger and stronger in the offseason program.
Plus, strength coach Buddy Morris used explosion
drills to make Verba and other players quicker.
As the left tackle, Verba protects the
quarterback's blind side.
DEFENSIVE LINE
Gerard Warren
Warren said all the right things last month when
he confessed his carousing "three or four nights
a week" has to stop. Now he has to show a
difference on the field. Unlike Couch, who has
the crutch of an inferior supporting cast for his
early failure, good players have surrounded
Warren on the defensive line.
Defensive tackle is not a glamour position, but a
dominant one can change a game. Warren played
that way the last seven games of 2001, but not
last season.
In March, Butch Davis said Warren is the key to
improving the run defense. If he is slow, the
blockers will brush by him and take out the
linebackers. Too many times last season, Orpheus
Roye was double-teamed and Warren was blocked
one-on-one.
The first clue as to whether Warren is serious
about his new dedication will be his weight when
veterans report Thursday. Sometimes, linemen
carry a little extra weight at the start of
training camp because they sweat it off in
two-a-days, but last season Warren reported about
20 pounds heavy, and that was too much.
LINEBACKERS
Kevin Bentley
Bentley was an effervescent rookie last season. A
graduate of Northwestern, he had no problem
learning his duties as weakside linebacker. He
leveled off in October, but was still close to
taking Dwayne Rudd's job before Bentley's hand
was broken and his elbow injured against the
Steelers on Nov. 3.
Linebacker is the mystery segment of the team, if
not the weakest segment. Defensive coordinator
Dave Campo will have an easier time finding three
starters if Bentley plays the same way he did
last summer. There is no reason he shouldn't,
because there is absolutely nothing wrong with
Bentley's dedication or desire. That means it
comes down to his physical ability.
If Bentley proves he should start at weakside
linebacker, Campo can select from Andra Davis,
Ben Taylor and Barry Gardner to fill the other
two positions.
SECONDARY
Anthony Henry
Henry is the left cornerback until someone takes
the job from him. Left cornerbacks have nowhere
to hide in man-to-man coverage.
Henry intercepted 10 passes as a rookie, mostly
as the nickelback, but sometimes interceptions
can be deceiving - a quarterback isn't going to
test a corner he can't beat. Henry does not want
his nickname changed from "Hank" to "Toast."
Henry intentionally reported to training camp
about 10 pounds heavy last summer, figuring he
would get more work and the extra weight would
help. As it turns out, the weight made him
slower. He tried to lose the pounds, and that did
not work out.
Lewis Sanders will press Henry and could end up
with the job.
SPECIAL TEAMS
Chris Gardocki
Gardocki has punted about a million times in the
NFL and never had a punt blocked (actually, 906
times in 12 years), but he showed signs of a
tired leg last season. His average of 41.8 yards
per punt was his lowest in his four seasons with
the Browns, although that doesn't mean
everything. He also landed 27 punts inside the
20, his most since 28 in 1993 while with the
Bears.
This is the final year of Gardocki's contract. He
should be watched closely in preseason, because
Tampa Bay has two punters, veteran Tom Tupa and
rookie Andy Groom from Ohio State. One of them
won't make it to September.


©The News-Herald 2003
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slowkidz
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Postby Guttpuppy » Tue Jul 22, 2003 9:49 pm

Positioned to take it up the rear from what I can see...
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Postby Homeless » Tue Jul 22, 2003 10:04 pm

Guttpuppy wrote:Positioned to take it up the rear from what I can see...


LOL

as the Steelers proved in their playoff win over
the Browns in January
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