Countdown to The Draft
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By Tony Grossi
Colt McCoy was the popular topic in this week’s Hey Tony. E-mailers also asked about Phil Taylor’s weight-lifting injury and Jordan Cameron’s role in the Browns’ offense this year. There was also a shoutout to our former colleague at The Plain Dealer.
Hey Tony: The Browns appeared to have lost interest in Colt McCoy last season because of insufficient arm strength to make all the throws, lack of height and being too fragile. Were they not aware of these flaws when they drafted him? I sure was. The people of Cleveland are waiting for an answer to that question. Did they think that he was going to suddenly develop a strong arm, or grow a few inches or become durable? Considering his limitations and lack of support from teammates (weak running attack, no time to throw and receivers not being open or dropping the ball, he has performed as well as anyone could have expected and perhaps exceeded expectations. In addition to that, learning a new offense and a new coach. Having said that, why was he worth taking him in the 3rd round when the Browns took him, but worth anything less now?
-- Isaac, Cincinnati, OH
Hey Isaac: All valid questions. Whenever I questioned McCoy’s arm strength, the answer was always, “He can make all the throws we ask of him.” I even recall somebody saying arm strength could be improved. When I questioned McCoy’s lack of height, or lack of physicality, the answer was, “We don’t see that as a problem.” As for the Browns’ expectations of McCoy, I think they changed from his first year to his second. Mike Holmgren really tried to temper expectations when he was drafted, to the point that he flatly stated, “We didn’t draft him to play this year.” Then McCoy was pressed into service and he exceeded their expectations. After that, they gave him the starting job and we know what happened. Some of it fell on McCoy – failing to put the ball where it had to be placed, failing to see over the middle, failing to stand in the pocket and let plays evolve. But certainly a lot was out of McCoy’s control – the lack of an offseason to learn the offense, the lack of receiving support, the drops, the injuries to the running game, breakdowns at right tackle, the mishandling of his concussion in Pittsburgh. The whole experience – in my opinion – screwed him up and devalued his trade value. My perception is McCoy is seen as damaged goods right now.
Hey Tony: After reading your article on possible destinations for Colt McCoy, I begin to think no team will trade for him. The teams you say are the best fit for McCoy already have the equivalent. Luke McCown, Drew Stanton, Dan Orlovsky, Kellen Clemens, etc. are below average quarterbacks with just enough talent to remain in the league and nothing more: the same as McCoy. Why would a team give up anything for virtually the same player? Is it because McCoy is famous from his college career and would excite their fans more than their current clipboard holder? That's the only reason I can think of.
-- John, Delaware, OH
Hey John: I would think McCoy’s youth would attract some team. His potential to grow into a QB better than the ones already holding those backup jobs might be appealing. I don’t think it would take a lot to acquire McCoy. But I agree with your premise, in general.
Hey Tony: Pat Kirwan had an interesting article explaining 10 roster spots that a team has to hit on to be successful over an entire season. I see the Browns maybe possessing 3 of these 10. What are your thoughts about his list? It seems as though Heckert is slowly, ever so slowly, building the team this direction. How many more drafts before we get to this point?
-- David, Joelton, TN
Hey David: I agree that Pat’s article was fascinating. So good, in fact, that I intend to devote a whole article to matching up the Browns’ roster to Pat’s list. Look for it very soon. And thanks for the tip.
Hey Tony: I understand there's a lot of commentary that McCoy never got a chance with upgraded talent, but other than the shiny new running back it's not like Brandon Weeden suddenly has Jerry Rice at one side, John Taylor at the other and the 1980s Hogs in front of him. This is pretty similar to the group McCoy had with some limited upgrades, and McCoy did have a heck of a runner during his starts in 2010. What are all the fans clamoring for McCoy going to say if the offense suddenly clicks? That Weeden had nothing to do with it?
-- Doug, Orange, CA
Hey Doug: In McCoy’s defense, Weeden does have the benefit of a full offseason of camps to methodically learn Pat Shurmur’s offense. Plus, the addition of Brad Childress as offensive coordinator should help immensely. Further, Greg Little was playing as a rookie after a full year off because of an NCAA suspension at North Carolina. So, I would argue that the structure for a successful season is much firmer and in place for Weeden than it was for McCoy.
