Saturday, May 5, 2012
Weekend mail: Have Browns turned corner?
By Jamison Hensley
It was difficult to get through the mailbag this weekend because there were so many sympathy emails for Terrell Suggs from Steelers fans. OK, so they weren't exactly expressing sympathy. Now, on to the mail ...
Chuck K. from Bison, S.D., writes: As a die-hard Browns fan, I've had my share of agony as with all Browns fans. Do you feel the Browns have turned the corner, and have set the foundation in this year's draft to compete?
Jamison Hensley from AFC headquarters: The Browns have significantly upgraded themselves at running back and right tackle in this draft. Trent Richardson is going to be very productive, and Mitchell Schwartz is a big step up from Tony Pashos. The key, however, is at quarterback. It always is in the NFL. Brandon Weeden is better than Colt McCoy. He is more accurate and has a stronger arm. But is he the franchise quarterback that the Browns have long sought after? Just look at the difference when a team hits and misses on a rookie quarterback. The Bengals went from a four-win team to a playoff one with the help of Andy Dalton. The Jaguars went from an eight-win team to a five-win one with Blaine Gabbert.
Bob R. from Brunswick, Ohio, writes: You guys all make the same mistake when it comes to the Steelers depth chart. Steve McLendon is the backup nose tackle. If Casey Hampton is not ready from the outset, McLendon will start. The Steelers are fairly high on him. Alameda Ta'amu will provide depth.
Hensley: You are certainly right that I haven't mentioned McLendon enough. After the Steelers drafted Ta'amu, defensive line coach John Mitchell made a point to express confidence in McLendon. "Everybody wants to discard McLendon, let me tell you this, hold your opinion until the season is over," Mitchell said. "I'm just saying keep your opinion until after the season, you make the decision." This insinuates that McLendon will have a bigger role this season. But Ta'amu is more likely the future of the position. The Steelers moved up in the fourth round to get Ta'amu for a reason.
John from New York writes: Any chance the Bengals are using one out of their stable of cornerbacks to broker a trade at another position of need (safety, for example)?
Hensley: It's true that the Bengals have more depth a cornerback than safety. They now have six corners who were originally drafted in the first round. It wouldn't surprise me if Jason Allen gets a look at safety. He has experience there and might find more playing time by moving. At this point, an unproven Taylor Mays is penciled in as the strong safety next to Reggie Nelson.
Eric from New York writes: This stat surprised me ... left guard Jason Pinkston: Allowed one sack in 16 starts as a rookie last season. That isn't bad for a fifth-round pick! Was he decent or was he pushed around a bit and just got lucky that the Browns had mobile quarterbacks? What can we expect from him next year?
Hensley: Pinkston was a pleasant surprise last season. It's tough to ask a fifth-round pick to step in as a starter immediately. In the AFC North, only Baltimore got as much out of a fifth-round pick last season with defensive end Pernell McPhee (six sacks). While it's impressive that Pinkston allowed only one sack, Pro Football Focus graded him as one of the league's worst offensive linemen. But it says something about the Browns' confidence in him when they part ways with Eric Steinbach. Cleveland seems committed to Pinkston.
Rusty from Wilmington, Ohio, writes: Now that the free agency and draft frenzy are over, as you look at the Bengals' roster, where do you still see holes?
Hensley: There's not many, which is good reason for optimism. The Bengals have upgraded themselves at so many positions from guard to running back to cornerback. I wouldn't say there are holes, but a couple areas of concern. Cincinnati lost two of its top three receivers in free agency (Jerome Simpson and Andre Caldwell) and added two receivers in the draft (Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones). The Bengals would have been served better to add an experienced No. 2 wide receiver to a young offense. The other position to watch is safety after the team cut Chris Crocker. Taylor Mays has potential, but there is a risk involved because he didn't play many defensive snaps last season.
Josh from Wayne, N.J., writes: What's the word on Michael McAdoo in Baltimore? It seemed obvious that they put him on IR last year to avoid having to put him through waivers for the practice squad. So there must be something they like in him. Any idea if he has a chance to contribute this year?
Hensley: His chances of contributing this season increased when Terrell Suggs injured his Achilles. You're right that last season tipped off the Ravens' interest in McAdoo. After he went undrafted in the supplemental draft, the Ravens did more than sign him. General manager Ozzie Newsome had an agreement with McAdoo to keep him on the season-opening roster before placing him on injured reserve. That was a way of redshirting the raw pass-rusher because the Ravens didn't want to risk losing him by trying to sneak him on the practice squad. McAdoo, who showed flashes in last year's preseason finale (a sack and a forced fumble), needs to bulk up to get on the field this year. The 6-foot-7 McAdoo was listed at 245 pounds at the end of last season.