Hey Tony: I have to tell you, I think your work here on ESPN Cleveland is the best of your career. I have been reading you for years and have enjoyed it, but the freedom you are experiencing is very noticeable in your writing. Very fun. My question is, how big is the loss of Phil Taylor to this team? I can't help but think that the loss of a player of his caliber won't hurt. I don't blame anybody -- including the Browns front office -- it's just one of those freak things like happened to DQ 52 or Eric Steinbach before him. I know they stocked up on linemen, but to me this represents the worst off-season blow we have to endure. Your thoughts?
-- Mike Bickerton, Avon Lake
Hey Mike: Thanks for the kind words. As for Taylor, I think the Browns will really miss him. He came around in his rookie season and was really geared up to take that huge step in improvement in his second year. An improved Taylor in his second season lining up to Ahtyba Rubin, to me, represented the strength of the Browns’ defense. The good news is that it appears that Taylor could be back for the final seven games. But I would suggest that when a young player’s growth is stunted by a severe injury, it takes him a while to recapture what he had going.
Hey Tony: Will Jordan Cameron have a bigger role in the offense this season, and who will we see at fullback?
-- Rod, Lakewood, OH
Hey Rod: My impression is that the Browns envision Cameron as the heir to Ben Watson as the starting tight end. When that happens is up to Cameron’s development. Watson is in the final year of his contract. I see Cameron receiving a bigger role in the offense – until he proves he can’t handle it. The fullback position is interesting. Owen Marecic is mostly a blocking fullback. Rookie Brad Smelley has the versatility as a pass receiver the Browns like, but is not a true lead blocker. With No. 3 tight end Alex Smith, there seems to be a surplus at the so-called H-back role. Two of those players might not make the roster.
Hey Tony: This is my first time sending you a question so here goes; you seem sold on keeping Wallace over McCoy and I can't understand why? Wallace had his chance to be a starter but has been more backup than starter, while Colt has shown he is at Wallace's level now and has the ceiling room of youth and more favorable contract. My question is what is it you think the Browns or you find that makes Wallace a better option as the backup and is it really automatic that Weeden will be the starter opening day?
-- Norman, Sierra Vista, AZ
Hey Norman: Forget the favorable contract. The Browns have plenty of cap room, so the $1.8 million or so difference in their 2012 salaries is really not an issue. In my opinion, the quarterbacks have similar skill sets. Both are mobile – though Wallace is more so – and both have limited arm strength. Wallace has more proven experience as a backup. He has been able, in the past, to enter a game without much work during the week and perform well enough to win. (It happened a lot for Mike Holmgren in Seattle, if not in Cleveland.) I think that could be the determining factor. And, yes, Brandon Weeden is all but automatic as the starter, barring an unforeseen event.
Hey Tony: Congratulations on getting back your H.O.F voting privileges that were well deserved. I have a question that I am sure many of your readers might have. You started the "Hey Tony" column many years ago while with the Plain Dealer, and now you have carried it over to ESPN and are doing an equally outstanding job with it. Your previous employer has also kept their version of the column in "Hey Mary Kay", which is not bad, but shorter and less informative than yours. Is there a copyright on the actual column or can you guys both co-exist in harmony?
-- Alex S., Orlando, FL
Hey Alex: You sound like a lawyer. I think both columns can co-exist. The Internet is a vast place.
Hey Tony: What is your opinion regarding dropped passes? Are drops similiar to the yips where a guy is trying too hard or do you think they are a case of a hot dog looking downfield before he secures the ball? Some of these guys are dropping several passes a game. Why are they not pulled out of the game after, say, the second drop?
-- Greg, Middletown, OH
Hey Greg: I’ve found in the past that if a receiver gets to this level and is still dropping balls, it’s hard to correct that. Now, there are notable exceptions of overcoming the dropsies – Jerry Rice and Terrell Owens come to mind. Coaches seem to favor bolstering a receiver’s confidence by playing through the drops rather than benching him.
|Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com. |
He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 44 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Email your “Hey Tony” questions to email@example.com
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